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Fireworks at the box office this Diwali

Film industry experts expect festival bonanza, with Jab Tak Hai Jaan and Son of Sardar both expected to join Rs 100-cr club, their fights apart

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This Diwali is a special one for the Indian film industry, as two big productions —Yash Raj Films’ and Ajay Devgn’s — are releasing on the same day and pundits are expecting both to be crowd pullers.

Both release on Tuesday, to get the maximum benefit of the holidays and extended weekend. The buzz on both is very high and given the tussle on over single-screen exhibition centres, there is a high level of excitement.

“This is one of the biggest weeks for Bollywood and I think it is going to test the business potential of the Indian market to the fullest. All the single-screen theatres are airing one of these two films and I think both have the potential of grossing Rs 100 crore,” said Ashish Saxena, chef operating officer of multiplex chain BIG Cinemas.

In the trade, excitement is high. Suniel Wadhwa, independent film distributor, said: “This Diwali seems to be a bonanza for producers, distributors, exhibitors and audiences. Jab Tak Hain Jaan is most awaited, as the late legendary Yash Raj Chopra had directed a movie after eight years. Also, it has masterpiece music by A R Rehman and lyrics penned by Gulzar. Son of Sardar also looks entertaining, as it is a remake of Maryada Ramana, directed by Raja Mouli, a proven hit in Telugu. It has its own space and an already captured audience, a segment of mass appeal.”

Senior trade analyst and film critic Taran Adarsh added the two films can easily co-exist. “We have seen in the past, if both products are good, there is no reason that both the films cannot work. I think both should do well,” he said.

While there is still tussle over single screens, with Films moving the Competition Appellate Tribunal, accusing (YRF) of anti- competitive activities, multiplex owners are jubilant at the bookings. “The advance bookings for both films are substantially higher than for previous films. More, there was no big Bollywood movie in the last three weeks, so moviegoers are waiting to come back, it seems. People would tend to watch both the films,” said Devang Sampat, head of strategy at Cinepolis India, the exhibition chain.

Earlier, Ajay Devgn Films had said the Competition Appellate Tribunal had seen merit in their case and issued a notice to YRF about the alleged tie-in arrangements to block Son of Sardaar being screened on Diwali. Later, YRF issued a statement that the Tribunal had refused to pass any interim order against it, on the ground that the complainant had not put forth sufficient facts to establish a breach of the Competition Act.

“We completely refute the press release put out by ADF, as the Competition Appellate Tribunal did not find any merit in the contention of ADF because the Tribunal was of the view that ADF has totally failed to establish that the agreements entered into by YRF with the single-screen cinemas would cause any appreciable adverse effect on competition. It was also noted by the Tribunal that YRF had announced the release of its film on June 27, 2011, with its announcement of the release of its film for Diwali 2012 and commenced booking of single-screen theatres in June, July & August 2012. On the contrary, ADF announced the release of its film only on May 29, 2012, and approached the single-screen owners only in October 2012, by which time YRF had taken a lead. It was expressly noted that the number of screens contracted for Jab Tak Hai Jaan, being far less than that of Ek Tha Tiger, prima facie no case of adverse effect on competition, much less appreciable effect on competition, was made out,” went the YRF statement.

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