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This article was first published 11 years ago

Ajay Devgn: YRF has been lying at every point

Last updated on: November 6, 2012 18:34 IST

Image: Ajay Devgn in Son Of Sardaar
Sonil Dedhia in Mumbai

Ajay Devgn is a worried man these days.

The release of his film Son of Sardaar will clash with Shah Rukh Khan's Jab Tak Hai Jaan on November 13.

Moreover, Devgn, who is also the co-producer of his film, has served a legal notice to Yash Raj Films, producers of Jab Tak... for unfairly using their dominant position in the industry to manipulate exhibitors and distributors to release their film in more theatres than SOS.

The 43-year-old actor says he was forced to take legal recourse because all other options had failed.

In this frank interview with Sonil Dedhia, Devgn has accused Yash Raj Films of lying at every point and recommends that the media look into the issue of monopoly more closely.

When did the issue between you and Yash Raj Films (YRF) first crop up?

We have been fighting with the exhibitors and the distributors who at one point said they were in a position where they couldn't do anything.

That's when we decided to go to the Competition Commission Of India. It took us more than a month-and-a-half to prepare because it's a lot of paperwork. It's been going on since the past three months.

'YRF are trying to fool the media'

Image: Ajay Devgn in Son of Sardaar

Did you try resolving the issue by talking to Aditya Chopra or anyone in Yash Raj Films before issuing a notice and taking this matter to the media?

Messages were sent through people and things were said. But I don't think they were in any mood to budge.

If you are asking me whether I approached them directly, then I would say no because I don't share that rapport with them. Through the exhibitors themselves we tried to manage things.

People have known me for over 20-25 years. I am not a person who would create a controversy for the sake of it. I hate controversies and stay away from them but what has to be done has to be done.

You have been very vocal about the issue while Yash Raj is trying to be ignorant about it and has not even commented on it.

As you said, they are "trying to be ignorant" about the entire episode.

I have read their response. They have tried to fool you guys (the media) by saying that there are 10,500 screens across India.

I don't think the media is so ignorant or stupid that you can fool them. If there are 10,500 theatres and they have only booked 1,500 theatres, leaving a massive 8,000 chunk for me, why would I send them a notice?

Am I a fool to spend money, lose my reputation and go to the court? It doesn't make sense logically.

If you go according to statistics, out of those 10,000 theatres, more than 5,000-6,000 are in the South and have only regional film releases. There is no Hindi audience in that belt. That leaves us with 4,000-5,000 screens out of which 1,500 to 2,000 theatres have shut down.

Every year, two films release during Diwali. And not just Diwali, otherwise too there have been big clashes with releases on the same date. Most of the time, if both films are good, both will work well.

You can take the data of the past 10 years. You will see the bifurcation of theatres on occasions when there have been two films releasing on the same date.

For instance, there are seven single screens in Dadar (Mumbai), out of which they have blocked six screens. There are 21 single screens in Delhi out of which we have just got three screens. These are accurate figures that you too can verify.

This has never happened before. If they are issuing statements and trying to fool you guys, you should not take it lying down.

'I wanted to sort the matter easily and quietly'

Image: Ajay Devgn in Son Of Sardaar

YRF ignored your notice. In fact, it said no such notice had been received...

(Interrupts) And then they gave a statement without reading the notice? How did they do that?

It only means that at every point they are lying!

If you denied getting any notice, how did you give answers to the questions?

Why didn't you speak about this issue in the media earlier?       

I am not a person who wants to come out in the media. There were two-three articles written on this issue earlier as well. I didn't want to comment on those either.

I wanted to sort this matter out easily and quietly because it is eventually negative publicity and I don't want negative publicity for any one of us.

I am not trying to cut their market by increasing mine. The quality of my product is out for everyone to see. We have done a lot of hard work on it.

Tags: YRF

'I knew I would be portrayed as a villain on both the sides'

Image: Ajay Devgn and Sonakshi Sinha in Son Of Sardaar

The issue has become controversial as it came out in the media after the demise of Yash Chopra. Were you worried that your fans would turn their backs on you if it eventually puts you in a bad light?

My fans haven't turned their backs on me. However, I was still worried. You have to understand the complaint that we had filed was filed much before the demise of Yash Chopra.

I was also sad about the untimely demise of Yashji. I knew that people were going to target me now because nobody's going to understand my point of view. I knew I would be portrayed as a villain on both the sides.

I cannot withdraw the case even if I want to. You can check with any lawyer that the Competition Commission of India is not a normal court; you cannot withdraw your case.

I am fighting for my rights. Even if I have complained, I haven't asked anybody to pull their film out nor have I demanded any compensation.

What worried you the most when this whole thing came up?

The timing went wrong. However, it wasn't in my control.

Do you think the strong buzz of your film's promos and songs have rendered Yash Raj Films insecure?

I cannot give a reply to this. Even if I feel that way, I cannot give you a statement.

I am not fighting a battle with anyone. I am just fighting for my rights.

I have only posed my problem out in the open. Once the matter gets resolved, we will go back to being one big happy family. I don't want to have a grudge against anyone.

'I respected Yashji almost as much as anyone'

Image: Sonakshi Sinha and Ajay Devgn in Son Of Sardaar

Is it true that you were asked to push back your release date?

I wasn't asked to push back the release but some people suggested that I do so. I respected Yashji almost as much as anyone. We have all grown up watching his films.

My only reply to all those suggestions was that it is too late. You have spent almost Rs 70-80 crore on a film. There are around 400 people who have worked for it. There are two corporate firms involved who have to answer to their shareholders. It's not an easy decision.

Despite that, if people think as a gesture of respect I should give a clear release to Jab Tak Hai Jaan, help me out with another slot.

I am willing to move my film but when do I release it? Opposite Aamir Khan's film (Talaash) which releases on November 30?  

Why don't you ask every big film in the coming few weeks to push their releases by two weeks. Fair enough, I will release my film on November 30. Aamir can push back his film by two weeks, so can Akshay (Kumar) (Khiladi 786) and so can Salman (Khan) (Dabangg-2).

But nobody will do that. They all want only Ajay Devgn to sacrifice.

There was a clear release date -- November 23-- which could have been possible too. Did you consider that?

It's not possible because all the theatres are blocked for two weeks. Even otherwise November 23 is the worst date to release. There's a big release a week before your film and there's a big release a week after your film. Rather I not release the film then and accept the loss and sit at home.

'YRF's intention is to scare the other person and block as many screens as possible'

Image: Sonakshi Sinha and Ajay Devgn in Son Of Sardaar

The film industry usually settles such matters internally. This is the first time such an issue has become so big. Is this because there are fewer intermediaries now?

When the matter cannot be settled internally, you have to knock at somebody's door.

I agree that there was more warmth between people earlier. We would walk onto the sets of anyone and meet them, chit-chat with them etc. I think with corporate firms coming in, the warmth between people has reduced.

Is there a middle path that you might consider? What kind of solution are you expecting?

There is only a middle path. My request is, let everything be fair and divided fairly across India. That's not asking for too much.

Do you think YRF took your plea a little lightly?

They had decided what they were doing. It was all planned.

Their intention is to scare the other person and block as many screens as possible so that the other person decides to not release his film. And this happened only after my first promo came out. So, it clearly indicates insecurity.

Tags: YRF , India

'This is not a war between Shah Rukh Khan and Ajay Devgn'

Image: Ajay Devgn in Son Of Sardaar

The issue is somehow also seen as a war between Shah Rukh Khan and Ajay Devgn...

It is not. Today if I meet Shah Rukh, I will be as warm as I was before and I am sure he will also be the same.

It is not a war between Shah Rukh Khan and Ajay Devgn as an actor. It is a fight between Ajay Devgn and another producer.

Did you try to speak to Shah Rukh on this matter?

It is not in his hands. And the person in whose hands the matter is, refuses to budge.

Have you seen the promos of Jab Tak Hai Jaan? What do you think about it?

I don't want to comment on it. My film has excellent buzz and I feel that I am helping the other film to get some buzz by doing all this. So why should I comment on it more?

'I am sure the industry will thank me for this after six months'

Image: Ajay Devgn in Son Of Sardaar

With the issue becoming so big, anything related to your film has become big news. Even your idea of roping in Salman Khan for a cameo was considered negatively.

We had the slot for a cameo and Salman was decided nearly four months ago, much before all this cropped up. Now everything is just getting connected, that's all.

There are just a few days left for both the films to release. How soon are you expecting the matter to be resolved?

I really don't know. I just hope it gets resolved. Otherwise we will go ahead with our release.

I am confident that we will still do good. How ever many screens we get, I think we will have a great release.

Do you think other producers will now start taking similar steps?

Whether this case helps me or not, I am sure the industry will thank me for this after six months.

I read one article that said the producer of a National Award winning Marathi film called Deool was asked to pull down his film because Ek Tha Tiger had booked everything. He was asked to give away all his shows.

Fairness in the business will at least come out of this. This controversy may at least benefit somebody.

'I am very confident about the film'

Image: Sonakshi Sinha and Ajay Devgn in Son Of Sardaar

You have played the role of a sardar before (Legend Of Bhagat Singh). How special is this one for you?

Legend Of Bhagat Singh was very special because in that I played the role of a legend who I never thought could exist.

In Son Of Sardaar, I play a character who is exactly how you perceive a Sardar to be. He is a larger than life character.

All your recent films have managed to break the Rs 100-crore mark. Do you expect Son Of Sardaar to do so?

I am very confident about the film.

Without being biased, after a point you understand how your film has shaped up. The buzz for the film is very strong. The songs have worked. Everything is very positive right now.

Ultimately, it's the audience that decides.