ETimes got in touch with the ‘RRR’ producer D.V.V. Danayya who said that “Look, ‘RRR’ has been sold out to the distributors. Therefore there has been a delay in its release. I was under pressure from the distributors.” We kept quizzing him that why he couldn’t ward off his distributors and Danayya kept saying that he couldn’t hear us clearly and then he hung up. Several calls and text messages to him and even SS Rajamouli (director of ‘RRR’) failed to evoke any further response.
But several distributors and analysts we later spoke to, do not agree that a distributor can dictate a producer and that too someone who is bankrolling a SS Rajamouli film. Read on…
Distributor Sunil Wadhwa says, “It is absolutely unethical on part of the legendary and respected Rajamouli who I consider as Indian James Cameron. ‘Maidaan’ was announced earlier and it should get its free space. Our industry is just about coming back on track and that’s evident with the box-office of ‘Master’ which garnered Rs 188 Cr in its first week worldwide. If it had a similar clash, the results might not have been the same. There is no question of people not coming back to theatres which ‘Master’ has amply proved. What this clash, if it happens, will do is that it will cut off the exponential growth of both films. Remember, the purchasing power of the audience in this post-COVID phase is going to be limited, one is not going to see two/three films over a weekend.” And Wadhwa goes on to drop a bomb: “Let me tell you that Rajamouli’s Telugu ‘Magadheera’ was an unofficial remake of Boney Kapoor’s ‘Prem’ movie but Boney didn’t take any legal action against him. Rajamouli should in fact be extending a vote of thanks to Boney.”
However, senior distributor Ramesh Sippy points out that he is really not surprised that ‘RRR’ has been announced for the same date release as ‘Maidaan’. “Film industry mein koi kisika nahi hai. Haven’t there been such cases before that despite several discussions and pleas, producers have not bended? But I refuse to buy that a distributor can force a producer or a director to release a film on the date that he wants. It is always the producer or director’s call.”
Distributor D S Bansal says, “South industry does not care much about others. Why do they fail to understand that even they will not get sufficient screens if a certain amount of screens are occupied by ‘Maidaan’? Anyway, Devgn bahut hi suljha hua insaan hai. He will find a way,” and endorses Wadhwa’s opinion, “It’s payback time for Rajamouli.”
Trade analyst Komal Nahata is perplexed at the ‘RRR’ Vs ‘Maidaan’ clash. He endorses Sippy’s viewpoint that there is no unity in Bollywood. But unlike Bansal, he feels that Ajay may not be able to solve the problem. Says Nahata, “One had thought that the producers would be more considerate towards one another post-lockdown because the entire industry needs to get back on track after the humongous loss it has suffered (to the tune of 8,000 cr, see story below). But clearly, the sense of brotherhood is not as pronounced as one would’ve expected it to be. The unfortunate part is that both the films are potential hits. Clashing with each other will only dent the collections of both. Hope better sense prevails and there’s a solution to this unnecessary problem. ‘RRR’ makers don’t want to come on the next big festival after Dussehra — which is Diwali — because it’s a South production, and down South, Dussehra is a bigger and more bountiful (box-office-wise) festival than Diwali. Since ‘RRR’ stars two top South actors- Ram Charan and Junior NTR and is directed by one of the biggest and most successful filmmakers Rajamouli, Ajay may not be able to prevail over the producers of ‘RRR’ to postpone it. Ajay did tell them to at least speak to his ‘Maidaan’ producer Boney- but I don’t think he can do much beyond that although it is not in his own interest too that both his starrers lock horns.”
Distributor Aditya Choksey, Central India exhibitor-distributor, underlines that either ‘RRR’ or ‘Maidaan’ should get postponed or preponed. I have worked with Devgn. He is the most non-controversial star. He does not indulge in back-biting. This should not have happened to him. This entire thing could have been handled better.”
Distributor Basha says, “I am hopeful that a meeting between both parties will happen soon,” but drops a bomb when he claims, “FYI, as far as I know, ‘RRR’ has not got sold in Mysore yet (this is slightly contrary to what Danayya told us),” and then adds, “Moreover, distributors cannot arm-twist a producer; they can suggest though.”
Exhibitor Akshaye Rathi too wants this clash to be avoided. Raising his concern respectfully, he says, “They’re within their rights to choose a date they want, but it is damaging to the ecosystem under the current circumstances.”
Agreeing with Basha, Saurav Sharma, owner of Goldie Films in Mysore circuit who has distributed about 600 films till date, says, “Those days of distributors pressurising a producer are gone. Whatever has happened is very unfortunate. ‘RRR’ is the biggest movie PAN-India for 2021 and it wouldn’t matter to them if they come on a holiday or even on a non-holiday weekend. On the other hand, ‘Maidaan’ also is a very interesting film. If Ajay wants to go the entire way, I think Ajay can sort this out. He can throw his weight in a congenial way. But down South, it will boil down to Rajamouli. So, we need some other mediator who is more close to Rajamouli who can explain to him. Like, the producers of Baahubali, Arka Media Works for example can do the trick. Saying that they are being pressurised by the producers is just passing the buck; it is not digestible. They are just trying to avoid an argument with Boney and putting blame on each other.”
The tension continues. Let’s wait and watch what happens. This is a developing story. Stay tuned to ETimes for further developments.