The industry was divided in opinion during the big bad war at the box office on Diwali between Shah Rukh Khan’s Jab Tak Hai Jaan and Ajay Devgn’s Son of Sardaar. And it’s going to be quite a deja vu moment once again this Eid, when SRK’s Chennai Express clashes with Akshay Kumar’s Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai 2.
Incidentally, caught in the crossfire this time is Ajay Devgn. Last year Devgn had found himself allegedly being cornered by the Yash Raj Studios in a bid to secure the highest number of film screens. This time, the actor is part of producer Vashu Bhagnani and UTV’s next.
If rumours are to be believed, UTV Motion Pictures have asked exhibitors to block the same chain of theatres for SRK starrer Chennai Express as Devgn’s film. Naturally, the exhibitors find themselves in a soup yet again as while Chennai Express is a big-ticket SRK starrer, Akshay Kumar (in Once Upon A Time in Mumbai 2) is also a big name to reckon with.
The clash of titans
This Eid will witness two Bollywood bigwigs - SRK and Akshay - pitted against each other at the box office. While both are not known to be exactly best friends, there has not been any major fall-out between the two. A source says, “Akshay was within inches of dethroning SRK from the number one position before Chandni Chowk To China happened. The period saw both the superstars trying to outdo each other.
Akshay had a string of flops post that, only to strike back last year with four blockbuster hits including Housefull 2, Rowdy Rathore, Khiladi 786 and OMG: Oh My God! followed by Special 26 this year.” Meanwhile SRK is sitting pretty with last year’s Jab Tak Hai Jaan and the previous Don 2, both R 100 crore plus box office earners. Looks like the war cry is within earshot. “This definitely will be the war of supremacy,” states the source.
The opinion of the trade at the moment is simply put, may the best man win. However, all parties must get an equal chance to prove themselves. A major distributor says, “Although it is too early to say who will side with whom, this practice must stop. Devgn took the right step in approaching the court against this malpractice but he found no support from the industry.”
The distributor adds that if one views the numbers of theatres that Ajay got compared to YRF, SOS did equal business to that of SRK’s JTHJ. “Let us see what happens between Akshay and SRK now,” he adds.
'The system is not very healthy'
Devgn, who raised his voice against the allegedly unfair practice of booking cinema halls against SOS by YRF finds himself on the other side this time. An industry insider says, “Unfortunately for him, Himmatwala is being used to block the theatres for his archrival SRK’s film.”
While there is no love lost between Devgn and SRK, the tables have turned for him this time. Devgn’s spokesperson states, “We are not aware of what exactly is happening but Ajay is not supporting this system at all. The system is not very healthy for the film industry and we do not favour it.”