If news reports are to be believed, Kamal Hassan has filed a complaint before the Competition Commission of India (CCI) against theatre owners for allegedly collectively stalling the release of his magnum opus “Vishwaroopam”.
Kamal Hassan, whose home production Vishwaroopam is, had originally planned to release the movie on Direct-to-Home (DTH) platforms on January 10, 2013 on the eve of the Tamil harvest festival “Pongal” (also celebrated as “Makar Sankranti”). The plan was to charge INR1000 for single viewing of the movie on TV via 6 DTH partners, namely Tata Sky, Airtel, Sun, Dish, Videocon and Reliance.
After a collective threat issued by Tamil Nadu theatre Owners Association and Ramanathapuram United Film Distributors to not make their cinema halls available for the release of the movie, Kamal has been forced to push the release of the movie on big screens to January 25, 2013.
Made at a budget of INR 100 Crores, Vishwaroopam is probably Kamal’s most ambitious project to date. Kamal’s argument supporting the simultaneous release on DTH was that only 3% of the people in Tamil Nadu had access to DTH signals/broadcasts. However, the flip side of the idea is that it could be possible for people to make camcorder recordings of the movie, and thereby undermine the interests of theatre owners and distributors in the first week, which is crucial for box-office collections.
That said, the question that would need to be addressed as part of the CCI complaint is, whether there was indeed cartelization on the part of theatre owners? And if theatre owners have a legitimate defense under the law or the contract governing the distribution rights? It would be interesting to see the CCI’s take on the matter.