Competition Commission stays ban on Raavan in Karnataka

Business Standard, June 19, 2010

In a first of its kind ruling, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) yesterday issued an order allowing the screening of Mani Ratnam’s Raavan in Karnataka. The film features Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Abhishek Bachchan in the lead roles. In the Tamil version, Vikram is playing the lead.

The interim order — in response to a petition filed by Anil Ambani’s Reliance Big Entertainment (RBEL) — stayed the ban imposed by the Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce (KFCC). The lobby, comprising local film makers, had banned the screening of the Hindi (Raavan) and Tamil (Raavanan) versions of the film, in theatres across the state.

Initially, the chamber had said the movie will be allowed to be screened in 21 theatres in Bangalore and four theatres outside the state capital but then they restricted the number to only four multiplexes, RBEL said in its petition on Tuesday. KFCC had also sought an undertaking from RBEL that the limited number of release was done “voluntarily”. KFCC has been taking such decisions with respect to all non-Kannada movies.

CCI’s late-evening order asked the director general (investigation) to enquire into KFCC’s action and see whether it was an abuse of dominant position, warranting a CCI intervention under the Competition Act 2002.

“There has to be an end to this nonsense (ban on films). It’s a clear instance of anti-competitive practice,” said Pradeep S Mehta, secretary general of Cuts International, a non-government organisation working in the areas of consumer protection and competition.

“It’s certainly a restrictive trade practice. The stay order is a very good decision. The chambers can’t put a limit to the number of screenings,” said Komal Nahata, a film trade expert.

Legal experts, however, pointed out that the stay order is only till June 22 when CCI hears KFCC’s response on the matter. Raavan and Raavanan are being screened in 24 theatres in the Mysore circuit.

Mukesh Bhatt, Bollywood’s leading producer, welcomed the CCI order. “At the outset I am against restrictions or dictatorship. However, the all-powerful Hindi, Tamil and Telugu film industries should not crush small players like the Kannada film industry. What I sincerely feel is that the Film Federation of India should bring in all film associations and thrash out all issues together with an open mind, so that all can coexist.”

Manmohan Shetty, founder of Adlabs, said, “The CCI order is one of its kind. I welcome it.”

Smita Thackeray, film producer and chairperson of Mukti Foundation, said, “I appreciate that CCI has started noticing the Indian film industry.”

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