Chennai: Kamal Haasan’s Rajkamal Films International has deferred the 10 January premiere of his latest movie Vishwaroopam on direct-to-home television (DTH) and its theatrical release the following day, faced with a boycott of the film by distributors and cinema hall owners worried they would lose revenue to the TV platform.
DTH households had been offered the chance of watching the Tamil version of the spy thriller on their television sets for Rs.1,000 and the Hindi version for Rs.500—the first time that an Indian production house planned to show its movie on television first.
Kamal Haasan, who has produced and directed the film besides acting in it, had tied up with six operators—Tata Sky, DishTV, Sun Direct, Airtel DTH, Videocon DTH and Reliance Big TV—for the premiere.
“We just got a mail from Rajkamal Productions that the release on both DTH as well as theatres is postponed,” said Salil Kapoor, chief operating officer of Dish TV.
“We were not given any reasons for the postponement but are concerned about our customers who did the pre-bookings and the company has also spent on the marketing of the film,” said Kapoor.
Airtel released a press statement that the company had stopped taking bookings for the movie’s DTH premiere and was awaiting confirmation from Rajkamal Films on a revised date.
On 6 January, the National Award winning actor approached the additional director general of police in Chennai with a complaint that he had been threatened not to release the film on DTH. He alleged that he had received calls threatening to circulate DVDs and cut power supply to theatres screening the movie.
“All theatre owners and distributors had taken a collective decision to boycott Kamal Haasan’s movie,” said Abirami Ramananathan, a member of the Tamil Nadu Theatre Owners Association. Tamil Nadu has about 1,200 movie halls.
“It is Kamal Haasan’s right to exploit his movie the way he wants and it is our right to screen the films we want,” said Odugoudar Rangu, chairman of the Karnataka Film Exhibitors Federation. Cinema halls in southern states other than Tamil Nadu were also not planning to show the movie.
Haasan had defended his initiative on 27 December at press briefing.
“Vishwaroopam was produced at a cost of Rs.95 crore and the entire risk is on me and not theatre owners,” he told reporters at the time. “I have told them if the movie makes money, then you can pay me. If anybody is risking money, it is me as a producer and not the theatre owners.”