April 8,2009

The United Producers and Distributors Association Forum show their strength and star power as Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan address a press
conference on the multiplex issue
It doesnt get bigger or better than this.Last evening, when Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan walked in at the head of, what was finally, a unique gathering of the best creative talent the Indian film industry has today, media persons which covered the gamut of options available (radio, print, electronic, web), newbies and hardened professionals, collectively held their breath and gazed.

It has been many many moons since two of our most charismatic and successful actors have been seen on the same platform. In fact, one almost cant remember when was the last time.

Suddenly nothing mattered. Not the gross collections of their last films, not any power list, not the number game. If the occasion were not so serious and dignified one would be tempted to stand up and cheer. But since they were here representing the directors and producers collective forum, The United Producers and Distributors Association forum, to explain their stand in the face-off with multiplex owners, it seemed wiser to just listen as each presented a keynote address. Yash Chopra, Sandeep Bhargava of TV 18, Ronnie Screwvala of UTV, Mukesh Bhatt, distributor Ramesh Sippy and Jyoti Deshpande of Eros, shared the stage along with the two Khans. Even the federation and the

Mazdoor union representatives were present to show their solidarity to the forum.
Karan Johar was the host of the evening. Aamir went first and like with everything he does he was completely prepared, often referring to the many discussions he had had with the team, including SRK, often deferring to him in fact. Aamir said, We dont want to call it a strike but an inability of the two parties to come to a logical conclusion. We are extremely unhappy over the failure to deliver films at the moment and deprive the audience of the cine experience, but the only motive behind this is to ensure that everyone in the film industry make money. Aamir said that various unfair means were adopted by multiplexes to gather extra money like faulty DCR (daily collection report), pocketing of INR subsidies and even entertainment tax in many cases where films were tax free or in states where multiplexes had a tax holiday. Aamir also stressed that in the past, films have become blockbusters in single screens and if the situation does not improve, they will work towards a system where films will be released in single screens. However, the industry is firm that they would not budge from the fact that they want an equal 50:50 sharing for all the films.

Shah Rukh was more casual in his approach and made his points very clearly joking that all the meetings were held at midnight because that was when Aamir had time usually. SRK, at his charming best, stressed on some important points. He said, The only reason for all of us to get together should not be misconstrued as a power show and a move to threaten the multiplexes. We are one big family and are open to dialogue.

SRK also insisted that the multiplex owners were wrong in criticising their films as good or bad and should instead leave this job to the audience. The relation between the producers and the exhibitors is like a wedding and there is no divorce on the cards. This is like a blockage in the pipeline and once the repair work is done everything will be back on track, he added.

He emphasised that the fight was for equal terms for all films, big and small and if they were successful everyone would benefit from it.
When Aamir and Shah Rukh were together , the bonhomie and camaraderie was obvious , as they helped each other with answers, often scribbling notes to one another and whispering in each others ears when one was at a loss about some fact. Their body language loudly proclaimed friends . If this was an act, boy, these guys are thespians.
But the defining moment, and perhaps the one that everyone was waiting for, came when the duo were asked if they would have ever come together if it were not for the issue.

SRK quipped that there was no reason they could not be on the same dais, in the same car, on the same page or in the same film…
He brought the house down.