Court stays worldwide release of 'Ghajini'

Dec 24, 2008 IANS


Chennai/Mumbai, Dec 23 (IANS) The much-awaited release of Aamir Khan-starrer Hindi film "Ghajini" has been nixed with the Madras High Court Tuesday staying its worldwide screening Thursday after the producers of the Tamil film on which it is based filed objections.

Film industry circles say an amount of at least Rs.1.2 billion was riding on the Aamir Khan film.

Justice P.R. Shivakumar granted the stay after A. Chandrasekaran, the producer of the original Tamil film of the same name, filed a suit claiming that the producers of the Hindi remake had "fabricated documents to claim ownership over the remake rights".

Appearing for the respondents Geetha Arts and "Ghajini" director A.R. Murugadoss, advocates Shivaraman and Anbumani told the court that it would be impossible to convey the court ruling the world over where the prints have been delivered.

On this, Justice P.R. Shivakumar observed: "We will record this plea. However, we are staying the release of the film worldwide."

"To whomsoever the first respondent (Geetha Arts) has delivered the prints, it is for the first respondent to communicate by the fastest media that the film should not be released and comply with the (court's) order."

Senior counsel A.R.L. Sundaresan, who appeared for the petitioner, told IANS: "The judge has accepted our plea that Geetha Arts and director A.R. Murugadoss had fabricated documents to claim ownership over the remake rights of the movie 'Ghajini', which our clients had not assigned at all."

"Our matter is not connected to any other matter in any other court," he said, referring to the Bombay High Court order allowing release of the film.

"Our colleagues have filed a caveat to meet any appeal filed during the winter vacation starting tomorrow (Wednesday) in view of the release that was scheduled on Dec 25 - which has now been stayed," Sundaresan added.

"Ghajini", a revenge saga, has Aamir Khan in the lead role and Asin plays his love interest.

Praveen Trikha, regional head (North) of Studio 18 that is distributing the film in India, told IANS in New Delhi: "As far as I can say, the stay will be vacated by tomorrow, we are working on it."

An official of BIG Pictures, of Reliance ADAG group, which owns the overseas distribution rights, said on condition of anonymity: "The court verdict has come late in the evening (7.30 p.m.) and our lawyers are studying it right now. So, we can't comment on it."

In the petition filed in the Bombay High Court, Mumbai-based K.B.C. Pictures had sought a stay claiming "Ghajini" infringed its copyright of a film being made by them on the same subject entitled "Kahani Ghajini Ki".

Mumbai reports said earlier that Rs.140 million had been spent on the Hindi version's publicity alone.

According to the Hindi version's producer Madhu Mantena, various brands being endorsed by actor Aamir Khan have joined hands for the Rs.140-million promotional campaign, the costliest ever for a Bollywood movie.

"This kind of promotional campaign is necessary to create a hype around the film, so that more people become aware of its release," Mantena said.

Some brands associated with the campaign have come out with their new product lines.

While clothing brand Van Heusen has already launched its new 'Ghajini' apparel, the mobile instrument and accessories' company Samsung has come out with two special edition mobile sets, L700 and M200. These two models are pre-loaded with 'Ghajini' ringtones, songs and pictures.

Petitioner A. Chandrasekaran, producer of the Tamil film "Ghajini" (2005), told IANS:

"The accused (Allu Aravind who owns Geetha Arts and others) paid me just Rs.2.6 crore (Rs.26 million) and a minimum guarantee besides the rights for distribution in Chennai and many other things (for the Tamil film). I had only entered into an agreement for the Telugu version for which I was to be paid from the overflow - and that has not happened so far - and nothing more".

"The worst part is that the accused persons obtained my signatures on a blank stamp paper and claimed that I agreed for giving them all the rights - which I have been contesting since early this year."

"Further, the case in the Madras High Court has been going on since April 2008 and the orders have been issued by the judge by the grace of god just today."

"So far, the accused have forwarded accounts for a paltry sum of Rs.1.6 crore (Rs.16 million) when they earned dozens of crores from the original and the Telugu versions. Worse, they refused to entertain my polite requests for a settlement. I know that over Rs.120 crore (Rs.1.2 billion) is riding on this film which is only because of what I originally own. I have been cheated and am not giving in without a fight."

Joginder Mahjan, a Delhi-based distributor, told IANS: "The film's prints have already been delivered to all theatres. It is now impractical to stop the release of the movie."

"All paid previews for the film have been sold and in fact the opening weekend bookings are houseful. The stay can also be a publicity gimmick by the producers. It will be vacated tomorrow itself," he added.

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