Cinema owners, distributors caught in the middle of fight between MNS and Pakistani artists
Even as the Indian Motion Picture Producers’ Association (IMPPA) delegation, led by its president TP Agarwal and other officials, met the Maharastra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leaders yesterday seeking their co-operation to release Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, Dear Zindagi and Raees, the party leaders so far have remained firm and refuse to budge from their stand.
Ameya Khopkar, who heads the MNS' cine wing and produces regional films, said, “I am firm on my stand. We will not allow any of the films with Pakistani artistes to release. The Uri attack is the recent incident but we have been against Pakistani artistes working in our films or performing here for last 11 years or so. These filmmakers should have thought about the repercussions earlier. But in any case we will take a call on 9 or 10 October”
Meanwhile, the Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India (COEAI) decided to meet on 7 October to discuss the issue. Some of the theatre-owners and exhibitors gave the meeting a slip as they wanted to stay away from what has turned into a controversy and political issue.
Manoj Desai, executive director of G 7 multiplex and Maratha Mandir cinema in Mumbai was vociferous about his views. He stated, “I don’t attend such controversial meetings. I have heard that yesterday the IMPPA delegation also met Raj Thackeray and he clearly told them that he won’t let the films release. The matter has become political and I want to stay away from it, but one thing is certain, our Diwali will be really bad, the festival will spoil for sure.”
He further asserted, “If MNS is saying that they have been opposing Pakistani artistes in our country for last 11 years, then why didn’t the MNS take action when Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Ghulam Ali came to perform in our country? Kapil Sharma gave lot of importance to Fawad by promoting him on his show, Comedy Nights With Kapil, why didn’t they attack him then?"
"The biggest fear is violence and vandalism in theatres, how much police protection can be possible in such a situation? Who will control the unruly, violent mob? There is no insurance cover for this. Now let’s see what happens in the meeting but it’s certainly not a good feeling with our soldiers losing their lives. We are not attending any meetings but will follow whatever others decide to do.”
Meanwhile, Nitin Datar, President of Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India (COEAI), who had a meeting with few office-bearers, has decided to put their views in front of the executive committee and has called for another "Urgent" meeting on October 14 after discussing the matter with producers, distributors, exhibitors.
This is a very tricky situation. If we release the film then there is the risk of a riot kind of situation, loss of lives, violence, damage, as political parties might react and so will the general public. MNS is only in Maharashtra, but we have other parties like Bajrang Dal in other parts of the country. We have 9000 screens in India, how much police protection would be possible? In case there is vandalism and violence, the exhibitors would be held responsible for the same as a licence-holder
He continues, "If we don’t release, then the distributors would claim losses from the exhibitors as the agreements have been signed for pre-release promotional, booking cinema halls and other related issues. Then the producers want their returns on the investments made. But, of course, human lives are more important, money can always be recovered.”
“We will be consulting distributors, producers and take public view into account as well to find a solution on whether we should release these films or not. It’s Diwali period and there will be lot of rush, so we don’t want situation to go out of control. But we definitely stand by our country and public sentiments, we don’t want to come across as anti Indians," concludes Datar.