While Karan Johar is not paying any heed to the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s (MNS) threats or the Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India’s (COEAI) demand to stall the release of his Diwali entertainer, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, in four states and have issued a statement saying so, certain exhibitors and theatre-owners believe that it’s their right to protect their safety.
Said Akshay Rathi, exhibitor and distributor, who also owns few theatres, “The eventual call of showing a film rests with each exhibitor. Whether to screen a film or not knowing the potential risks that come with it is each individual exhibitor’s call. Nothing changes that. We will see, we will take a call three days before the release about which film will have how many shows. My cinema was damaged during the release of PK and at that time no exhibitors’, distributors’ or producers’ association stood by me.”
Rathi further said, “It’s Diwali time and the police will throw up their hands saying they don’t have enough manpower to control law and order situation. These bans and embargoes have no value, it is only an exhibitor who knows fully well the risk that comes with it. I know that if I play the film, it will harm my property, so for safety, I may play another film (Ajay Devgn’s Shivaay also releases on the same day – 28 October). It would be my decision, my call. So in this scenario there’s a possibility that Shivaay will gain… it is a mass entertainer, unless the state government ensures us, the exhibitors safety and that we will be given enough police protection. The state government should take a stand for tax-paying citizens and ensure that our properties are protected.”
Pointing out lack of unity among the film fraternity, he said, “When exhibitors support producers like what’s happening in the current scenario, producers should also come to our support, reciprocate and stand by us which never happens, we have never stood as one unit. Producers’ lobby have not even supported us verbally or in spirit. There are eight producers’ association and they are all squabbling among themselves.”
Meanwhile, the makers of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil have issued a statement asserting that the film that has been cleared by the Censor Board of Film Certification (CBFC) and will release on 28 October as announced earlier. Said Apoorva Mehta, CEO, Dharma Productions, “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil has been cleared by the CBFC and we are gearing up for its release on the 28th of October. Diwali is all about love and Ae Dil is all about spreading love.” Added Vijay Singh, CEO, Fox Star Studios, “Karan Johar’s films present love in its most pure yet unique and modern way and this Diwali he is celebrating love, friendship and heartbreak. We are set for the film’s release on 28 October. There can be no better way than celebrating Diwali with Ae Dil, a quintessential family entertainer.”
Restricting and halting the release of Ae Dil…, Nitin Datar, president of the COEAI, said on Friday, “Keeping in mind the patriotic feeling and the national interest in mind, we request all our member exhibitors to refrain from screening movies which have involvement of any Pakistani artists, technicians, directors, music directors, etc. Till the relation between India and Pakistan becomes normal, no films with Pakistani actors can be released.” It has already been put in place in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Goa and parts of Karnataka. The decision will be conveyed to other states as well, Datar said. MNS Leader Amey Khopkar had threatened Ae Dil… producer-director saying, “If Karan Johar decides to release the film, I’ll beat him up.”
While many single screen as well as multiplex owners refused to comment on the issue and some even kept their cell phones off, Rathi was vociferous in his opinion. “Of course, Ae Dil… will release. Legally, the only entities that can stop a film from releasing are the CBFC and the court of law and neither of the two have called for it yet. It’s extortion in the name of patriotism. It’s criminal. Any ban on a film by a political outfit, association or organisation is illegal. Ae Dil…, Dear Zindagi and Raees were being made when we were applauding our prime minister for his amazing show of statesmanship by visiting Nawaz Sharif. To play, watch a film or not, knowing the potential risks and repercussions is every individual exhibitor’s and movie-goer’s decision. Period,” said Rathi.
“Secondly”, commenting on COEAI’s call to stall the release, Rathi said, “Cinema Owners & Exhibitors Association of India does not comprise exhibitors from across the country. It’s primarily addressing exhibitors in certain pockets of Maharashtra, in Pune, Nashik and Mumbai. There are 20 associations of exhibitors. There is loads of chaos and confusion around the stance of ‘exhibitors of India’ for Ae Dil…Let’s make things clear and put down some facts.” He further said, “The request by the COEAI to its members is much respected in the light of its intention, but this is not a blanket ban on Ae Dil…across India. They are more worried about the damage and are trying to protect members from violence.”
While Kamal Gianchandani, CEO, PVR Pictures Ltd and Chief Business Planning and Strategy PVR Limited, was not reachable, veteran exhibitor and president at Carnival Cinemas, Sanjay Dalia, refused to comment on the issue. Manoj Desai, executive director of G 7 multiplex and Maratha Mandir cinema, who had earlier expressed fear of violence and vandalism in theatres when Indian Motion Pictures’ Producers’ Association (IMPPA) decided to call a ban on Pakistani actors early this month, refused to take any calls. “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. 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. I will follow whatever others decide to do,” he was then quoted saying.