INSIDE the plush Metro Cinema in South Mumbai, standing against the brown walls is a row of standees of upcoming movies, and Diwali lanterns. But the faces of Ranbir Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Anushka Sharma, however, are absent on these flexes, though actors from Shivaay, Befikre, Dangal, Tum Bin and Rock On are vying for the ticket-buyer’s attention. A day before the release of Karan Johar-directed Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, starring Pakistani actor Fawad Khan, it appears that despite assurances of police protection, and after the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s announcement that its agitation against the film has ended, single-screen and multiplexes have preferred to keep ADHM posters small, a little inconspicuous.
“We have been told by Marine Lines police that bandobast will be done on the first day of release,” said H V Naik, on-duty manager at Eros Cinema near Churchgate.
The administration of the cinema hall was informed about the release of the film only Monday. So ,while a large 30 feet by 20 feet poster of Ajay Devgn-starrer Shivaay dominates the entrance hall, the ADHM poster occupies a smaller 30 feet by 10 feet space. Two shows, at 3.30 pm and 9.30 pm, are slotted for now.
“I have never seen so much tension over one film. Earlier, our single screen would have 100 per cent audience, now it has reduced to 30 per cent. Who would want to cut down the audience further,” Naik said.
The three-guard team of security at Eros, however, seems relaxed. “We have friendly relations with local political parties in this area. They would not damage our theatre,” said guard Dilip Aadak. It has been only one year since he started working at a theatre, and such experience of anticipated vandalism intrigues him. “I am not scared. But I have never come across anything like this,” he said.
The controversy over Karan Johar’s film picked up pace after MNS threatened to vandalise theatres that dared to screen the Fawad Khan-starrer. Following the Uri attack, the political party has been demanding a ban on all Pakistani artistes in the country.
At Regal Cinema in Colaba, security guard S R Pawar is banking on the nearby police station for security on Friday even as the theatre administration prefers keeping quiet over the issue. With only three guards manning the cinema hall entrance, his five years of experience with political groups has taught Pawar a few tricks. “We immediately call the manager and alert nearby police if we feel there may be problems,” he said.
The theatre has slotted shows at noon and 6.45 pm for ADHM. “We will put up posters of both movies releasing by tomorrow morning,” said manager Mohan Das. He, however, pursed his lips. “What should theatres do in such controversies? We are still not sure if the release will go on smoothly.”
According to the employees of Metro Cinema, where MNS workers had tried to enter while shouting slogans last week, there is sufficient security in case the situation turns ugly. “We direct such people to our manager’s office,” said guard Archana Damodar. She was the one who took 12 MNS workers and their letter to the manager before the group was eventually arrested.
Another guard at Metro, Rejendra Awhad, recalled the release of Gadar, starring Sunny Deol and Amisha Patel, in 2001 when similar tension was witnessed. “There were protests to stop release of the film even then,” he said.
According to the Mumbai Police, security has been extended to malls and multiplexes and single-screen theatres to ensure smooth release of the ADHM. “We have already taken action against 12 MNS members who protested outside Metro Cinema. If we find anyone creating ruckus and stopping the screening of the movie, we will take action against both the footsoldiers who protest and the leaders who provoke them,” said an official.
With this, Multiplex cinemas are assured of hassle-free release of the film Friday. “The advance bookings have already begun. The matter is sorted now,” said Gaurav Gupta, attached with Carnival Cinemas that has 11 theaters in Mumbai and 190 in India. According to him, the box-office collection will be much bigger since it is a festive season. “We can see the situation is calm now,” he added.
There have also been queries on whether Pakistani artistes were working on tourists visas. “Complaints on Pakistani artistes working on illegal visas were probed but in none of the cases we found them violating visa conditions. Those who were probed have been found to be holding working visas,” said a police officer.
(With Rashmi Rajput)