The latest James Bond flick Spectre and the Salman Khan starrer Prem Rattan Dhan Payo had an unexpected competitor in cinema halls and multiplexes in various parts of Punjab on Monday.
Having had a low-key release in September with cinema owners even mulling pulling it, fearful of a backlash from the Sikh community, the Messenger of God 2 (MSG-2) starring Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh is now flooding cinemas across the state.
Wall-to-wall shows of the movie began at 7 am, continuing through the day, right up to midnight.
Gurmeet Singh’s show of strength came on the same day as his foe-turned-friend-turned-foe, the Shiromani Akali Dal, put up its own show of strength with a Sadhbhawna rally in Bathinda.
Some cinemas with multiple screens had as many as 49 shows through the day. At many a screen, Her Majesty’s most-trusted secret agent had to make way.
The tickets had been bought in bulk by sections of dera followers and even offered free to those who wanted to watch the film, a sequel to the controversial Dera chief’s MSG-1. Tuesday has been booked out as well, by the dera followers.
Dera Sacha Sauda spokesperson Dr Aditya Insan said there was no significance in Monday being chosen for the mass screenings. “Dera followers have been organising such show ever since the release of the film,” he said. “Dera followers have been negotiating with cinema owners and purchasing the tickets in bulk for their families and friends. They have been pooling in money not only in different parts of India, but in North America, Australia and Germany as well,” he added. In PVR cinemas in Chandigarh alone, there were more than 50 shows of MSG-II on Monday. Movie-goers enquiring about Spectre and Prem Rattan Dhan Payo were in for a surprise as show timings for these movies had been shifted to accommodate the multiple shows of MSG-2.
Now in its 10th week of running, MSG-2 appears to have benefited from the Sikh high clergy’s unexpected pardon to Gurmeet Singh. While the pardon evoked outrage and had to be revoked in October, the movie has remained unaffected.
The distributor of the film in Punjab, Pankaj Khemka, also the director of OHM Films International, said, “Since no other movie is doing good, MSG-2 is being shown in the cinemas. The movie was shown [today] on as many as 45 screens across Punjab.”
“Prem Rattan Dhan Payo initially did well but has not been able to keep the momentum going. Similarly, Spectre is a movie which will attract a limited audience. In the given conditions, MSG-2 is a good option to show for cinema owners. And since it is in 10th week of its release, the share of producer and exhibitor (cinema) is in the ratio of 30:70. At the time of release of film, the share is 50:50. At this juncture of time, cinemas stand to earn more share. And for dera followers, it is not a film, but a satsang,” Khemka said.
There were, however, no shows in the panthic territories of Amritsar and Jalandhar. In Chandigarh, the movie edged out Daniel Craig and Salman Khan at PVR Elante, PVR Centra and PVR North country mall along with Fun Cinemas and Piccadily.
Vineet Sablok of Piccadily cinemas confirmed 10 shows of November 23 and 24. He said the tickers for the shows were bought in bulk. He added that Prem Rattan Dhan Payo and Spectre were also running in Piccadily as it had three screens to showcase the films and their timings had been adjusted to accommodate the multiple shows of MSG-2.