Even as 20-plus paramilitary personnel, policemen and barricades turned Delite Cinema hall at Asaf Ali Marg into a fortress on Thursday afternoon, 45-year-old Kalidas — with a Rs 85 ticket in his pocket — incessantly took photos of the poster of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat.
Kalidas travelled to Delhi from Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh — one of the four states that moved the Supreme Court seeking a ban on the movie citing law and order issues. “I am staying at Gurudwara Bangla Sahib… no one is showing the movie in Ujjain. She is a mother figure, I wanted to watch it,” said Kalidas, with his hands folded as he glanced at the poster.
While cinema halls in Delhi went ahead with the screening on the release day, there appeared to be few takers for the “first day-first show”. Despite the morning chill and a working weekday — few such as a 73-year-old grandfather who rounded up his grandchildren for the movie, a teacher with a point to prove, and a bunch of curious youngsters — showed up for the movie. “My grandchildren have taken half-day leave from their school and college so that we could watch Padmaavat. It’s a period drama and I want them to watch it. After the controversy, we want to know what the problem really is… if the Supreme Court has no problem with it, then who is Karni Sena?” said Jai Kishan Aggarwal (73), a resident of Chandni Chowk.
Of the 25-plus people in the audience at Satyam, Nehru Place, at 8.45 am, were some like Rupesh (41) and Monika Kumar (38), who said, “This is the only slot that fits our schedule as we have two children… they are at school and we are here. After what happened in Gurgaon, we were sceptical about sending them to school today.”
Outside Carnival Odeon in Connaught Place around 1 pm, Shalu Mehta (45) said, “I used to teach at the school whose bus was attacked on Wednesday by goons opposing the film…it broke my heart. I teach at another school now and will talk to my students about it tomorrow.”
At 2:30 pm at Crossriver Mall in Shahdara, two BSF personnel stood next to the ticketing counter, while one was seated inside the hall that screened the movie. Outside PVR Anupam in Saket at 10.30 am, some college students took photos of the police force. “Our college is nearby and we come here often but we’ve never seen so much police force… it’s exciting and intimidating,” said Mansi Sharma (18).
Outside Delite cinema hall, Rajesh Bhardwaj (45) recalled the time Mani Ratnam’s Bombay was released in 1995. “There was police presence that day, and then some when Anurag Kashyap’s Black Friday released… but I’ve never seen so much police force before this. It’s a shame,” he said.