As the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena vowed to ratchet up its campaign to intimidate and vandalise cinema halls against the screening of Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (ADHM) featuring Pakistan actor Fawad Khan, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis Wednesday sought to send out a message that the state would firmly deal with the protests.
“The police have taken strict action against MNS today. Twelve members of the MNS who had gone to Metro Theatre to threaten them have been sent to judicial custody until November 4,” Fadnavis told The Indian Express. He indicated that while everyone had a right to protest, any action which disrupts law and order would not be allowed.
His remarks came a day after film-maker Karan Johar issued a video statement that he would not “engage talent from neighbouring country given the circumstances,”
A group of 12 MNS party workers tried to enter Metro theatre in south Mumbai this morning and asked the management not to screen the Karan Johar film. They were arrested by the Azad Maidan police station under Sections of the Bombay Police Act and were granted bail but will remain in detention until November 4.
Mumbai Police spokesperson DCP Ashok Dudhe said the police invoked Section 151 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Code that allows them to secure detention of the accused on the suspicion that they could create trouble when released and their being “at large is prejudicial to the maintenance of public order.”
Under this, the officer can request the court to keep the accused detained for a period not exceeding 15 days. So while the arrested MNS men were granted bail of Rs 5000 each, they will remain in detention until November 4 when their bail bonds will be executed.
Said MNS cine wing head Amey Khopkar: “Our protests will continue against the screening of the movie in theatres.”
The producers of the movie had earlier met Mumbai Police Commissioner Datta Padsalgikar seeking security for cinema-hall owners. The Mumbai Police assured the producers that they would provide security for the screening of the movie scheduled to be released October 28.
The government’s action comes when it is under attack from the Opposition. Former Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said that the government had abdicated its responsibility with the state being shown up as weak in the face of threats by the MNS. “These goons have to be put behind bars,” he said.
Film-maker Kundan Shah, who directed the cult film Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron, said that he was saddened by the call to ban Pakistani artists in India. “Calling it ‘intolerance’ would be evading the larger question. The question to be asked is ‘How can we stop the bullets?’ But no one wants to ask this fundamental question,” he said.
Last year, Shah had returned his National Award to protest against what he called was “rising intolerance” and the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as head of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). “Trade has not stopped between India and Pakistan and the borders have not stopped exchanging goods. Then why should the artists be banned?” he said.
Meanwhile, a day after Johar appealed to let ADHM be released citing the “blood, sweat and tears,” of “over 300 Indian people” in his crew, two more exhibitors’ associations said that they would not release the movie this Diwali. The Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India (COEAI) received letters from the Central Cine Circuit Association (CCC) and the Marathi Chitrapat Mahamandal, said COEAI president Nitin Datar.
“The single screens and multiplexes under these two associations have promised to not release the film this Diwali,” said Datar.
The Marathi Mahamandal is the key organisation for theatres in the state which showcases Marathi cinema and, occasionally, major Bollywood releases. Its area of influence includes Vidarbha and Marathwada. And the CCC covers parts of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat. According to Datar, the decision will impact close to 200 screens.
On October 14, COEAI had called for a ban on ADHM telling its members to not release the film in their theatres. The decision came after the MNS threatened to cause damage to theatres which screen the film.
The film has been at the centre of controversy after ties between India and Pakistan soured in the wake of the Uri attack and the subsequent surgical strike by the Army.