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With #Padmaavat heading for a solo release, exhibitors screening film demand security cover for theatres

Exhibitors who had earlier opted to screen Padman over Padmaavat considering it a safe bet, are now looking at screening Padmaavat but under strict security cover

By Manishaa R

Did Sanjay Leela Bhansali make a smart move by requesting Akshay Kumar to defer the release of Padman? According to sections in the trade, Bhansali decided that only a solo release for Padmaavat would ensure that the magnum opus would get its due at the box-office, especially since a majority of exhibitors had decided to opt for Padman, due to the increasing threats by the Karni Sena.  While the Supreme Court judgment had come as a shot in the arm for the Padmaavat makers, the bigger roadblock was anxious exhibitors who were skeptical about screening the film in the wake of latest incidents of a ticket counter being burnt in Faridabad and a cinema hall being vandalized in Bihar, besides threats to burn down theatres in Chhattisgarh. According to veteran Delhi exhibitor, Joginder Kumar Mahajan who owns three single-screen theatres in Delhi, a majority of single screen owners in Delhi had made up their mind about allotting screens to Akshay Kumar’s Padman, since none of them wanted to risk the security of their theatres, “Which exhibitor would like to take the risk of theatres being attacked and broken down? All of us considered Padman as a safe and viable box-office bet. There were only a couple of single screens who had chosen to play Padmaavat but they were undecided too due to the deteriorating law and order,” Mahajan revealed, adding that exhibitors were now in a difficult predicament with the release of Padman being postponed.

“The authorities made it clear that the police would be busy with security arrangements for Republic Day and it would be impossible to arrange security in cinemas”- Joginder Mahajan, Delhi Exhibitor

According to him, with the release of Padman being deferred, Padmaavat would be the only other option and the onus would now be on exhibitors to look into security arrangements themselves. More so because the Delhi administration bluntly refused to provide security cover for theatres due to Republic Day celebrations, “The authorities made it clear that the police would be busy with security arrangements for Republic Day and it would be impossible to arrange security in cinemas.” According to him, the producers Viacom should have decided to release the film on a day other than Republic Day, “They are aware that there is a security threat to theatres in releasing the film and the administration cannot provide increased security on that day,” he said

Meanwhile the other exhibitors are firmly planning to ask the Government to provide security measures. Bihar exhibitor, Vishek Chauhan, who controls a chain of eight theatres single screen theatres, said that it was imperative for the administration to provide security to theatres for the release of the film, “I learnt about the incident of a theatre being vandalized in Muzaffarpur. I believe the theatre was exhibiting the old poster of Padmavati. I also noticed that there is a lot of skepticism among exhibitors in Bihar. Some cinema owners are being persuaded at a local level not to release the film and morally being blackmailed too. Also if miscreants start breaking glass panes and tearing down seats in any cinema hall, it would result a threat to the security of the patrons. We will have to talk to our respective Zilla Parishads and release the film subject to their providing security cover,” Chauhan said.

“All these protests will stop once the film releases and word of mouth spreads that it is the best tribute to Rani Padmavati” – Bihar exhibitor Vishek Chauhan

However he added that the threats and protests would die down once Padmaavat settled in the theatres, “All these protests will stop once the film releases and word of mouth spreads that it is the best tribute to Rani Padmavati,” he said adding that the protesters had no justification anymore to continue with their anti-Padmavati tirade, “I am a Rajput myself who believes in respecting culture and tradition but I fail to understand what the protests are all about. First they said that Bhansali was distorting history. Now Bhansali has claimed it is fiction and not history, stating that the film is based on Padmavat- the poem and not Padmavati. When the makers come out with a front page ad in national news clarifying that this is a work of fiction, based on imagination and clearly claim that the movie is not part of history, what are the protests about?” he asked.

Meanwhile the COEAI (Cinematograph Owners and Exhibitors Association of India) which has member exhibitors from Maharashtra, Gujarat and Karnataka, has decided to write to the Government asking for security measures at all theatres where Padmaavat will be screened, “We are planning to write to the Home Ministry, Central and State Governments, that we need protection for those cinemas which choose to screen the film. Also the big question is whether the Government or the producers will compensate if the cinemas are damaged. More than anything else, the exhibitors are always worried about the safety of their patrons,” Nitin Datar, ex-President of COEAI revealed.

“We are planning to write to the Home Ministry, Central and State Governments, that we need protection for those cinemas which choose to screen the film” – Nitin Datar, Ex-President COEAI

As of now the battle lines are clearly drawn for the January 25th release of Padmaavat, until the Karni Sena members catch the film and conclude that their protests were all futile and the film only glorifies the valour of the Rajputs.

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