4 states not to see Padmaavat despite SC order; others pin faith on cops

24 January 2018

As violent protests against the release of film 'Padmaavat' broke out in several parts of the country, the Multiplex Association of India said on Wednesday its members would not screen Sanjay Leela Bhansali's period drama in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Goa.

The decision of the association, which represents about 75 per cent of the multiplex owners in the country, came as Rajput outfits and other fringe groups vandalised malls, burned vehicles, and issued open threats to theatre owners and the public in their bid to block the film's release, claiming it distorts history.

The film is slated for nationwide release on Thursday.

"We have decided not to play the film in four states - Rajasthan, Gujarat, MP and Goa - as the local managements have told us that the law and order situation is not conducive," Deepak Asher, president of the association, told The Times of India.

"For us safety of patrons is important. Depending on the scenario, we will see if the atmosphere is safe, then we will play it (in these four states). Things could change (but) at the moment we are looking at safety of people," he added.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected petitions by the governments of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, which sought a review of the court's earlier order that rejected attempts to ban the film. The apex court had also directed state governments to ensure law and order is maintained.

Security has been beefed up in several states, including Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.

In Maharashtra, the police have issued advisories to increase security arrangements across the state, and identified certain districts, such as Aurangabad, Nashik and Kolhapur as ''sensitive pockets''.

A top official in Mumbai said police will provide adequate security to theatres wherever it is required.

In Gujarat, a day after protests turned violent, the police filed six First Information Reports against 100 people on Wednesday.

Even in the states where the film would be released, private security guards would be deployed outside cinema halls besides police, Asher said.

The association's members together account for for 1,800- 2,000 screens across the country.

Padmaavat is based on the saga of a 13th century battle between Maharaja Ratan Singh of Mewar and Sultan Alauddin Khilji.

Nitin Datar, executive committee member, Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India, said the organisation has asked its member exhibitors to contact the nearest police stations and seek protection.

"Police officials called us to find out where the film is releasing. They have assured police protection. Ultimately, it is the individual choice of the exhibitor (to screen or not), taking into consideration the risk, the damage that can be caused to the property. But more than that, exhibitors are worried about the security of patrons," Datar said.

The association, with members in Gujarat, Goa, Maharashtra and parts of Karnataka, has over 500 theatres affiliated to it.

Bhansali and the film's lead actor Deepika Padukone have received death threats over the film.

Theatre owners in Gujarat today said the film will not be screened in any of the multiplexes or single-screen theatres in the state till the row is resolved. The Gujarat Multiplex Owners Association said the decision was taken for the safety of viewers as well as to avoid damage to theatres.

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