Bollywood isn’t always about entertainment. Even as Aarakshan’s release in Uttar Pradesh (UP), Punjab and Andhra Pradesh (AP) hits hurdles, with filmmaker Prakash Jha moving the Supreme Court to revoke the bans, trade pundits went into cautious mode. After all, these three territories account for about 40 per cent of the total pie for the movie business in India.
“After Mumbai territory, Delhi-Uttar Pradesh-Punjab is the biggest market for Hindi films. If the movie is barred from releasing in UP and Punjab, makers are bound to suffer heavy losses,” says trade analyst Taran Adarsh, adding that the numbers would run into several crores. “But it’s too early in the day to gauge losses in terms of exact figures.”
Trade experts also point to the ‘piracy factor’. According to them, if a film doesn’t release in UP, Punjab or AP, pirated DVDs will capture the market, hitting the filmmakers badly. “If a movie doesn’t release in any state, don’t governments realise that people will end up watching pirated versions of it instead? It’ll cause harm to the filmmakers, distributors, as well as the government,” adds Adarsh.
Trade pundit Komal Nahta says, “In places like UP, where the film could have done very well, collections will be affected heavily. But AP is a small market, with its share being only about 10 per cent.” The controversy-ridden film has already opened in other states including Maharashtra. But a few early shows on Friday in places like Vashi, Nashik and Nagpur were cancelled, as cinema owners feared a security problem. “We had to cancel a few shows in these politically-sensitive locations. We didn’t want to take any risks,” says a multiplex official on condition of anonymity.
As per early estimates, cinema halls witnessed a general 40 to 50 per cent occupancy on Friday for the film. But Jha, who was kept busy with Supreme Court proceedings on Friday, also concedes that no filmmaker can afford to lose out on any territory. “If half of your home is demolished, how’d you feel? That’s how a filmmaker feels if a film is banned,” he says. Well, Jha could take strength from the support offered by a few of his colleagues. Actor Ajay Devgn says, “There is nothing objectionable in the film,” adding, “When people watch it, they will realise that there is nothing controversial.” Director Anurag Kashyap stated, “The film fraternity must come together especially when it’s such a big issue.”
Bachchan is ‘saddened’
Amitabh Bachchan has come out all guns blazing to blast a decision by three state governments to ban the release of Aarakshan. According to the 68-year-old actor, he is “saddened” that lawmakers in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh had given in to “unsubstantiated rumour and belief, without any verification of its validity (sic),” Bachchan writes on his blog.
Big B, who plays principal Prabhakar Anand in the film, wonders, “What is the need then of the Censor Board, a statutory body instituted by you, the legislatures and parliamentarians that govern this land. You nominate what you believe, to disbelieve what you nominate! Better to remove it altogether then rather than give it disrespect,” he adds. “I do not care and never have cared about the fate of any film of mine, and I never shall. I do not care if this film does well or not, but I shall admit this … This film has shown a mirror to the country. This film has shown a path that needs to be taken for a better future.”