Early on Tuesday morning thousands of devotees have gathered at Bhopal’s Eidgah, said to be among the biggest in the world, for the Id-ul-Fitr namaaz.
Shahar Qazi Syed Mushtaq Nadvi, a burly man in his 50s, is delivering his sermon. As the devotees listen in rapt attention, their heads bowed, hands clasped, the Qazi comes to a subject that startles everybody.
"Har saal uski film release hoti hai," the Qazi adjusts his black rimmed spectacles, caresses his flowing beard, "aur aap dekhne jaate hain. Meri aap se guzarish hai ki aaj aap koi bhi film dekhne nahin jayen," Nadvi says in an admonitory voice. (Every year his film is released on Eid and you go and watch it. It is my l request that you do not watch any film today.)
Nadvi refrains from naming the person,
is the closest he gets, whose film he wants devotees to shun to "
break the tradition"
of Eid releases. But the message is clear: Kick out Salman Khan’s latest film from your Eid itinerary. The film,
, was released on Friday, during Ramzan.
Other Maulavis have not been so subtle. Over the past three days, Salman and his film have been constantly in their sermons. "
releases his films on Eid. This year too you may have bought tickets. Tear them apart, don’t go to his film," the message was announced from the top of many minarets of Bhopal mosques.
"Don’t go there. He will stop releasing his films on
," was the appeal from many others. The message was circulated through many other means, including fervent appeals on mobile applications.
A few months ago, when Salman’s Jai Ho had failed to set the box -office on fire, there were rumours that clerics had run a campaign against him after he was spotted with Narendra Modi.
But the Bhopal clerics stay away from politics. Their justification is socio-religious. "You should stay home and welcome guests at your home instead of going to the theatre," says Nadvi.
Other priests say Eid is an occasion for receiving the ‘inam’ after Ramzan from the almighty above. "All month you pray and when the time for claiming the reward comes you go and sit in the theatre," others preach.
Is the guazarish or the advice working? Ehsan Bhai, an auto rickshaw driver in his 30s has just stepped out of Idgah. Where is he going next? "Straight to a cinema hall," he says. "Bhai ki film release hui hai, nahin dekhne ka sawal hi nahin uthta." (The question of missing Bhai’s film doesn’t even arise.)
But there are many others, especially the elderly, who follow the advice. "The Qazi is right in saying that there are other ways of celebrating Eid than running to the theatre every year. Why should someone benefit from our festive spirits?" argues Mohammed Ashraf, a 35-year-old teacher from the old city.
Going by the skull caps and veils that you see in Bhopal’s cineplexes and single-screen theatres, it seems Ashraf is in a minority.
The catcalls and whistles in theatres, are drowning out the sound of sermons.