Over 1,000 Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) activists protesting the closure of Lalbaug’s Bharatmata theatre were detained on Sunday. Party workers along with residents of Lalbaug and Parel defied orders banning assembly of four or more people in the area.
The police pulled MNS leader Bala Nandgaonkar, who was trying to resist arrest, into a vehicle parked nearby. The arrested activists were later released.
The National Textile Corporation (NTC) plans to develop the land which houses Bharatmata.
This means the only city theatre that still screens Marathi films exclusively may be pulled down. NTC officials say the Bhopatkar family, which runs the theatre, have been unauthorised tenants for years. The historic theatre still shows films at a very affordable rate of Rs 20.
Nandgaonkar said Bharatmata was a symbol of Marathi culture and the party would not allow it to be demolished.
Party activists continued to gather from 10 am to 1 pm and were taken away by the police. Yogesh Mahadik, an MNS activist from Borivli, climbed above the theatre and put up a party flag.
Bharatmata still has special screenings of Dada Kondke’s films every year. Political bigwigs such as Bal Thackeray, Uddhav Thackeray, Chhagan Bhujbal and Manohar Joshi are said to be patrons.