Maharashtra on Tuesday announced it was mulling to make screening of Marathi films in multiplexes in the state during peak hour compulsory but the decision not only left members of film fraternity shocked, but drew ferocious reactions slamming the government's "dictatorship" and "dadagiri" and that regional movies should be encouraged, not forced.
State culture minister Vinod Tawde disclosed that such a law is in the process. "We are in the process of enacting a law to make it mandatory for multiplexes to screen Marathi movies during the prime time slot (6-9pm)," he said in the assembly on Tuesday.
He also said that soon all cinema halls would screen a short documentary on Dadasaheb Phalke, the father of India cinema, to create awareness about his contribution to the film industry.
The move drew flak.
Talking to a private news channel CNN-IBN, filmmaker Mukesh Bhatt, who resides in Mumbai, said that "government is behaving like dictators. It doesn't seem like we are living in a democratic society...such decisions should be taken collectively".
Similarly writer Shobhaa De, also a Mumbai resident, noted that a discussion should have have taken place before arriving to the final judgment.
"Government should have consulted parties before making decision. Is government willing to give subsidy to multiplexes?" she said.
The writer also took to micro-blogging site Twitter to express her anguish over the issue, which snowballed into a controversy.
"I love Marathi movies. Let me decide when and where to watch them, Devendra Fadnavis. This is nothing but Dadagiri," Shobhaa tweeted.
Bollywood stars and Maharashtrian by birth Shreyas Talpade and Riteish Deshmukh, who have showed their acting calibre in Marathi films as well, expressed mixed reactions on the issue.
Where Riteish pointed out competing with people's favourite Hindi films will be difficult for state's cinema, Shreyas said that a "middle-ground" should be reached.
"People prefer Hindi films. It will be hard for Marathi films to compete," Riteish said.
"The move will help Marathi movies, but I think middle ground should be reached," Shreyas said.
Filmmaker Ashok Pandit said: "I object this move by Maharashtra government. They must encourage regional moves but can't force them".
While filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri posted: "I don't see what's wrong if Marathi film industry gets impetus. Isn't that everyone wants? Only if they can add Indies (non-starrer) with it".
However, filmmaker Onir lauded the move by the government and says it will inject a new life to the regional film industry.
"Appreciate the move by the govt of Maharashtra to support #Marathi Cinema. Regional cinema all over the country needs state support. Marathi cinema in the recent years have had some beautiful films. They need to be given the screen space to make regional cinema flourish. Providing prime time screen space to #Marathi will help vitalize the industry and provide a healthy competition for good content cinema," Onir tweeted.
Marathi film actor and director Manava Naik felt it was high time regional cinema was promoted in the state. "Our films are usually given either the morning or matinee slots, while we pay the same amount of money to distributors as Hindi film-makers. And the slots we're given, the ticket prices are lesser, which means, we're at loss. With the new rule, we will definitely get more audience and the reach of our films will be higher. It's important that as a state, we promote our own cinema, like other states do."
"When I made my first film, Poster Boyz, I had to fight to get the prime time slots. At that time, there were no major Hindi films and the only one running was in its second week, so I could have been given at least a few shows, considering the next week a major Hindi film was releasing," actor Shreyas Talpade said. "(If) it is just one show, there should not be an issue," he added.