On Friday morning, Karan Johar woke up to the news that Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) activists were agitating outside a theatre in Pune screening his latest production, Wake Up Sid. The protests were triggered off by the use of the word ‘Bombay’ during an exchange between the lead pair, Ranbir Kapoor and Konkona Sen Sharma.
Had the disruptions continued through the day and into the weekend, it would have hit the film’s box-office collections badly, causing an estimated loss of Rs 5-7 crore (Rs 50-70 million). The film cost Rs 30-35 crore (Rs 300-350 million).
Explaining the economics of the business, trade analyst Amod Mehra pointed out that Mumbai territory that comprises the city, Thane, parts of Karnataka and all of Gujarat is the most lucrative in India, accounts for almost a third of any film’s collections.
“If it is a (multiplex-oriented release) like Wake Up Sid, the territory could account for up to half the collections because Mumbai has perhaps the most multi-screen theatres in India. Three opened in Ghatkopar just last week and two more in Kalyan,” said Mehra.
A worried Johar rushed to placate MNS chief Raj Thackeray.
“A film is the labour of love of hundreds of people. It is my duty to protect their interests and, at the same time, assure the people of Maharashtra that there was never an intention to hurt anybody’s sentiments. I told Thackeray that Mumbai is an integral part of the narrative and has been dealt with the utmost reverence,” said Johar.
Thackeray wasn’t easily appeased. He wanted the word ‘Bombay’ to be replaced by ‘Mumbai’. Johar reasoned that would be an infrastructural nightmare as 700 prints had been dispatched across India and abroad.
It was finally agreed that a disclaimer would be put at the beginning of the film.