Prakash Jha’s film, Aarakshan, opened to subdued response in the city with some multiplexes situated in “politically sensitive” areas canceling morning shows.
“We had to cancel some morning shows of the movie at politically sensitive spots because there’s no point taking unnecessary risk. So we decided to play safe and cancel initial shows of the movie,” said a senior official of a multiplex chain on condition of anonymity.
The film, which looks at the country’s caste reservation policy, has met opposition from Dalit leaders and political parties owing to its sensitive subject.
Jha has challenged the ban imposed on the release of the film in three states - Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh, in the Supreme Court and the matter is likely to be heard on August 16.
In Maharashtra, despite Republican Party of India (RPI) leader Ramdas Athawale giving the film a green signal after a special screening, multiplexes in areas like Vashi, Thane, Nashik, Nagpur and Latur cancelled morning shows.
The initial response to the film was lukewarm with theatres reporting an occupancy of around only 45 to 50 %. “But we would rather look at the positive side – since it’s a long weekend, audiences are holding up to turn up in the coming days,” says Rahul Singh, senior vice-president, PVR Cinemas.
“Overall, the response has been anything between 30-45 % but we expected it to be higher. Generally, in places like UP and Punjab, we witness a houseful from the first show itself. But unfortunately, the film is banned in those centres,” he said.
In fact, the police had asked multiplex owners in some areas to exercise caution. “The police asked us to keep a watch on happenings in places such as Solapur. And we could see some effect (of the controversy) on the morning shows,” said Ashish Saksena, COO, (south and west), BIG Cinemas.
“But with news trickling in about deals between makers and political parties and cuts in the movie, audiences started rising in numbers by the evening,” he said. “And we expect the numbers to go up during the weekend.