The Maharashtra government on Tuesday made it mandatory for multiplexes in the state to screen at least one Marathi film during the prime-time slot between 6pm and 9pm, a move that drew mixed reactions from the film industry.
The decision came on a day when chief minister Devendra Fadnavis sought to defuse the row over the statement of the state advocate general on cow slaughter ban, saying the beef ban will not be extended to any other meat. Advocate general Sunil Manohar had on Monday before the Bombay high court said the state might consider extending the ban to other animals, triggering a controversy.
On Tuesday, cultural affairs minister Vinod Tawde said in the legislative Assembly that although multiplexes screen Marathi films, the shows are at odd hours, either early in the morning or late at night. “This has largely hampered the success of Marathi films. Such treatment forces the exit of Marathi films from theatres in one week… We will make necessary modifications in the existing Act to make it mandatory to screen one show during prime time,” he said, while replying to a debate on issues related to Marathi culture and
Although the minister did not specify what he meant by “prime time”, multiplex owners consider slots from 6pm as prime-time shows.
The government announced that it will, in coordination with the departments concerned, bring in necessary amendments to the multiplex policy of 2001 to implement the decision.
The Marathi film industry was ecstatic, with many calling it a “welcome move”. While Marathi film actor and director Manava Naik said it was high time regional cinema got its due in the state, Bengali filmmaker Onir, best known in Bollywood for his Hindi film My Brother… Nikhil, said regional cinema across the country needed state support. “Appreciate the move by the govt of Maharashtra to support #Marathi Cinema. Regional cinema all over the country needs state support,” Onir tweeted.
According to PV Sunil, CEO, Carnival Cinemas, which is currently in the process of acquiring Big Cinemas, giving up one screen a day would mean an approximate loss of “seven to eight shows for a Bollywood film” in a week. However, the move will have repercussions, he said. “Most of the shows [of regionals films] don’t get full occupancy, which means loss for the government as they won’t get taxes.
Distributors, exhibitors and the food and beverage industry will also lose,” said Sunil.
Reacting to the decision former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said there is nothing wrong in promoting Marathi films, but a decision should not be made without taking theatre owners and other stakeholders into confidence.
Tawde, meanwhile, pointed out that while formulating the multiplex policy in 2001, the government gave entertainment tax concession – 100% for the first three years and 75% for the next two years – to multiplex owners. This concession was given under the condition that the multiplex owners would have to screen Marathi films for not less than a month every year. In February 2010, this norm was revised to 112 shows of Marathi films every year.
“The multiplex owners accepted this condition as they benefited from the entertainment tax waiver. It is not like the government was forcing anyone to accept it,” said Tawde. “Multiplexes typically have three to five screens and one show of a Marathi film at one of the screens shouldn’t be a problem.”