M A I N   N E W S

Sena flops as Khan steals the show
Multiplexes, fans give thumbs up to MNIK; Maharashtra govt tames Sainiks
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Shah Rukh Khan’s supporters celebrate the release of ‘My Name is Khan’ outside a cinema hall in New Delhi on Friday.
Shah Rukh Khan’s supporters celebrate the release of ‘My Name is Khan’ outside a cinema hall in New Delhi on Friday. — Reuters

Mumbai, February 12
Hundreds of fans braved threats by the Shiv Sena to feast on Shah Rukh Khan’s ‘My Name is Khan’ (MNIK) at theatres across Maharashtra as the state government went into an overdrive to prevent the disruption of film’s screening.

Multiplex chains, which cancelled morning shows, gingerly opened screenings at noon following hectic ‘behind the scenes’ lobbying by the Maharashtra government. They initially agreed to screen the film in just one theatre each to test the government’s promise of ensuring complete security. With the Sena’s attempts to disrupt the shows thwarted, thanks to some heavy-handed policing, screenings resumed at several other theatres as well.

By late afternoon, all the major multiplex chains began screening the film and even the single screen theatres said MNIK would be the main fare for the weekend.

According to sources, it was some deft maneuvering by the government throughout Thursday night that ensured that MNIK was screened. Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, who had turned it into a prestige issue, is said to have leaned on the multiplexes. Sources said, the multiplex owners were warned not to replace MNIK with some other film. The government is also said to have threatened to withdraw tax concessions given to them if they buckled under pressure from the Sena.

So with tight security in force, the major multiplex chains like Cinemax, Fame, PVR, Fun Cinemas and Big Cinema agreed to allow one of their theatres to screen the film. With 13 cinemas initially going ahead with the screening, sporadic protests by Sena activists in the vicinity of the theatres were quickly curbed and the protesters were taken into custody.

When it was clear that the Sainiks would not be able to penetrate the thick security cordon, the exhibitors came around and agreed to screen the movie as per the original schedule. In all, the movie was billed to feature on 63 screens in Mumbai alone.

The first show of the film began at noon. There were stray protests outside the theatres where the screening began, but the police brought the situation under control. While the police battled the Sena activists, Maharashtra’s politicians moved to control the fallout. The CM and Home Minister RR Patil arrived at a multiplex in South Mumbai and bought tickets to watch the film in order to reassure the public. “We will ensure that the film screening is not disrupted in Maharahstra. If anyone damages theatres, the government will force him to pay compensation,” Patil told reporters.

Taking cue from their top boss, Congress leaders and activists arrived at multiplexes across Mumbai to watch the film. With its protests failing, most of the top leaders of the Shiv Sena went into hiding.

Only former Lok Sabha speaker Manohar Joshi came out to boost the flagging morale of his party workers as he tried to halt screening at a theatre at Dadar in Central Mumbai. After managing to halt screening for a few minutes a dejected looking Joshi left. “Shah Rukh Khan will have to apologise to Balasaheb Thackeray,” he later told reporters.

While the protests failed in Mumbai, screenings were disrupted in other parts of the state. A hall was vandalised in Nagpur, while theatre owners in Pune and Aurangabad decided not to go ahead with the release of MNIK. Most theatres in Thane also did not screen the movie.

With its protest fizzling out, the Shiv Sena is preparing a face saver before withdrawing the agitation, sources said. Senior party leaders will meet party’s executive president Uddhav Thackeray at his residence before a formal announcement is made. A statement is expected later in the evening, sources said.

Derecognise Sena: Rane

Maharashtra’s Revenue Minister Narayan Rane, a former Shiv Sena leader, has demanded that the Election Commission must cancel the registration of his former party. In a letter to the body, Rane noted that the Sena’s campaign against north Indians was unconstitutional.

“The Shiv Sena had earlier agreed to abide by the constitution which says all Indians are equal under the law. The party’s campaign has shown it’s against the Indian constitution,” Rane told reporters, while releasing copies of his letter to the media.

He added that the EC should cancel the registration of the Shiv Sena as a registered political party.

Cong targets Pawar

Flush from its success in containing the Shiv Sena, the Congress has now decided to target NCP leader Sharad Pawar. Congress leader Manikrao Thakre hit out Sharad Pawar for encouraging the Shiv Sena.

“The Shiv Sena intensified its protests against Shah Rukh Khan only after Pawar went to meet Bal Thackeray,” Thakre said. He added that the Sena had virtually given up on targeting Khan and his movie when Pawar’s visit gave the party’s campaign a fresh lease of life.

Thakre and Union Heavy Industries Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh who are opposed to Pawar are now accusing the Maratha strongman of making a secret deal with the Shiv Sena to hurt the Congress.



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