In my last few posts, I’ve mentioned how the ADHM issue isn’t quite the same as My Name is Khan yet, because the government and police haven’t weighed in and picked a side. That is no longer the case.
As always, the MNS made the first move. They sent some party workers to protest outside Metro cinema in Bombay. Metro isn’t some cheap single-screen with a single owner, it looks like it is currently a “BIG” theater (the national Reliance owned theater chain) and previously was with Adlabs (another chain).
MNS menacing a theater like this is a clear statement that they are prepared for violence if ADHM releases. Which kind of throws it into the lap of the police, now that it has reached the point of violence on the streets, instead of just political statements. And the police responded as anticipated, arresting a dozen workers and breaking up the protest. There’s no going back from that, the MNS is going to trumpet these arrests, and the police can’t back down, so now state forces are engaged.
Which means its time for talks to shift from within the industry, and in the media, to closed door sessions with government officials. Mahesh Bhatt, president of the Film and Television Producers Guild of India (remember when the IMPPA ban was first announced, I mentioned that the FTIPG is generally considered the more important and legitimate mouth piece for the industry?), Apoorva Mehta from Dharma films, and a Union Minister all met with the Minister of Home Affairs, and received assurance that the government would back a release of the film, and would reach out to the CM of every state encouraging the release of the film. And Mahesh Bhatt issued a statement post-meeting that he has full faith in the Bombay police (meaning, their ability and willingness to stop any protests within the city), but they were concerned about ADHM as a national release and therefore wanted to meet with the national government as well.
So, here we go, the majority of the industry is fully behind the film. The police are behind the film. The government is behind the film. And opposing are some extremist politicians and party workers. And the battleground is going to be the streets in front of the theaters through out India. Same situation we’ve seen over and over again.
Except, this time, Karan has lost his will to fight. This is the 3rd time he has faced this situation. With Wake Up, Sid, he issued an official apology and begged for them to let the film release. And it worked, the protests died down and backed off.
With My Name is Khan, there were no apologies and no backing off. They went right up to the day of release with the police on alert and no idea if the theaters would be able to play it. And they took a significant loss in profits.
And now, with Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, he is stuck in the middle again. It must be exhausting! And rumor has it, Karan has given in. He has re-cut the film, bringing Fawad’s role down to the bare minimum, and changing his character from a Pakistani to an Indian. Oh Karan! That must be heartbreaking for him, to give in to hate and change his art.
I wonder if it is because he just doesn’t have the will to fight any more, or if it is because he is making this sacrifice for the good of the industry? MNIK and Wake Up, Sid were single issue controversies (protests over a recent comment by Shahrukh for MNIK, protests over the use of “Bombay” in Wake Up, Sid). But ADHM is just the first in a whole series of dominos. If it can’t release, or if it releases to massive violence, that is going to affect Dear Zindagi and Raees as well, which will essentially kill an entire quarter of box office profits.
The most important quarter, more like 50%-75% of the profits for the year. The Diwale through Republic Day season is major for the industry, whether you are a producer or an exhibitor or a distributor. These 3 movies HAVE to come out, the loss of that profit could drive hundreds of people out of business, and impoverish thousands. And if that means Karan has to chop up and destroy his artwork, I guess that’s a fair price to pay. But I still hope we can see the original cut on DVD!