Milk, newspaper, and Odiyan have been exempted from hartal, read a meme that went viral on social media after the cinemas screening the flick starring Mohanlal were largely exempted from the strike called by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Friday.
“One need not look beyond that meme to understand the priorities of the organisers of the hartal. It pretty much sums up how they view the common man,” fumed Shyam Alokkan, a techie.
While early morning screenings of the film for fans went uninterrupted across cinemas in the State, a few multiplexes in Ernakulam, Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram chose to screen it only in the evening, ostensibly fearing trouble from hartal supporters.
M.C. Bobby, treasurer of the Kerala Film Chamber of Commerce, said the movie was screened at the risk of theatre owners.
“We had informed them that the content would be delivered on time and they could take a call on screening depending on the situation in their respective places,” he said. Rajan Velimukku, president of All Kerala Mohanlal Fans and Cultural Welfare Association, said many of the over 400 shows planned could not be held.
An office-bearer of Film Exhibitors United Organisation of Kerala (FEUOK) said screenings were disrupted in a small number of screens at Kannur, Kozhikode, Kodungalloor and Thiruvananthapuram.
Siyad Kokker, president of All Kerala Distributors Association, said that there was no blanket exemption given to the film and that the screening was disrupted at many places in the Malabar region.
In Kozhikode, filmgoers with pre-booked tickets staged a sit-in before some cinemas that called off shows. The premises of a multiplex witnessed stormy scenes as ticket holders came in large numbers by around 7 a.m. with the demand to screen the movie. T. Jinith, manager of a movie house, said the screenings were cancelled after word spread of a suspected attack on a movie hall in rural Kozhikode.
In Thiruvananthapuram, barring two multiplexes, most cinema halls screened the film as scheduled. Irate cinemagoers protested the decision of the multiplexes, which started screening in the evening, but the situation remained under control.
“That theatres have been exempted from hartal called for protesting the loss of a life is self-explanatory,” Deedi Damodaran, scenarist and founding member of the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC), said. “The term superhero itself is vulgar and is indicative of our patriarchal culture. In fact, the protests being held in the name of Sabarimala is a declaration that there is no equal space for men and women,” she said.
N.K. Mohandas, Ernakulam district president of the BJP, said theatres per se were exempted from the hartal and not just those screening Odiyan. However, when asked about the logic of granting such an exemption when other important services weren’t spared, he said that it was for the State leadership of the party to explain.