The Shoojit Sircar directed film had received the green signal by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), which gave the Tamil version a U/A certificate, but no bookings were done for the film in either multiplexes or single screen theatres.
A senior member of The Theatre Owners' Association, told IANS: "The decision to release the film has been given to individual theatres. Since the government has not banned the film, the theatres are free to screen. But if they feel they might face the wrath of protestors, then we can't do anything."
"Madras Cafe" is set against the Sri Lankan civil war and also depicts the 1991 assassination of former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. It came under the scanner after Tamil activists alleged that it portrays the LTTE cadres as terrorists.
"I haven't watched 'Madras Cafe', but I have been told that it is anti-Tamil. I don't know if that's true but if it is, then we should definitely not encourage its release in the state," Tamil actor Sathyaraj told reporters Friday at an audio launch.
Multiplexes fear that releasing the film could make matters worse.
"We fear releasing the film might aggravate the ongoing protests. We don't want to risk it and, moreover, the decision to screen the film lies with each theatre," a multiplex representative, on condition of anonymity, told IANS.
A representative of the movie's co-producers Viacom18 Motion Pictures said they had also sought police protection to ensure a smooth release of the film.
Co-produced by John Abraham, who is also playing the lead in it, the film was shown here Aug 18 at a special preview. The protestors' objection against the film grew stronger thereafter.
Tamil filmmaker Seeman, head of Naam Tamizhar (We Tamils) group, said the film was "nauseatingly anti-Tamil".
In a related development, the Bharatiya Janata Party's Tamil Nadu unit chief Pon Radhakrishnan had said the movie should not be released in any part of the country.