Mumbai, April 28 (IANS) Mumbai Police Monday suspended the licenses of 35 cinema halls of the city for not adhering to the Maharashtra government's order for mandatory screening of Marathi movies for minimum of four weeks a year.
Seventy-nine of Mumbai's 138 cinema theatres, including those in multiplexes, have been served show cause notices for not strictly following the order framed in 1968 and last reviewed in 2005-06, according to Mumbai's Deputy Commissioner of Police (Theatre) V.M. Jadhav.
The Mumbai Police action Monday came following the orders from the state home department.
Jadhav told IANS that the action was initiated against the cinema halls as per the decision taken four months ago at a review meeting of the state government's order convened by the Deputy Chief Minister R.R. Patil.
Marathi filmmakers have for long been complaining that most of them cannot release their movies in Mumbai as the cinema hall owners, including the multiplexes, are reluctant to screen them on one pretext or the other.
They have been urging the state government to take stringent action against the defaulting cinema hall owners.
The owners of these cinema halls have been given eight days to reply to the show cause notices. Within this period, the cinema hall owners, whose licenses have been suspended, can also appeal to the state government.
President of the Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Chitrapat Nirmata Mandal Satish Kulkarni lauded the Mumbai Police's action. He hoped that the government would not be as lenient on the defaulting cinema halls as in the past.
'Despite a standing state government order, Mumbai's cinema halls avoided showing Marathi movies on one pretext or the other. At present, as many as 80 Marathi movies are produced annually. But most of them cannot be released in Mumbai for lack of exhibition outlets,' Kulkarni said.
There are only seven to eight single-screen cinemas in the city, including the Plaza and Bharatmata, which show Marathi movies regularly. As these cinema halls are overbooked, they cannot accommodate many of the 80 movies made in a year, so most of the Marathi movie distributors cannot release their movies in Mumbai.
According to Kulkarni, a house-full week of a Marathi movie in a single cinema hall in Mumbai fetches revenues that are equivalent to the box-office earnings from a city like Pune and Aurangabad. That shows how important Mumbai is as a market for Marathi movies.
'But all these years, Marathi filmmakers and distributors have not been able to avail of this lucrative market as there are only few cinema halls which are willing to show Marathi movies. So, the Mumbai Police's action, though belated, is appropriate,' he commented.
R.V. Bidhani, president of the Cinema Exhibitors' Association, Mumbai, however, felt that the police action against 79 cinema halls of Mumbai was uncalled for.
'All exhibitors of Mumbai are willing to show Marathi movies, but not at the cost of their business,' he said curtly.
Retorting to Bidhani, Kulkarni said that no Marathi filmmaker is asking for charity from the cinema halls of Mumbai.
'As per the state government's standing order, Maharashtra's cinema hall owners are obliged to screen Marathi movies minimum for four weeks a year. Considering that 80 Marathi movies are released in a year, they cannot complain of paucity of movies worth releasing in their cinema halls,' fumed Kulkarni.