The upcoming Salman Khan starrer mega-budget film "Tiger Zinda Hai" has run into a political controversy barely two days ahead of its scheduled December 22 release.
While the Maharashtra Navnirman Chitrapat Sena (MNCS) has warned cinema owners against booking all shows for Tiger Zinda Hai and denying slots to two Marathi films, other parties like the Congress and the Shiv Sena also joined the controversy with their own party lines.
MNCS President Amey Khopkar told the media that the screening of the movie should not be at the cost of the Marathi films, "Deva" and "Gachhi", which must be allotted suitable prime time slots.
"We are not against the release of any film, including Tiger Zinda Hai, our objection is why should all the slots be reserved for just one film and all others have no slots to exhibit their films," Khopkar said.
On Tuesday, the MNCS shot off letters to all cinemas, demanding proper prime-time slots for the Marathi films, failing which it would agitate against the Salman Khan film.
Mumbai Congress President Sanjay Nirupam has come out in favour of "Tiger Zinda Hai", but a party legislator Nitesh Rane has espoused the cause of the Marathi film industry, while the Shiv Sena has also toed a pro-Marathi line in this matter.
Terming the plight of Marathi film-makers "comparable to hawkers", Sena MP Sanjay Raut demanded that they should be given equal treatment in releasing their films.
However, theatre owners are in a quandary since Tiger Zinda Hai is the first mega-budget film after several months, and probably the last this calendar year, after protests and threats pushed back the release of the much-anticipated Sanjay Leela Bhansali film "Padmavati" to 2018.
Khopkar said the MNCS, part of the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), would not tolerate "the monopolising of theatres by Yashraj Films in this manner".
"They should not forget that they do all their film shootings in Maharashtra. If this matter is not resolved amicably, we shall be forced to stop even their shoots," Khopkar warned.
He termed it as tragic that Marathi film-makers "have to beg" for screens in their home state because big film companies book all cinema halls in advance for exhibiting their films.
According to MNCS activists, nearly 95 per cent of all shows in all theatres in the state have been blocked for "Tiger Zinda Hai" for its Friday release, leaving others with unviable options like early morning or late night shows which are poorly patronised.
Unconfirmed reports suggest that Yashraj Films has stipulated all theatres to have at least five shows of "Tiger Zinda Hai", hoping to lure cinema buffs and Salman Khan fans in the Christmas holiday season.