Single-screen cinemas still oppose Ae Dil Hai Mushkil release

Despite the chief agitator MNS backing down, the Cinema Owners & Exhibitors Association does not want Karan Johar's film to be released in Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka and Gujarat.

Mayur Lookhar

Just 48 hours ago, the decks appeared to have been cleared for the release of Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, but now it appears that one stumbling block remains – the Cinema Owners & Exhibitors Association of India (COEAI).

Sticking to their earlier stand, the executive members of COEAI held a meeting today and requested theatre owners not to screen the film.

The COEAI largely has under its ambit single-screen theatres across four states – Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, and Gujarat.

Confirming the same, Nitin Datar, vice-president of COEAI, said, “We had a meeting today where most of our executive members were of the view that we should stick to our earlier stand of not releasing the film.”

Datar refused to say if the association would take any action against theatre owners who chose to screen the film. “Please note, it is not a diktat, we have only made an honest appeal to theatre owners to not show the film,” Datar said.

According to sources, the executive members don’t believe there really was any compromise between the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, a local political party opposing the film's release on 'patriotic' grounds, and the Film and Television Producers' Guild.

Raj Thackeray, MNS chief, had told journalists on Saturday that they had called off their agitation after the guild's president, Mukesh Bhatt, agreed to his party's three demands, including a fine of Rs5 crore, to be paid to the army's welfare fund, on any producer who casts Pakistani artistes in future.

“All talk of compromise is a farce," said a source close to the COEAI. "From what one is getting to read in the newspapers, Mukesh Bhatt had denied that such a proposal was discussed. Besides, the army too has refused to accept such proposal. The producers need to take stock of public sentiment which has largely been ignored here. We’ve heard that today there were protests against the film in Mulund [a suburb of Mumbai]."

Despite the COEAI's reservations, Johar is set to release his film across all major multiplexes. The filmmaker has a couple of days more to sort out the tangle with the COEAI. By Thursday, readers would have a clearer picture of how many screens Ae Dil Hai Mushkil will get.