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Fearing violence, Kedarnath screenings halted in seven Uttarakhand districts

Ashok Kumar, additional director general of police (law and order), said that under the Cinematograph Act 1952, a district magistrate is entitled to stop the screening of films that could cause trouble.

Mayur Lookhar

Abhishek Kapoor’s Kedarnath was released today (7 December), but cinephiles in seven districts of Uttarakhand will not be able to watch the film as the respective district magistrates have halted its screenings fearing violence.

The seven districts are Dehradun, Haridwar, Nainital, Udham Singh Nagar, Pauri, Tehri and Almora.

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Requesting anonymity, an official from the office of the Dehradun district magistrate told Cinestaan.com: “Last evening, there were some reports of ransacking at a theatre. Fearing a threat to the law-and-order situation, the district magistrates of the seven districts took a call to not screen the film.”

However, Ashok Kumar, additional director general of police (law and order), said there were no reports of any violence, but the step was taken to ensure that law and order is not disrupted in the state. 

“There was no violence, but we received a few threatening calls," the top-ranked police officer told Cinestaan.com. "The district magistrates have taken the call in view of such a threat. I believe as per the Cinematograph Act 1952, a DM has the power to take such a calls.”

Kedarnath is the story of Mansoor Khan (Sushant Singh Rajput), a Muslim pithoo, or porter, who falls in love with a Brahmin girl Mandakini (Sara Ali Khan).

A source, on condition of anonymity, accused director Abhishek Kapoor of demonizing the Brahmin community. “You hardly find Muslims in Kedarnath," the source claimed. "So how come you have a Muslim porter in the film? A majority of the porters in Kedarnath are Nepalis.

"The film demonizes the Brahmin community. You are showing them as one who want to destroy the ecology by commercialization, building hotels. Don’t you think the locals would feel offended? It is a one-sided story. I think they have given the Muslim angle to sell their film. They have given a lopsided view.”

Speaking to Cinestaan.com, Prakash Chapal, secretary, Multiplex Association of India, condemned the magistrates' decision. “If you recall, on 17 August, the Supreme Court of India had passed an order that once a film is cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) and the courts, it is the duty of the state government to ensure that it is released smoothly. Instead, what we get to see is a film not being allowed to be screened," he said.

"Despite legal clearance, theatre owners are pressurized into not screening such films," Chapal continued. "If any people, members from any religious groups or political parties, resort to vandalism, then that state government, state police will be answerable. A theatre owner should know what are the provisions in the law and he should take due action."

Early this year, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat (2018) faced opposition from fringe groups which had twice vandalized the film's sets. Despite being cleared by the CBFC and the courts, Padmaavat wasn’t screened in Gujarat, Rajashthan, Madhya Pradesh and large parts of Haryana.

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