‘MNIK’ bookings stop, 1,000 held as Sena stirs more trouble (Afternoon Lead)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

MUMBAI - More than 1,000 activists of the Shiv Sena were arrested for vandalising cinemas and multiplexes that will screen “My Name Is Khan”, forcing several theatres in this film capital to Wednesday stop advance bookings.

As the Shiv Sena went on the rampage two days before the release of the Shah Rukh Khan starrer — despite the Mumbai Police assuring security cover at the 63 cinemas and multiplexes scheduled to show the movie here from Friday — the administration arrested 1,023 party workers between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

They were booked under various charges like rioting, damaging property, unlawful assembly and trespass, officials said.

Fearful of further damage, multiplex chains like Big Cinemas, PVR and Cinemax withdrew their advance bookings for the film, as did single screen theatres like Mehul in Mulund and Shreyas in Ghatkopar.

“We have shut the advance bookings for the film as of now. It may open (later) but nothing is certain,” Girish Wankhede, deputy general manager (Corporate Communication) of Cinemax, told IANS.

Pramod Madhve, an official from Mehul Theatre, said: “Nothing about the film’s release is fixed yet. We hope to receive updates by tomorrow. But the advance bookings have been shut for now.”

A Shreyas Theatre official said: “Bookings have been closed as of now, we should be in a position to tell you about the release by tomorrow.”

“My Name Is Khan” has been under the Shiv Sena scanner ever since superstar Shah Rukh made comments in favour of the inclusion of Pakistani cricketers in the Indian Premier League (IPL). Shah Rukh is co-owner of the Kolkata Knight Riders team.

Shiv Sena leaders had unofficially backed down from the protests against the film Saturday, prompting Shah Rukh to tell reporters he was glad the party understood his point of view. But the U-turn came quickly.

“We don’t see it as a threat to the release of the movie but it’s a threat to the law and order situation,” Himanshu Roy, joint police commissioner (Law & Order), said Wednesday.

But the issue went beyond just the film with Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray taking umbrage at Chief Minister Ashok Chavan’s threat to withdraw his security cover.

“What does he (Chavan) mean by talking of withdrawing my security? I am myself giving up the security,” Uddhav Thackeray said in a page one statement in the party mouthpiece Saamna.

“My security can go to Kasab,” he said, and asked sarcastically who the two most secure people in Mumbai were — Shah Rukh Khan and Kasab.

According to Sena spokesperson Neelam Gorhe, the party had “a difference of opinion” with Shah Rukh and his new movie and the party activists were spontaneously reacting in this regard.

On Tuesday night, after a day of attacks by Sena activists on half-a-dozen cinema halls in the city, Chavan warned them to “behave themselves” or lose the security cover given to Uddhav and other party leaders.

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