Events company Only Much Louder (OML) had roped in popular veteran comedian Jerry Seinfeld for a stand-up act in Mumbai at National Sports Club of India for 2 back-to-back shows on March 14 and 15. Sadly, this grand event had to be cancelled by OML because they did not receive the appropriate permissions from Mumbai Traffic Police with regards to the parking arrangements at the venue. There have been multiple conspiracy theories floating on the internet all day long:
Heard that #Seinfeld is cancelled to cut losses. Seems like Bombay refused to pay the hefty ticket cost. Even slashing prices didn’t help.
— Apurva (@Apurvasrani) March 13, 2015
The news/rumor of Seinfeld being canceled due to lack of tickets sold is totally false. Real story will eventually come soon. *Lights joint* — Mihir Fadnavis (@mihirfadnavis) March 13, 2015
People: There are rape cases which are not being solved. Shouldn’t we do something? Government: NO CANCEL SHOWS BECAUSE PARKING IS IMPORTANT
— Sahil Shah (@SahilBulla) March 13, 2015
Late evening, Founder of OML, Vijay Nair, took to twitter to set the record straight. In a series of tweets he tried explain all that has happened. Nair said that they had begun work on this show well in advance, and had all their licensing & permissions ready. He claims they had the traffic NOC too as on 5th March. The blow came on March 11 when Mumbai Police said they cannot allow a show at that venue on a weekend. Although Nair didn’t explicitly name the event, he believes the cops had to re-think giving a license for events at the venue after the major traffic chaos caused by an event attended by CM Fadnavis earlier in the month. According to Nair, they tried to provide parking for additional 600 vehicles and offered to change show timings, but the cops weren’t satisfied. Hence on the night of 11th March, they called the artist and the crew and cancelled all the arrangements and private jet etc.
HOWEVER, when OML was about to announce the cancellation of the event, the authorities were trying to help them with a plan to let this event carry on to avoid a last-minute cancellation. At this stage, OML tried to re-book the artist and a charter flight, but even though they found some flight options, “rest of the logistics couldn’t come together”. Hence they had to cancel the show.
Nair squarely refuses to blame the Mumbai police for this cancellation. He says he understands the “tremendous pressure” on the police force and hence their need to re-examine the license. He also applauds them for their “stellar job” during all their past events. But he also hopes, “decisions taken by the authorities are made on the basis of a majority of the events (at the venue) are conducted and not by using one show as a benchmark”. By the “benchmark” we assume he is referring to the CM’s event.
On the conspiracy theory about freedom of expression and censorship, Nair clearly states that “the Censor Board didn’t find anything objectionable with Seinfeld’s content”. Also, to a pointed question from a twitter user whether he thinks the authorities were teaching OML a “sadistic lesson” for organizing the controversial AIB Knockout, Nair had this reply (OML had organized the AIB show too) :
@Shizaroo Not even remotely true. We have already done a bunch of events after that. And we know them personally, wasnt about that
— Vijay Nair (@vijay_nair) March 13, 2015
There was another conspiracy theory that the show was cancelled to cut losses because the show wasnt sold out. Many people were complaining about the exorbitant prices and last week, OML slashed the prices by 50% in an apparent bid to boost sales. They even offered 50% refunds to the people who had booked the tickets at full price. This theory was also rubbished by Nair saying that cancelling this late wasn’t going to help them as all the payments had been done and they also have to refund the tickets.
The viability of the show was always a bit sketchy since as per this report, the losses from cancellation could be to the tune of $ 2 Million i.e. around Rs 12.5 Crores. The venue has 5000 seats and even at Rs 10000 per seat (the costliest seat, rate before the 50% discount) the ticketing revenue would around Rs 5 Crore, which means almost Rs 7 crore would have to come vis sponsorship. Factor in that tickets eventually had to be sold at 50% of the price and most seats were at a cheaper rate, the deficit sky-rockets. Even Nair in his tweet mentions that both the shows “were sure to sell out, without a doubt”, implying that maybe they weren’t sold out as on date.
From all this, some things are clear. There was no case of any moral-policing or censorship in this cancellation. Nair also categorically demolished the claim that it was the AIB backlash by saying they have already done many shows without a hitch after AIB. Nair also refuses to blame the cops, and in fact mentions that they eventually tried to accommodate the show. The changed stance of the Traffic Police could be a fallout of the mess the last event at NSCI created, and as Nair mentions OML was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. Whether the show was still financially viable is another question, but as Nair says, cancelling it so late wouldn’t really help curb losses.