From Courts to Congress to BJP, everybody wants quota for Marathi films

Last evening, news broke that Devendra Fadnavis led BJP Government in Maharashtra had issued an order that atleast one Marathi film should be screened during Prime-Time by Multiplexes. There was mixed response to this order, with some supporting the much needed thrust to regional cinema, while others opposing the Government’s intervention in the business of multiplexes. Be it brickbats or bouquets, BJP cannot stake claim to either of these.

In June 2010, the Bombay High court ruled that all single-screen theatres across greater Mumbai will have to screen at least 44 shows of Marathi films every year. “We cannot let the regional film industry be finished,” a division bench of justice FI Rebello and justice RV More said. The judgement also made the timings and the frequency clear: At least for four weeks every year, they will have to screen a minimum of 11 shows of Marathi films per week, between 12 noon and 9pm.

Then in August 2010, the State Congress Government went one step ahead and made similar rules for multiplexes. “Hereafter, it will be mandatory for all 27 multiplexes in Mumbai to give Marathi cinema prime time slots. The permission for new multiplexes will be sanctioned only if they dedicate a separate screen entirely to Marathi cinema,” home minister RR Patil said. This diktat sounds extremely similar to what the current Maharashtra Government has announced. Is it the same order being repacked?

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This “reservation” for Marathi films in theatres is in fact a 47 year old story. In 1968, the Maharashtra Government, then under Congress rule, had issued a circular mandating movie theatres to screen Marathi movies for a minimum period of four weeks in a year. This circular although enforceable, was never really implemented until 2013, again during a Congress Government. This was when  the Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association raised their voices and went to court against this.

Public Opinion on this issue is still divided, as even some Bollywood stars with Maharashtrian roots, like Ritesh Deshmukh have welcomed the order:

On the other hand, clueless Congress spokespersons have begun politicking, without realising that this order is almost the same as the order passed under their Government

Multiplex owners have however given a guarded response reiterating that a similar rule already exists. Business head of Fun Cinemas Anand Vishal said “There is already a rule that we have to keep 210 shows for Marathi films through the day in one year. No one exactly knows the nitty-gritties of the new rule and whether it is inclusive of the existing norm. We are waiting for clarity on that front.”

(with inputs from @KartikeyaTanna)

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