The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Booking rush to beat ‘mischief’

Mumbai, Sept. 6: Manish Koppikar skipped classes to see Ek Chhotisi Love Story today and was enjoying the film with friends at Gemini Threatre when a group of protesting Shiv Sainiks decided to call “cut”.

Had it not been for the last-minute action by the Sena, producer-director Shashilal Nair would have laughed his way to the bank. The mud slinging between him and lead actress Manisha Koirala had done the trick. Moviegoers could hardly wait to see what had fuelled the controversy.

Halls across Mumbai and in other cities like Delhi and Lucknow had three days’ shows booked in advance, something of a marvel in the time of serial box office duds like Jaani Dushman, Chor Machaye Shor, Maine Dil Tujko Diya.

Almost heartbroken, Manoj Desai of Gemini, a popular Bandra theatre, said the “Friday, Saturday and Sunday shows had been all booked to capacity”. It was the same story at New Empire, Chitra, Cinemax, Imax and Galaxy. The House Full posters were already up, when Sainiks arrived to empty the halls.

Afraid that the film would be banned, audiences happily coughed up anything between Rs 500 and Rs 1000 for a ticket in theatres in downtown Ulhasnagar and Navi Mumbai, which took a chance with both the high court and the Shiv Sena.

Itna controversy hua hai, dekhna to padega,” said Ramesh Kulkarni as his college buddies nodded approval. Kulkarni said they had been waiting to see “what Manisha had done in the film”.

In his late 40s, Makrand Shah, too, was unabashed in expressing his curiosity. “If Manisha is crying so much over the scenes, there must certainly be something in it,” he said. “I thought I had better see it before any mischief is done with the film. Ismein sharmane ki kya baat hai' (What is there to be ashamed of')’’

Women viewers were fewer in number and more circumspect. Most had come accompanying their husbands or boyfriends. “Whatever the truth behind the controversy, if a woman says something is being forced on her and calls for it to stop, it is only fair enough,” Supriya Ghoshal said. She added that no woman would go to such lengths if there was no substance in her allegations. “Actually, most of us are only deriving voyeuristic pleasure from someone else’s misery.’’

The Sena fracas apart, distributors feel it will be some time before theatres across the country and abroad take off Ek Chhotisi Love Story from their halls. Sham Shroff of Shringar Films, involved in the distribution, says 97 prints are already in circulation all over the world and it will be difficult to recall each film from each theatre.

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