The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dam shutters on Aamir’s Fanaa
- Gujarat multiplexes not to screen film because of actor’s activism

Ahmedabad/Mumbai, May 23: Bajrang Dal is a more potent censor than Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, Aamir Khan might agree.

While India will get to watch The Da Vinci Code ' with disclaimers that the producers themselves have phrased ' this Friday, Gujarat will miss Fanaa, the much-awaited film that brings Aamir and Kajol together for the first time.

Multiplex owners in the state today said they have decided “on their own” not to release Fanaa ' also being sold as Kajol’s comeback film, in which she plays a blind girl and he a tour guide-terrorist.

The Da Vinci Code, which many feared would not be released in its original form after the I&B minister decided to vet it, got away with just a week’s delay and without any cuts.

“Considering the sentiments of the people in Gujarat who are dead against Aamir Khan ever since he joined Narmada Bachao Andolan (which is opposing the Sardar Sarovar dam), we have decided not to exhibit his films,” said Chirag Shah, spokesman for the Gujarat Multiplex Association.

What Shah did not say was that the “unanimous” decision by multiplex owners was taken only after state Bajrang Dal chief Ranchod Bharwad told them to be ready to face the consequences if the film was shown. Fanaa will be released elsewhere on Friday.

“I have told them, we will not allow Aamir Khan’s film to be released in the state. Aamir Khan is the enemy of the state and whoever dares to screen his film will be treated as one,” Bharwad said. He claims many multiplex owners had called him to find out what the Bajrang Dal’s plans were.

They needn’t have asked. The fate of Rang De Basanti, another Aamir-starrer, should have been warning enough.

Last month, after the actor came out in support of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, cinemas across Gujarat were forced to stop showing the film. If the Bajrang Dal led the way, sibling BJP and the Opposition Congress went along.

“Anyone who is opposed to Narmada is anti-development and therefore anti-Gujarat. We cannot and we will not forgive him,” Bharwad said.

Even actress Dia Mirza was not forgiven. She had to leave Rajkot where she had gone to perform at a cultural event, after she defended Aamir’s stand on Narmada.

Then, Aamir rubbed the hawks the wrong way some more when he attacked the administration for failing to stop communal violence in Vadodara.

Trade analysts, however, think there is more to the ban than opposition to Aamir the activist.

Yash Raj Films, the film’s producers and distributors, is “slated to lose at least 30 to 40 per cent of its revenues from the Gujarat circle for Fanaa and it is not just because of Aamir Khan”, said a well-known trade analyst in Mumbai who did not want to be quoted.

The Yash Chopra-owned house had recently asked multiplexes across the country for a higher share in profits if they wanted the film, a move the owners opposed. “This I feel is at the heart of the matter, Aamir Khan is marginal to the issue,” the trade analyst said.

Ashok Purohit, a film distributor who also owns multiplexes in Gujarat, added: “Keeping public sentiment against Aamir Khan in mind, we have decided not to screen Fanaa. However, I feel that Yash Chopra is being victimised in this whole process. So if people realise this fact, then we might be able to show the film.”

Chopra had travelled to Gandhinagar and met chief minister Narendra Modi a few days ago to speak to him about the controversy and how it will impact Fanaa.

The film’s director Kunal Kohli said: “The decision of the multiplex owners in Gujarat or anywhere in the country to boycott Fanaa, whether for Aamir or our ticket rates, will not affect the film at all. It is a good movie with powerhouse performance from two of Bollywood’s best actors. People will want to watch this movie no matter what and we are perfectly okay with releasing the movie at single-screen halls all over India' We are confident that Fanaa will do good business.”

Maybe it will, but not in Gujarat, where even the 400-odd standalone cinemas will not show it. Harish Patel, president of the Gujarat Cinema Exhibitors’ Association, said they would boycott all Aamir films. An official ban would have been easier to get around, the actor might say.

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