Bollywood celebrities were divided over the Maharashtra government's plan to make screening of Marathi movies in the state's multiplexes mandatory during prime time.
While the decision left some members of the film fraternity shocked, drawing ferocious reactions from many, who slammed the government's "dictatorship" and "dadagiri" and said that regional movies should be encouraged, not forced. There were also some who praised the move.
Ritesh Deshmukh and Rishi Kapoor
Actor Ritesh Deshmukh, who has produced Marathi films, called the decision "welcome news" while filmmaker Onir said regional cinema across the country needed state support.
Onir lauded the move by the government, saying it would inject a new life to the regional film industry.
“Appreciate the move by the govt of Maharashtra to support #Marathi Cinema. Regional cinema all over the country needs state support. Marathi cinema in the recent years have had some beautiful films. They need to be given the screen space to make regional cinema flourish. Providing prime time screen space to #Marathi will help vitalize the industry and provide a healthy competition for good content cinema,” Onir tweeted.
Actor Rishi Kapoor said good cinema will survive irrespective of language. "Today theatre rentals so high difficult for weak films to survive irrespective of language. Case in point F&F7. Open field, anyone welcome. "You cannot thrust anything on anyone zabardasti. If it is good it will survive otherwise.. Cinema is also a business. Big monies involved... Ritesh Deshmukhs film in Marathi was a super hit. So were others. So welcome all. We are all equal here in cinema. May the best win! (sic)," he wrote.
Tanuj Garg, however, said decisions on movie programming should be based on "business and revenue potential" and left to "distributors and exhibitors".
Filmmaker and censor board member Ashoke Pandit said, "Any kind of force is not good for a democracy... you can request these multiplexes that you adjust the regions vis a vis great cinema, a request can be made and let us understand that this is business."
According to director Sudhir Mishra, Marathi cinema was doing good and should be promoted.
"I don't know if there can be anything mandatory or forcible but I hope all regional cinemas are encouraged... I think it is good if Marathi films can be encouraged," he told a news channel.
Producer Anubhav Sinha too supported the decision, saying, "Regional Films must get proper and fair showcasing. Specially when Marathi Industry is making such wonderful films."
Talking to a news channel, filmmaker Mukesh Bhatt said, “Government is behaving like dictators. It doesn’t seem like we are living in a democratic society...such decisions should be taken collectively.”
Similarly writer Shobhaa De, also a Mumbai resident, noted that a discussion should have have taken place before arriving to the final judgment.
“Government should have consulted parties before making decision. Is government willing to give subsidy to multiplexes?” she said.
The writer also took to micro-blogging site Twitter to express her anguish over the issue, which snowballed into a controversy.
“I love Marathi movies. Let me decide when and where to watch them, Devendra Fadnavis. This is nothing but Dadagiri,” Shobhaa tweeted, adding, "No more pop corn at multiplexes in Mumbai? Dahi misal and vada pav only. To go better with the Marathi movies at prime time."
Bollywood stars and Maharashtrian by birth Shreyas Talpade and Riteish, who have showed their acting calibre in Marathi films as well, expressed mixed reactions on the issue.
Where Riteish pointed out competing with people's favourite Hindi films will be difficult for state's cinema, Shreyas said that a "middle-ground" should be reached.
“People prefer Hindi films. It will be hard for Marathi films to compete,” Riteish said.
“The move will help Marathi movies, but I think middle ground should be reached,” Shreyas said.
Filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri posted: “I don’t see what’s wrong if Marathi film industry gets impetus. Isn’t that everyone wants? Only if they can add Indies (non-starrer) with it”.