Complete lowdown on how Jerry Seinfeld's Mumbai shows got cancelled

Mar 14, 2015, 06:45 IST | Varun Singh and Dhara Vora

This is how the plan to bring one of the world's greatest stand-up comedians, Jerry Seinfeld, to perform in Mumbai this weekend unravelled in less than 48 hours

A city desperately in need for some humour lost an opportunity to get its ribs tickled by one of the best in the business when Jerry Seinfeld’s shows, meant to be held at the NSCI stadium in Worli over the weekend, were cancelled yesterday.

Also read: Jerry Seinfeld shows in Mumbai cancelled

Jerry Seinfeld
Jerry Seinfeld

And, even as the police and the organisers traded punches over what led to the Emmy and Golden Globe-winning stand-up comedian’s Indian debut being cancelled, those close to the developments told mid-day that Seinfeld would have performed today in Mumbai if only the police had given their nod for the show a few hours before they actually did, or if the organizers had managed to convince Seinfeld to travel to India at the last minute.

Illustrations/Amit Bandre

What went unsaid officially, but found a lot of play on social media (see box), however, were theories regarding how the decision was a result of the police being extra cautious in the wake of two previous controversies at the venue - people being heckled while the CM was attending a charity event earlier this month, and the AIB roast.

Rakesh Maria
Rakesh Maria

Other theories dealt with how the Seinfeld show organiser Only Much Louder (OML) had also organised the AIB Knockout and some even said that the show was cancelled because not enough tickets had been sold - a contention which OML has refuted.

Traffic plans and parking arrangements, or the alleged lack thereof, were at the heart of what led to the shows being cancelled and things started unravelling on Wednesday, after the organisers, OML had a meeting with Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria.

While the organisers claimed they had made arrangements for additional parking at nearby venues like the Racecourse, Atria Mall and Nehru Centre, the police were apparently not satisfied with the arrangements, which they they were not informed about till Wednesday.

Maria was reportedly unhappy with the parking arrangements and asked the organisers not to go ahead with the show, after which they called Seinfeld and informed him about what was going on. Even after the meeting, organisers were trying their best throughout the day to convince Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and the police commissioner that they should be allowed to hold the show, but to no avail.

Green light
On Thursday morning, just as the organisers were about to announce the cancellation of the event, they got a call from sources that police officials were changing their mind and, by 3 pm, they got the green signal for the show. But it was too late by then.

They waited till the night (for it to be morning in the US) and, at approximately 9 pm, the organisers called Seinfeld’s office to inform them that the show was on in Mumbai. But, by then, Seinfeld’s office claimed he could not change his plans again and come to the city.

Vijay Nair, CEO, OML, said, “We were about to announce the cancellation on March 12 but got a call from the authorities that we might receive the permission to go ahead. But by then cancellations were made and re-booking the artiste, booking the flights and getting visas for everyone involved was impossible.”

Nair added, “We had sold out most of the tickets for both dates (Saturday and Sunday), and had the parking plan in place by booking spaces at a mall close to the venue, 400 spots at RWITC and 150 spots at Nehru Centre, in addition to the spots available at the venue. With the number of people expected for the shows, we did not need more than 700 to 900 parking spots.

We haven’t been given any letter for the refusal to grant permissions yet. This will create a major problem for other companies looking to get international artistes to the city or for those looking to organise any major performance.”

Theories galore
Social media, meanwhile, was abuzz with other theories of why the show was cancelled as well. Many said that the March 1 debacle, where traffic policemen at the NSCI had stopped private vehicles to make way for the Chief Minister’s convoy and footage showed them heckling some club members, including an elderly person, had made the police extra cautious, The issue had triggered outrage at people being inconvenienced during movement of VVIPs and Opposition parties had attacked Fadnavis, following which the Chief Minister tendered an apology on his twitter handle.

Before this, the police were in the dock for allowing the AIB Knockout starring Arjun Kapoor and Ranveer Singh to be held at the NSCI, which had led to several court cases. Users speculated that the fact that OML was also the organiser of the AIB Knockout had something to do with them being denied permission.

Select tickets costing Rs 7,500 had been brought down to Rs 3,750 in association with who was said to have issued the discount. This had led to speculation that OML had not managed to sell enough tickets.

Commissioner speak
Rakesh Maria explained, “The organisers visited my office two days ago (Wednesday) and by that time we had already issued them the Traffic NOC. There were certain issues with the parking arrangements.

There were not enough parking spots for the people who would be coming for the event. The organisers assured us that they had made certain arrangements at NSCI and other places, but when we crosschecked, there were discrepancies in what they were saying.

“I had told the organisers that we do not give permissions for events at NSCI during weekends considering the crowd that gathers on holidays. However, considering the importance of the event and that cancellation would give a bad name to the city, we called the organisers on Thursday and asked them to go ahead with the show,” he added.

CEO speak
The twitter timeline of OML CEO Vijay Nair @vijay_nair has all the details of what transpired, the conspiracies (that they want to save the company from losses) and his take on this entire issue. He had been tweeting non-stop since the news of the cancellation of Seinfeld’s show yesterday:

>> Was the Seinfeld cancellation a Censor Board issue? Umm .. Another great conspiracy theory, and I am tempted to say ‘Yes’, just to have some fun. But sadly, no. Friends, the Censor Board didn’t find anything objectionable with Seinfeld’d content. #Truestory

>> In response to claims that the shows were not selling out, or we were “cutting our losses”... This is one of my favorite conspiracy theories from today. Because, apparently, the best way to “cut losses” is to pay the entire artist fees, pay for all their expenses, wait for 24 hours before the show and cancel the show so that fans won’t get any refunds, and then go and refund all your sponsors and ticket buyers. Both the shows were sure to sell out, without a doubt.

>> So who is to blame? Since this letter will mostly be discussed on Twitter, you can blame whoever you want. I am free this weekend now, and looking forward to some more #outragewatch on social media.

Why is Seinfeld important?

>> Jerry Seinfeld is considered one of the greatest comedians in the world.

>> He is best known for playing a semi-fictional version of himself in the sitcom Seinfeld (1989-1998), which he co-created and co-wrote with Larry David.

>> He is known for specialising in observational humour, devoid of obscenity and swearing.

>> Last year, Seinfeld topped the list of wealthiest actors in the world, with a net worth of $820 million. Shah Rukh Khan came second, with $600 million

>> Seinfeld reportedly has a private jet and owns more than 40 vintage Porsches

How it fell apart

March 11
5 pm
CEO of Only Much Louder (OML), the organiser of the Seinfeld event, Vijay Nair, went to meet Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria. Unhappy with the parking arrangement, Maria refused to give permission for the event.

March 11
The organisers called Seinfeld’s team and informed him about the developments taking place in Mumbai and even asked the comedian not to board his flight. OML cancelled all the bookings made, including travel arrangements for Seinfeld and his team.

March 12
The organisers were about to announce the cancellation when they started getting calls from police sources, saying that the department was in the mood to give them the go-ahead.

March 12
3 pm
Maria gave the nod to the event, citing that cancellation would bring a bad name to the city.

March 12
9 pm
When the organisers finally called Seinfeld’s team to inform them of the developments (they were waiting for it to be morning in the US) and once again asked him to come, his team refused.

March 13 
11.40 am
The organisers released a statement announcing the cancellation of the show.

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