The Indian nationalist party Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) is at it again, but not for anti-Pakistan reasons this time around, thankfully.
The English-language daily Times of India (TOI) reported MNS sent letters on Tuesday to film exhibitors "threatening an agitation" against the Salman Khan-starrer Tiger Zinda Hai if cinema halls are not made available for the prime time release of Deva, a Marathi feature film. Both films are scheduled for release this Friday, December 22.
As per TOI, the MNS has warned its party workers will take to the streets and besiege cinema halls if Deva is not screened but Tiger is.
In response, multiplex owners have said the big-ticketed Yash Raj Films production will be screened as per schedule. A theatre manager in suburban Mumbai told TOI it was impossible to "pull out a Salman Khan film, which has come like a ray of sunshine at the end of the year".
"He has the largest fan-following among all the stars in India so the first three days are always houseful," the theatre manager said.
"Moreover, we have had bleak collections in the past two months with not a single picture doing good business," he said.
"Padmavati was slated for release on December 1 but it has been deferred as well. At this rate, we will have to close down."
When asked about the violent threats, he said it is the duty of the police and the state to make a decision and handle the situation collectively.
Gachchi is another Marathi film that's ready for release but struggling to find cinema halls.
Ameya Khopkar, who leads the film cell of MNS, accused the Yash Raj banner of hogging cinema halls, not allowing for equal distribution of Marathi films.
"We are here to serve the cause of Marathi... We urge you to co-exist peacefully with Marathi filmmakers," Khopkar said. "If you fail to understand this language of reconciliation, then we will have to talk to you in our 'special' language," the letter warned.
"We want the state government to end the misery of Marathi filmmakers. We will start our stir if the government fails to take action against the makers of Tiger Zinda Hai," a senior MNS functionary told TOI. Maharashtra's Minister Vinod Tawde has also been informed of the situation, they added.
In his response, Tawde said, "The government has already set rules and norms for prime time slot for Marathi cinema. If there is violation, the government will step in and take stern action."
The MNS has objected to many big-banner mainstream Hindi films in the past as well. In October 2016, the party made hue and cry against Karan Johar for signing up Pakistan's Fawad Khan for a role in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil amidst the tension on the border. Though that tiff was settled thanks to a series of negotiations and a donation by Johar to the Indian army, the party again kicked up a storm around Shah Rukh Khan and Mahira-starrer Raees.
"Surprisingly, the MNS has upheld Sanjay Leela Bhansali's right to creative freedom and has opposed ban on Padmavati," TOI reports.