Following a request from filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali, actor Akshay Kumar has shifted the release of his upcoming movie PadMan to February 9, ensuring that Bhansali-directed Padmaavat gets a solo release on January 25, right before the long Republic Day weekend.
The move has, however, left movie exhibitors in four states worried. Exhibitors in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Haryana had been reluctant to screen Padmaavat, fearing attacks from Karni Sena and other Rajput outfits. They were hoping that PadMan will tide them through the R-Day weekend. But the new development has created a situation where many single-screen cinemas might go without a new release the next weekend.
The decision to postpone PadMan’s release was announced at a press conference at Kumar’s Juhu residence on Friday that was jointly addressed by the actor and Bhansali.
Bhansali said, “You know Padmaavat has faced a lot of hardship. The release date was his. We requested him to shift the release as he is a big star.”
Expressing his gratitude to Kumar, the director said, “I will be grateful to him for a lifetime for what he has done. This is for the world to understand that this is how we respect each other, stand by each other. As a fraternity, we are proud of what Akshay has done,” said Bhansali.
At the press meet, Kumar said, “It is essential for them to release the film as quickly as possible as they have a lot at stake. His need is more than me, I can understand that.”
Soon after, Padmaavat actor Deepika Padukone said in a Twitter post, “On behalf of Team Padmaavat, a big big Thank You to Team Padman for your support and generosity.”
The postponement of PadMan’s release, meanwhile, has left exhibitors across Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Haryana worried.
“PadMan’s latest announcement changes everything. The smaller single-screen exhibitors who do not have the money to hire security will have to go without any new release. It’s a huge loss to small players,” said Nitin Datar, head of Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India.
Datar also told The Indian Express that the association intends to write to members, advising them that each exhibitor independently decide whether they want to screen Padmaavat. “We may also write to the Centre, seeking security for theatres,” he said.
Due to the sensitive situation, distributors across these states are reluctant to do business with Padmaavat. “If the situation is volatile and exhibitors are not keen, why will we take the risk of losing money?” said Sandeep Singh Jain of Sanman Exhibitors, a major player in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
Owing to the current situation, the film’s producer Viacom 18 is distributing Padmaavat in these four states.
However, there is reluctance on part of exhibitors in Rajasthan to screen Padmaavat. “People want to watch the film but no exhibitor wants to risk loss to property, which is why we did not touch the film at all,” said Satishchand Sankhala of Eagle Films, an exhibitor in Ajmer.
Nandkishore Jalani of Golcha Theatre in Jaipur feels that it is unlikely that the film will release in Rajasthan. “If Jodhaa Akbar, which didn’t face this kind of trouble, did not see a proper release in the state back then, who will want to risk screening such a controversial film?” he said.
Dinesh Singh of Gwalior’s Delite Cinema told The Indian Express that their decision on screening Padmaavat would depend on whether the government promises security.