Friday, the 12th of February, will go down in Indian film history as a black day for Bollywood.
For, although superstar Shah Rukh Khan valiantly fought a political party known for its violent ways and managed to release his most ambitious film, My Name Is Khan, without bowing down to the dictates of the supremo of the political party for an apology, the release was so haphazard that it exposed the vulnerability of the film industry.
It was also a black day for the government of Maharashtra as it could not ensure a smooth and tension-free release for a film.
Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan may take solace in the fact that he could at least ensure that the film reached the cinemas, albeit in a fractured manner, but the fact is that the state failed miserably in its primary task of providing a secure atmosphere for the public.
Given that MNIK is the first indigenously produced big-budget commercial film to have been acquired by a Hollywood studio for worldwide distribution on payment of a price, what kind of signal will the haphazard release send to the studio in particular and Hollywood in general?
This deal could have started off a trend of Bollywood films being distributed the world over by Hollywood studios but the latter just might have second thoughts in view of what happened at the behest of a political party in the state of Maharashtra.
After all, an international company might not be used to shelling out Rs. 850 million for a film and then being unsure about its release date in the most promising markets in India.
A word here about the media support to Shah Rukh Khan and Karan Johar for not buckling under pressure from the political party which was doing everything under its control to stall the release of MNIK.
It cannot be denied that the two producers of the film, which is in the eye of one of the biggest controversies to have hit Bollywood, showed exemplary fortitude in dealing with the most unenviable situation they found themselves and their film in.
But in showing solidarity with Khan and Johar, it is baffling why almost every television channel went on and on about how, despite the threat of violence, MNIK in the multiplexes of Bombay city was running to packed houses.
The fact is that many of the multiplexes recorded poor or just average attendance.
It fails common sense why the media distorted facts to pat Shah Rukh and Karan Johar on the back for an exemplary stand they took.
Whether MNIK opened to bumper, good, average or below-average houses in Bombay was not the question.
The fact that the film could open in the city in spite of threats to vandalize cinemas is what is heartening news.
Even if the film would’ve recorded 5% collections, Khan and Johar’s stand to not bow down to the violent tactics of a politician would’ve been worthy of applause.
By shifting the focus to the film’s full houses (which weren’t, in the first place), the media was actually taking away credit from the duo and giving it to the film.
While this constant feed on satellite channels may have suited the actor-producer and the producer-director, as reports of a film recording full houses are always welcome, it did expose a sad reality – that the biggest of television channels don’t care to check their facts before disseminating serious information on the film industry even if the subject turns out to be the costliest film of Bollywood.
And while on the topic of the ugly controversy, it must be mentioned that many in the trade were shocked at the absence of both the producers of MNIK while the controversy was at its peak and actually threatened to jeopardise the very release of the Rs. 90-crore film.
Both, Karan and Shah Rukh, flew out of the country on 10th February to attend the premiere of their film in Abu Dhabi and another in Germany.
Of course, they must’ve finalised plans for the two premieres weeks in advance, but the trade is not sure if they couldn’t have cancelled their appearance or, at least, changed the plan in such a way that while one attended the premieres abroad, the other stayed back in India to lend support to the exhibitors who were on tenterhooks.
Of course, the tech-savvy duo kept posting their thoughts on the raging controversy and their reactions to statements made by their adversaries, on Twitter.
But pray, how many of the exhibitors and distributors affected by the MNIK controversy are habituated to tweeting?
Anyway, these were minor complaints of the trade people and major slips on the part of the media.
But the fact remains that Shah Rukh Khan and Karan Johar emerged as the real heroes on Friday the 12th when they released their MNIK in the face of threats, most of which turned out to be empty.