Karnataka theatres avoid screening ‘Kaala’ amid protests

Bengaluru:  Single-screen theatres and multiplexes across Karnataka on Thursday avoided screening the multi-lingual “Kaala” film of Tamil superstar Rajinikanth amid vociferous protests by pro-Kannada activists against his remarks on the Cauvery river water issue.

“We are unable to screen ‘Kaala’ film for the time being despite the security provided due to strong protests against its release by the Kannada Rakshana Vedike (KRV) activists outside,” a multiplex official told IANS here.

Though police were deployed at some 120 theatres and multiplexes where the film was to be screened on the Karnataka High Court’s direction on Tuesday, morning and afternoon shows were cancelled to avoid untoward incidents.

“We have not issued tickets for the morning and afternoon shows though many fans turned up to watch the movie on the first day first show as we do not want to antagonise the protesters and also want to ensure that the tense situation outside does not go out of hand,” said the official on the condition of anonymity.

Hundreds of activists of pro-Kannada organisations, including the KRV, gathered outside theatres and multiplexes in Bengaluru, Mysuru, Hubballi, Mangaluru, Ballari and Belagavi to protest against the film’s release.

“Cauvery water is more important than a Rajinikanth film for us. Our honour and Kannada pride are at stake. He (Rajinikanth) has hurt us by supporting the cause of Tamil Nadu in the sharing of the river water,” KRV president Praveen Shetty told reporters here.

Many fans who bought the tickets online for the show on Wednesday were disappointed as they could not watch their favourite superstar’s film.

Besides the original Tamil version, the film has been released across the country and beyond with sub-titles in Hindi, Telugu and English.

Noted film critic Prashant Sambargi, however, termed the non-showing of ‘Kaala’ in the southern state unfortunate and a sad fallout of mixing politics with films by vested interests.

“Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy has failed as an executive by not reining in the pro-Kannada activists who turned a political and legal battle like the Cauvery dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu into an emotional issue and preventing the people from having entertainment,” Sambargi told news channels.

Regretting that thousands of fans in the state, especially in cosmopolitan Bengaluru were being denied their legitimate right to watch a Rajinikanth movie, Sambargi said a bad precedence was being set despite the court’s directive to allow its screening under police protection, as the exhibitors fear reprisal from the fringe elements and irrational protestors.

“It is also unfortunate that even the Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce (KFCC), which promotes Kannada films and supports the fraternity, is preventing ‘Kaala’ by siding with protestors and denying Rajinikanth fans their fundamental right to watch his movie.”

Kumaraswamy, who is also a producer and distributor of Kannada films, advised the exhibitors not to show the movie for the time being despite the court’s intervention in the larger interest of the state and its people.

“As a Kannadiga, I appeal to distributors and exhibitors not to release ‘Kaala’ in Karnataka for the time being to maintain peace as emotions are at a high against Rajinikanth for his controversial remarks on the Cauvery issue,” Kumaraswamy told reporters here on Wednesday.

At the same time, Kumaraswamy clarified that protection or security would be provided to theatres and multiplexes for screening the film in compliance with the high court order.