It has been three weeks since four major film associations of Mumbai decided to take on distributors across the country.
The problem began when satellite television channels went on a spree of buying movie rights from distributors and aired the latest films on television, sometimes even before they had finished their theatrical run.
Four major Mumbai producers associations -- the Indian Motion Picture Producers Association, Western India Film Producers Association, Association of Motion Pictures and Television Programme Producers, and the Producers Guild -- decided to withhold the release of new Hindi films from April 1 until distributors agreed not to sell a film's satellite rights until six months after its release.
Though Tejaa's Yeh Dil, Jose Punnoose's 3-D film Chota Jadugar (Suraj Balajee, S P Balasubramaniam) and Anil Sharma's The Hero: Love Story Of A Spy (Sunny Deol, Preity Zinta, Priyanka Chopra) were released in defiance of the diktat, a large swamp of releases is awaiting its turn as precious summer Fridays go by.
Govind Menon whose Khwahish, featuring semi-newcomers Himanshu Malik and Mallika Sherawat, was scheduled to be released in April has now shifted his film to May. Says Menon, "Small films are suffering. Films like my Khwahish will be tossed around because of this deadlock. On top of the current strike, Maharashtra cinema exhibitors are planning to down shutters to protest against the high sales and entertainment taxes. What is a filmmaker like me to do?"
Mahesh Manjrekar, who has been threatening to unleash his small social satire Praan Jaye Par Shaan Na Jaye for a few weeks now, has finally decided to take a stand. "I am releasing my film on May 1. It is not a Friday, but it is a holiday. So we will get a sizeable audience into the theatres. Since the producers' main fight is with the distributors of West Bengal, Bihar, Punjab and Delhi-UP, we are not releasing the film in these sectors."
The impact of Manjrekar's rebellious release is expected to be far-reaching. With no new release in the last two weeks, Praan Jaye... is expeced to get what is known in trade circles as a bumper opening.
Several other filmmakers are likely to follow Manjrekar's lead. Though the big ones like Ram Gopal Varma's Bhoot (Ajay Devgan, Urmila Matondkar, Rekha, Fardeen Khan) and Tips' Ishq Vishk (Shahid, Shenaz Treasurywala), which are now rescheduled for May 9, will bide their time, smaller filmmakers are unwilling to wait too long, especially with another film-related strike round the corner from May 11 in Maharashtra.
"We are not being defiant by releasing Praan Jaye Par Shaan Na Jaye May 1. We are being practical and realistic," says Manjrekar, who has another release, the romantic Pyar Kiya Nahin Jaata directed by him, with Sonali Bendre and newcomer Diwakar Pundhir, lined up for release in May. "God knows what will happen to that film now. Right now, I am only focusing on Praan Jaye..."
Manjrekar will also soon launch an experimental one-character film Struggler featuring himself in the title role.
Interestingly, the biggest beneficiary of the strike has been Anil Sharma's spy thriller The Hero. According to exhibitors, the film would have slumped in the second week in the face of a new release.
Now, The Hero has sustained itself into a steady, second-week run.