London: Three cinema chains that mostly focus on The Midlands The scheduled screening of “The Kerala Story” has been canceled after receiving complaints from local Muslim communities in Britain.
Suresh feudal lord, director of UK distributor 24 Seven Flix4U told TOI that Light Cinemas, an independent cinema chain, had earlier in the week pulled the movie from all five of its cinemas which was scheduled to be screened in places like Bradford and Walsall from Friday. Another independent cinema chain, Reel Cinemas, has also canceled its screenings at Burnley and Blackburn starting on Friday. A chain of Showcase cinemas in the Midlands said it would screen it and then decided not to go ahead. “They said they had a lot of concerns from the local Muslim community and apologized. One of the chains said it had received negative feedback from site managers and the local Muslim community had asked not to show the film.
Cineworld, Odeon and Vue continue to screen the film but Cineworld Varsani said the focus is on areas with a high Muslim population. He said the chain was concerned about the safety of its staff after Shakeel, a well-known Birmingham activist. Officer, the son of Birmingham-based Jammu Kashmir Liberation Council (JKLC) chief Najeeb Afsar, interrupted a screening at Cineworld Birmingham on the night of May 19 and said, “This film is a propaganda of BJP, RSS Hindutva. Cineworld should be ashamed of itself. We will not accept this type of promotion. This film is designed to divide us. He then accused the audience of being “supporters of Hindutva” and said, “This film should be stopped.” He was eventually escorted out by security, throwing his fist in the air and chanting “Free Kashmir”.
The Piccadilly Cinema in Leicester went ahead with its screening despite various cinema-goers asking it not to show. “The day before the first screening the manager received a threatening phone call that 200 people would smash the cinema if it was shown. He still investigated because he reported it to the police and had police protection, but the threats continued. It shows every day. Cineworld also operates in Birmingham.
The film grossed just £71,000 (Rs 72 lakh) in its first week in the UK after being released on around 30 screens.
“If there were no threats, I could have opened on many more screens towards the north. Normally it would have released on 60 to 70 screens and I got only half. I was supposed to make £150,000 (Rs 1.5 crore) in the first week, but lost it due to screen restrictions. I will not make money from this film,” said Varsani. “The movie has nothing to do with Kashmir or any political party, it is with these girls and what happens to them,” he added.
In the second week it will be shown on a total of 23 screens, with increased screens in areas unlikely to be affected by Cineworld, such as Cardiff. The controversy over the film was picked up by UK TV channel GB News. Afsar was invited to speak, as was the producer, Vipul Shah, who told host Nigel Farage that the film was based on the real-life stories of the three girls. “According to the UN report more than 40,000 girls have joined ISIS, and the figure of 32,000 in the trailer is not specific to India,” he said.