'The Kerala Story' removed by multiplexes due to poor audience response, TN Police tells Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court had refused to stay the release of the movie, while of the view that the success of the movie should be determined at the box office.  

The Tamil Nadu Police has refuted before the Supreme Court a charge of "shadow banning" the movie 'The Kerala Story', contending the film was released in 19 multiplexes across the state, despite protests and objections by Muslim organisations but was removed due to poor audience response.

"There is no ban, explicit or implicit, on the film in the State," it claimed, adding in fact, the police lodged nine cases against the protesters.

In response to the top court's notice on filmmaker's plea against 'shadow ban', the state police said the petitioner has not produced a single document or order or proof to show that the state of Tamil Nadu took steps to ban the screening of the film.

In an affidavit, Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) stated that the film in Hindi was released in 19 multiplexes across the state on May 5.

"After its release, it appears that the multiplex owners took the decision to stop screening the film from 07.05.2023 in view of the criticism received by it lack of well-known actors / poor performance/poor audience response. The State exercises no control decision. It is reiterated that this decision was made by the theatre owners on their own and the State had no role to play over the same," it said.

On May 12, hearing a writ petition by the filmmakers Sunshine Pictures Pvt Ltd and producer Vipul Amrutlal Shah, the apex court had asked the West Bengal and the Tamil Nadu governments to explain why the movie, which is run across the country smoothly, can't be exhibited in their States.

‘The Kerala Story’ showing the theme of 'Love Jihad' and entrapment of Hindu and Christian girls for conversion has stirred hornets' nest with several fringe organisations lodging protests for what they perceived as poor depiction of Islam and its clerics.

The Tamil Nadu police, in its reply, alleged the petitioners made false and sweeping allegations motivated by malafide intentions in an attempt to seek publicity, despite the fact that the State is discharging its positive obligation to create and maintain conditions in which the film can be screened. 

"The exhibitors have themselves stopped the screening of the movie due to the poor audience response and the Government cannot do anything to increase the audience patronage for the said film, except to provide security to the cinema theatres," it said.

The state police also stated in view of the inputs received from reliable sources, the State Intelligence had on April 26, 2023 and May 03, 2023, issued alerts to the Superintendents of Police in the districts and Commissioners of Police in the cities for keeping a close vigil on the law and order situation in the State, and ensuring maintenance of the same in the wake of the scheduled release of the film. 

"This was done to facilitate and ensure smooth release and public exhibition of the film, and prevent any potential harm to the owners of theatres and multiplexes, and their properties. The film was heavily criticized after its release, with some Muslim organisations alleging that the film spreads "anti-Muslim hate" and "Islamophobia" among the common public, und has been produced solely with the intent to polarize other religions against Muslims," it said.

The police also said, furthermore, on May 05, 2023, the Director General of Police / Head of the Police Force, Tamil Nadu issued instructions to all the Commissioners of Police and District Superintendents of Police in the State to provide adequate security and protection to every cinema hall that had screened the film. 

"The State has made adequate arrangements for security to facilitate the screening of the Film, and to ensure that the theatre owners. viewers and the audience are not endangered. Over 965 Police Personnel, including 25 DSPs, were posted for the protection of the 21 movie theatres which had screened the film," it said.

Top Court has been further told that on May 05, 2023, demonstrations, agitations and picketing were staged in 19 places by various Muslim organisations, and the next day demonstrations were held at seven places in Chennai and Coimbatore. 

"The exhibitors have themselves stopped the screening of the movie due to the poor audience response and the government cannot do anything to increase the audience patronage for the said film, except to provide security to the cinema theatres," TN police has said.