‘Master’ screening | 11 cases against Chennai theatres for violations

Some screened Master to a full house.

The Chennai Police registered 11 cases against 10 theatres until Wednesday evening for violating the 50% seating capacity rule and COVID-19 safety guidelines during the screening of the Vijay-starrer Master.

The police said the theatres at Jafferkhanpet, Ayanavaram, Koyambedu and other places in the south and east zones were found violating the norms, and cases were registered under Section 188 (disobedience to an order promulgated by public servant) and Section 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) of the Indian Penal Code. Some theatres were slapped with a fine of ₹5,000.

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“We had taken a written undertaking from the theatre owners that they would function only with 50% seating capacity and follow all the COVID-19 safety guidelines. Based on the instruction of city police commissioner Mahesh Kumar Aggarwal, the Deputy Commissioners conducted surprise checks. We registered cases wherever violations were found,” a senior police officer said.

Despite the government ordering that cinema halls function only with 50% seating capacity and follow the guidelines, some well-known single-screen theatres in the city screened the film to a full house and sold tickets at exorbitant prices. The film also stars Vijay Sethupathi, and has been directed by Lokesh Kanagaraj.

Some of these theatres have been accused of overcharging fans of big stars for the early morning shows, which have become part of the State’s popular culture in the last decade. Meeran, 30, who saw the film at a single-screen theatre near Ashok Pillar, said he went to the first show of the first day at 4 a.m. “The fans were celebrating without masks and physical distancing norms. All the seats were filled and a ticket was priced at ₹1,000. This was the case at a few other single-screen theatres where morning shows were held,” he said.

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In the morning, a few actors of the film and celebrities who had attended one of these shows posted pictures from the theatre. They showed that masking and physical distancing norms and the 50% seating limit were flouted. While these ‘special shows’ were overwhelmingly screened at single-screen theatres, the multiplexes and other theatres followed the norms strictly.

Tiruppur Subramanian, president, Tamil Nadu Theatre and Multiplex Owners Association, said, “We are adhering to the guidelines strictly. These are ‘special shows’ for the fans. And not more than one or two such shows would have been held. The multiplexes and other theatres in the city have strictly followed the guidelines.”

Cinema halls were allowed to function with 100% seating capacity after actor Vijay reportedly met Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami. But the government reversed its decision after the Centre insisted that the Disaster Management Act not be diluted. This dealt a blow to the makers of Master and theatre owners as it was believed that the big-budget film would have to suffer a financial loss with a reduced seating capacity.

The film has been released at close to 800 theatres. Film industry sources are expecting the film to become a hit.

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