With the uncertainty over the reopening of theatres lasting so long and the COVID-19 restrictions in place, Vijay fans’ associations haven’t made big plans.

Vijay in his latest film Master
Flix Theatre Tuesday, January 12, 2021 - 10:20

The wait had been too much for fans of Tamil star Vijay, who are scattered across the districts of Kerala. The question of movie theatres in the state reopening in time for the release of Vijay’s latest movie Master hung in the air for days. On January 11, finally, there was some respite – the morning meetings of various film and theatre associations with Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan turned fruitful. Theatres will open on Wednesday, with a number of restrictions, following COVID-19 protocol.

“Since there has been no confirmation until now, we haven’t really planned much for the release of Master. There’s also no permission to hold special shows for the fans like how it usually happens for Vijay movies. And there can’t be a crowd outside the theatre, since we are following COVID-19 protocol,” says Soumya, president of Vijay Idhayam Girls Association, a fans’ association based in Thiruvananthapuram.

On the first day of New Year, the Chief Minister had announced that the theatres may open on January 5, with a number of restrictions, including only 50% occupancy of the seats. This had not gone down well with the fans who are used to hogging the theatres from early morning for the ‘fan shows’ of Vijay movies.

READ: Kerala announces waiver on entertainment tax, electricity bills for theatres

“A theatre with a thousand seats will only allow 500 people inside and we have to sit maintaining some distance between us. But there are thousands of fans waiting for the release just in our area and many of them may not get to watch the premiere show,” says a disheartened Sanoop, president of Vijay Fans Club, Ernakulam district committee.

Respecting the pandemic situation, the Vijay fans in Kerala decided not to have grand celebrations when the much-awaited Master releases in theatres. They do not want to be responsible for a new spread of the disease, Sanoop says.

“We had, in fact, planned elaborate celebrations for April 9 last year, when the movie was originally supposed to release. There was a big cutout (of Vijay) and a chenda mela (percussion ensemble) was booked. But the release got pushed with the outbreak of the coronavirus. And with no clarity on whether the theatres will reopen in time for the release on January 13, we haven’t planned much, except a flex board,” Sanoop says.

The theatres in Kerala had closed down on March 11 last year, even before the country went into a lockdown. In June, the state government allowed movies to start shooting again. However, film crews took their time to begin shooting again due to several reasons.

Read: Movie shooting in Kerala has not resumed despite govt approval. Here’s why

Kerala was among the last states to allow the reopening of theatres, and when they did, the government made no mention of the recommendations made by theatre owners to reduce the various expenses — including taxes and electricity charges — incurred during the last 10 months when they were not open. This led to another standstill when theatre owners showed reluctance to opening theatres without having an assurance on the cutting down of these costs.

“Earlier, when we thought that Master will not release in Kerala, we planned to take tickets to Tamil Nadu and go watch the movie there,” says Soumya.

While there was uncertainty, there were reports that Antony Perumbavoor, president of the Film Exhibitors United Organisation of Kerala (FEUOK), said it was unfair to reopen theatres in Kerala for the Tamil film Master. The statement had irked Vijay fans, some of whom announced that they would boycott the Mohanlal-starrer Marakkar: Arabikkadalinte Simham, which is produced by Antony Perumbavoor.

However, Soumya said that it was not a decision taken by members of any Vijay fans association. “Some fans posted about it on social media. But none of the associations has officially said anything about a boycott,” she says.

Vijay’s film Master, scheduled as a Pongal release this month, is directed by Lokesh Kanagaraj. It is an action-thriller produced by Xavier Britto under the banner XB Film Creators. The film stars Vijay as the protagonist while Vijay Sethupathi plays the antagonist. It also stars Malavika Mohanan in the lead. The soundtrack is composed by Anirudh Ravichander, while cinematography is by Sathyan Sooryan and editing is by Philomin Raj.

READ: Mohanlal to Manju Warrier, actors laud Kerala govt for relaxing tax on theatres

(With input from Digital Native)

WATCH: Master trailer

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