Opposition parties have said that the YSRCP government has not allowed early benefit shows and high ticket pricing as an act of vengeance against the Jana Sena chief.

Collage of Chandrababu Naidu and Pawan Kalyan as a lawyer in 'Vakeel Saab'
news Politics Sunday, April 11, 2021 - 15:55

The theatrical release of actor-politician Pawan Kalyan’s film Vakeel Saab has taken a political turn, with opposition parties blaming the YSRCP government for imposing curbs at the time of release, alleging that it was an act of vengeance against the Jana Sena Party chief. Speaking at a road show in Sullurpeta on Saturday, while campaigning for the upcoming Tirupati Lok Sabha bye-election, Telugu Desam party (TDP) chief Chandrababu Naidu spoke in support of Pawan Kalyan. Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena Party is in an alliance with the BJP, and Naidu said that he was speaking about the issue although Pawan Kalyan isn’t currently supporting the TDP. 

Earlier, BJP leaders and supporters of Pawan Kalyan had objected to the cancellation of early benefit shows or premiere shows on the day of the film’s release on April 9, as well as the capping of ticket prices. Echoing their allegations, Naidu said, “Usually, when any big film is released, special shows are screened, and the ticket prices are hiked in the first few days. They (YSRCP government) have not allowed that, to hurt Pawan Kalyan financially and to hurt his career, as he has been a vocal critic of the Jagan government.”  

On the day of the release, BJP National Secretary and Andhra Pradesh co-incharge Sunil Deodhar said that Chief Minister Jagan was “so scared of Pawan Kalyan” that he banned the early morning benefit shows of Vakeel Saab. Asking people to watch the movie, Deodhar said that BJP-Jana Sena’s candidate Ratna Prabha’s victory in Tirupati would be declared along with the film being declared a hit. 

Responding to Deodhar’s comments, Andhra Pradesh Minister for Information and Public Relations Perni Venkataramaiah (Nani) said that the curbs were in accordance with the Andhra Pradesh government’s regulations for timings and ticket pricing in cinemas. Stating that tickets for benefit shows were being sold at exorbitant prices as high as Rs 1,000, the Minister said, “The audiences are mostly middle-class or poor people. They (BJP-Jana Sena) are upset that we haven’t provided an opportunity to loot common people.” Commenting on Deodhar making a connection between the film’s commercial success and the BJP-Jana Sena alliance’s electoral performance, Perni Nani said that there was no such correlation. “Is he (Deodhar) implying that everyone in Andhra Pradesh is mad about cinema, that once the move is a hit, they will do whatever the hero tells them to?”  he questioned. 

With Vakeel Saab, Pawan Kalyan was seen on the big screen after a gap of more than three years. As the early benefit shows were cancelled, many fans of the actor vandalised theatres in many locations in Andhra Pradesh late Thursday night. At least five movie theatres were damaged in Tirupati alone, where stone pelting was witnessed in one theatre. Speaking to local media, several fans claimed that the state government had deliberately cancelled the benefit shows although they had already bought tickets. Tirupati’s urban district police said they were examining the theatres where the incidents of stone-pelting and vandalism were reported.

According to Deccan Chronicle, the Andhra Pradesh High Court issued directions that Vakeel Saab tickets must be sold at government fixed prices from Sunday. Earlier, theatre owners and distributors had moved the court seeking relaxations on the regulations imposed by the government. The court has reportedly allowed the sale of highly priced tickets till Saturday. 

Pawan Kalyan founded the Jana Sena Party in 2014, and he had supported the BJP-TDP alliance during the 2014 elections. Eventually, Jana Sena drifted from the alliance, and contested the 2019 elections in an alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), CPI and CPI(M). Pawan Kalyan lost from both the seats he contested, and his party managed to win only one Assembly constituency. In 2020, Jana Sena announced an alliance with the BJP. 


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