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Tired of MNS vandals, Bollywood bigwigs threaten to quit Mumbai

Mumbai, Aug 1: Political vandalism, mainly by the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, is taking its toll on Bollywood, the world's biggest film industry, with industry bigwigs hinting at taking their work out of Mumbai.
PTI August 01, 2012 12:03 IST
Mumbai, Aug 1: Political vandalism, mainly by the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, is taking its toll on Bollywood, the world's biggest film industry, with industry bigwigs hinting at taking their work out of Mumbai.

Two days after MNS  workers damaged 15 vehicles, including the vanity van of actor John Abraham and a BMW of actor Ayushmann Khurrana, the Film and Television Producers Guild (FTPG) has threatened to shift base if the Maharashtra government does not ensure to protect the industry from political vandalism, reports Delhi's tabloid Mail Today.

 The guild  has asked chief minsiter Prithviraj Chavan and home minister R. R. Patil to provide security for the film industry.

The guild members are expected to hold a meeting with Prithviraj Chavan in the next few days to sort out the issues with political activists who have been behind some of the recent attacks on film units in Mumbai.

The guild's message is clear – if there's no permanent solution to the problem, it will consider a new location for the film industry.

Guild president Ramesh Sippy said: “ The CM is aware of the problems we are facing and things have gone out of hand. There's a need to come together and solve this matter. If the solution has to be punitive then let it be punitive but we want to work peacefully.”

Sippy was referring to incidents of rioting and violence on various film sets by workers from political parties, particularly the MNS — the most recent being the one on the set of the film of his son, Rohan Sippy, in Borivali on Sunday.

MNS workers went on a rampage after the driver of a party legislator, Pravin Darekar, was not allowed to use a private road where the shooting was going on.

The police have arrested Darekar's brother Prakash, who is a corporator, and six others in the case.

The incident has jolted the industry so much that several producers, including Mukesh and Mahesh Bhatt, have expressed willingness to move out of Mumbai to work in peaceful conditions.

Sippy said: “ We cannot do business in a place where there is always a threat to life. Everyone living here should understand that we are not against anybody.

"We are seeking an assurance from everyone — from the government to give us security and from the others to show restrain in their actions in the future.”

“ If these conditions are not met, it will be a painful but imperative decision to consider relocating the industry to another city. It will be a traumatic move as we are attached to this city ( Mumbai). It is home to us. It is sad that it is becoming unsafe to make films here,” he added.

This is indeed bad news for the state government as the Hindi film industry is among the “ most important” industries in Maharashtra providing huge amount of revenue both to the state and the Centre.

Bollywood's film industry is worth around $ 3 billion and employs over 2.5 million people.

The industry has been receiving offers from many other states, including Gujarat, to shift its base for better infrastructure and protection.

Even Chavan had announced a few months ago that the Maharashtra government was creating new centres for film shooting — the first of which would come up at Kolhapur.

However, remaining in the same state would mean being subject to similar political hooliganism.

The guild is thus, seriously considering Plan B.

Sippy said: “ There have been feelers from Gujarat and I am sure the government there will welcome us warmly. We will not consider relocating if there is change in the present situation.”

Sources said the Raj Thackeray-led MNS is creating trouble for film crews shooting in Mumbai.

They often barge onto the sets to check the identity cards of the crew.

“If they find someone not carrying a card issued by the motion pictures' association, they extort money in the name of fine, which they are anyway not entitled to collect. It has become a menace,” a source said.

Following are acts of vandalism carried out in Bollywood in recent years:

July 29:

MNS workers damaged 15 vehicles on the set of Rohan Sippy's movie in Borivali after a spat with the driver of an MNS legislator.

The value of the damage is around Rs  21 lakh

April 2011:

MNS workers barged onto the set of Murder 2 in Film City and demanded that the crew show work permits. They left only after police intervention

March 2010:

11 MNS workers were arrested for allegedly trying to extort ` 25 lakh from producer Ritesh Sidhwani's crew during the shooting of Crooked at Mehboob Studio. They were objecting to the presence of foreign artistes in the shoot without permit

March 2010:

15 MNS workers were arrested after they ransacked the set of Ganesh Acharya's Angel at Aksa beach. They wanted to see the work permits of foreigners acting in the film.

When the crew refused to comply with their demand, the set was vandalized