Chennai: Tamil films ‘Master’ and ‘Eeswaran’ are unlikely to have grand openings with full house audiences during the Pongal week, as their lead actors Vijay and T R Silambarasan has aspired for, with the Union Home Ministry urging the Tamil Nadu government to withdraw the permission given to cinema halls for screening movies with 100 per cent occupancy.
The State government’s order allowing 100 per cent occupancy amounted to dilution of the Ministry of Home Affairs’ December 28 order issued under the Disaster Management Act of 2005, a letter to the State Chief Secretary K Shanmugham from Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla on Wednesday said.
The letter urged the State government to issue necessary orders to bring its Covid-19 guidelines in line with the MHA guidelines that allow for only 50 per cent occupancy in cinema theatres and multiplexes and inform compliance to the Union Ministry.
The letter also referred to a Supreme Court order on State governments enforcing strict compliance of guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures on COVID appropriate behavior.
Earlier, Dr P Kuganathan, member of the expert committee in the State, told the media that no recommendations to open the theatres to full capacity was given by the medical professionals. ‘We only recommended the opening of some classes in schools after Pongal,’ he said.
Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar defended the government decision saying that it was taken with a long term vision to save the livelihood of the employees of the film industry and Revenue Minister R B Uhayakumar said that strict action would be taken against those who violated the prescribed safety norms.
The government had told theatre owners to allow 100 per cent occupancy from January 10 by following the regular protocols like checking the temperature of movie-goers with thermal scanners, making facemasks mandatory and ensuring maximum distance was maintained between people.
The government order issued on January 4, amending the GO dated December 31, said: ‘Based on the decrease in COVID-19 cases day by day, the Theatre Owners Association has represented to the government to increase the seating capacity of cinemas/theatres/multiplexes.’
However, the talk of the town was that the government that had issued the GO on December 31 for 50 per cent occupancy in theatres had a change of heart in four days after actors Vijay and Silambarasan made an appeal for allowing full house.
As the theatres are not getting enough viewers after they opened to 50 per cent capacity, many in the film industry feel that it is because no big ticket movies had hit the theatres after the lockdown. So they are eagerly awaiting the release of Vijay’s ‘Master’ and Silambarasan’s ‘Eeswaran’ to revive the industry. Which is also why they want to have 100 per cent capacity for the opening weeks.