Big B.O. amid India political tussle

Hit pic 'Fanaa' has been nixed from Gujarat cinemas

Indian producer Yash Chopra is half-smiling all the way to the bank this week.

On the one hand, his Yash Raj Films’ “Fanaa” has enjoyed one of Bollywood’s best opening weekends of the year — and the company is getting a higher stake of the lucrative multiplex take than usual.

On the other, it is losing revenue because the Aamir Khan starrer has been blackballed by cinemas in Gujarat, one of India’s wealthiest states, for fear of mob violence because of the actor’s comments about a controversial dam project.

Opening-weekend B.O. gross totaled more than 100 million rupees ($2.2 million), according to industry analysts.

But biz suffered because of uncertainty until opening day Friday about whether multiplexes would agree to screen the movie after Yash Raj Films demanded a 60-40 split instead of the usual 50-50.

A formula was worked out with individual multiplex owners at the last minute, with some cinemas agreeing to give 7% extra on the opening week and a sliding scale for ensuing weeks.

“On their part, the fear of upsetting Yash Raj Films haunts multiplex owners, who realize that any adverse stand they take now could cost them the opportunity to screen the upcoming Yash Raj biggies ‘Krrish,’ ‘Kabhi alvida naa kehna,’ ‘Kabul Express’ and ‘Dhoom 2’ at their multiplexes,” said an analyst quoted by the Times of India newspaper.

But Chopra is not yet happy.

“We are suffering losses of 10 million rupees ($220,000) every day because the film is not released in Gujarat,” he told reporters in Mumbai.

“Fanaa” has yet to open in the western state after politicians reacted furiously when actor Khan highlighted the plight of thousands displaced by the multibillion-dollar Narmada Valley dam.

Still pirated discs are apparently selling well in the state.

Although pic isn’t banned, exhibs are refusing to release it out of fear of retaliation from the youth wing of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

“We are hoping that the Gujarat state government gives adequate protection to the theaters so that this film would release by the coming Friday,” Chopra said.

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