Vandals attack theatres showing films in south Indian languages

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Cineplex was forced to stop screening the Indian crime thriller Kurup last week after seven theatre screens showing the movie were damaged.

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Is this the latest strike in the ongoing south Indian cinema wars?

The biopic of Sukumara Kurup, one of the most wanted criminals of Kerala, is in the Malayalam language; according to the National Post, the distributor of the film says seven screens were torn at theatres in the Toronto area.

Kurup is a popular film and had been attracting large audiences.

Distributors say that the attacks have been ongoing for about six years and have cost them many thousands of dollars in lost business.

Police have been investigating these vandalism events since at least 2015, which is when someone cleared out crowded theatres showing movies from south India — by releasing a noxious substance.

Likewise, fumes from a pepper spray-like substance overwhelmed viewers in other incidents in 2016, clearing out theatres in Brampton, Scarborough and Mississauga that had been showing the Tamil-language film Theri.

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The noxious substance caused burning eyes and throats and caused some in the audience to vomit, according to eyewitness reports at the time.

In 2019, screens were slashed, and what Durham police believe to be bear spray was released, in theatres in Whitby and Kitchener that were showing Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy — a film about Indian independence activist Uyyalawada Narasimha Reddy — which is in the Telugu language.

Several distributors say similar incidents have happened to them with the screening of south Indian language movies.

Some blame the incidents on a collection of independent theatres they believe are trying to corner the market for screening south Indian films. But those indie theatres say they too have been vandalized in similar incidents.

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The distributor of Kurup said these closures are very disappointing as the movie is popular and people are keen to see it — and had just begun to feel comfortable returning to theatres as pandemic restrictions lifted.

Cancellation of already-purchased tickets alone means a loss of more than $6,000.

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Sandeep Vasudev of VSR distributors told the National Post the large chains seem to have been avoiding Tamil and other south Indian movies — as opposed to Hindi and Punjabi releases — out of fear of the vandalism attacks.

When asked for comment, a spokesperson for Cineplex confirmed that incidents of vandalism took place last week at theatres in Richmond Hill and Oakville.

“Those incidents are currently under investigation and we will have no further comment while the matter is with law enforcement.”

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