Angry Sikhs force movie cancellation
The Odeon and Cineworld cinema chains in the UK have cancelled screenings of an Indian movie, Nanak Shah Fakir, following a major sit-in protest at a branch of Cineworld in Wolverhampton.
Around 50 Sikh protestors surged into the cinema on April 19, chanting protests until the cinema owners cancelled the screening. Dozens of cinema-goers had to leave the cinema, and were later promised refunds. The cinema owners say they are working with police to investigate the incident.
The film, a biopic of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak, was being protested because the religion prohibits any personification of the Guru, either by actors or in animated movies.
A Cineworld spokesperson said it would stop showing the film because:
We want our customers to enjoy visiting our cinemas and experience a wide range of films without disruption from others.
Odeon confirmed it would also cancel planned screenings following the protest.
There has been strident opposition to the film in India, where the film has also been cancelled until changes have been made that satisfy the Sikh community.
The state of Punjab, where the religion originated, had already banned the film ahead of release so that “scenes that depict the physical form of the Guru Nanak Dev” could be removed.
Producer Harinder Singh Sikka released a statement saying Nanak Shah Fakir would now be removed from cinemas worldwide until the changes were made.
He said that the Jathedar, a leading Sikh spokesman:
Told me that some changes need to be made in the movie and I agreed to it. At the same time, the Jathedar said the movie has been made with great passion and faith.
He said that among those who have seen the film:
There is not even a single person who is not commending the movie.
He expressed frustration at not being asked for the changes during production, which he said had approval from Sikh authorities.
According to this report, some cinema goers were left frightened by the episode. One man, who asked not to be named, said he was among dozens of customers asked to leave the multiplex when the commotion ensued. He said:
It was extremely intimidating. For a group of people to be able to get a film stopped and then banned is just ridiculous. It’s an attack on freedom of speech. The atmosphere was quite aggressive in there and it’s not what you expect to face when you go and watch a film.