Hema Malini
Varinder Chawla

The Maharashtra government recently declared in its Monsoon Session at the state's second capital Nagpur that it is in favour of allowing outside food to be carried by consumers inside multiplexes. This has garnered mixed reactions from citizens, some of whom rejoiced while the others questioned the practicality of the decision.

There is a ban on outside food items at other venues like halls for live concerts, sports and other events at stadiums, as well as restaurants who do not allow tiffins to be carried. So, why single out the multiplexes whose entire business model rests on the food provided at the counters?

Multiplex owners and exhibitors as well as some movie producers in Bollywood are not happy with the decision to allow outside food while watching a movie. But what do cinema and television artistes, actors and musicians think of the same?

International Business Times, India has compiled quotes from the industry with people like veteran Bollywood actress-dancer and politician Hema Malini, actress Poonam Dhillon, singers Sonu Nigam, Kailash Kher and Bhoomi Trivedi, actresses Shriya Saran, Shubhangi Atre and Saumya Tandon and many more from television speak against the issue. Here's what they have to say.

Actress-politician Hema Malini said, "You allow delight of food, you are opening gates of its excess which is but a disease and ill health. Hence you allow food, you promote side effects of odor and stench! They are complementary to each other! Obviously, these liberties to indulge in indisciplined food pleasures would prevail irrespective of the quality of film you have gone to experience! In fact, you experience titillation of taste at the expense of movie experience!"

Actress Shriya Saran was of the opinion, "I don't understand what is the reason behind it but according to me, food should be not allowed inside a multiplex. It's not allowed anywhere I'm the world. If you feel hungry then eat your food and come to watch a movie, carrying food inside the multiplex will destroy the ambiance inside the theatre. Even it's not safe due to security reasons."

Actress Poonam Dhillon said, "It will definitely create an issue with alcohol as security will have to do so much more work. That was my first reaction, as people may be carrying non-vegetarian food, so an issue of bones, smells of pickles, various other aromas may make the theatre atmosphere very uncomfortable. People may get into fights with the objection of food items, smells, drunk misbehavior and most important - security could be compromised as won't be possible for security people at the theatre to go through every item in detail. Like the airport, one will have to come 1 to 2 hours before for security. It's not practical."

Actor-filmmaker and writer Zeishan Quadri of Gangs of Wasseypur commented on the development, saying; "One goes to a movie hall to watch a movie and not concentrate on eating." Actor Sonu Sood echoes the same sentiment and says "There has to be a check of what food has brought in. It's very important to set the norms as security reasons are concerned. Honestly, the odor which will come from the tiffins will spoil the ambiance." Actress Priya Banerjee, Actors J Brandon Hill, and Yuvraj Siddharth Singh echoed similar sentiments.

Singer Sonu Nigam who has candidly lent his voice to many social issues in the recent past, said, "I absolutely feel that outside food should not be allowed in the cinema hall majorly because this will or could be detrimental to the existence of multiplexes point we have to understand that a lot of what the cinema hall owners rely on is the money that they make from food items and beverage. Depriving them thus of their business module is not fair to them and could lead to an existential crisis. Also, Indians have the habit of misusing their rights does one can expect cinema halls to become like railway stations in the future if outside food items are permitted in cinema halls. When one goes to watch a film in a cinema hall one goes with full knowledge of the conditions he has to abide by. Moreover nowhere in the world one is allowed to take outside Food inside cinema halls."

Point taken, Sonu! Singer Kailash Kher was of the opinion, "As far as security reasons are concerned it is going to be very challenging as if people will carry liquor inside the multiplex the situation will become out of control and many incidents can take place."

Veteran playback singer Anuradha Paudwal said, "It would be a horrible thing. After ages, we have got theatres like PVR and Inox and if this is going to happen then people will again stop visiting theatres. The ambiance will get disturbed because of this typical mentality. This is not a good idea."

Singer Bhoomi Trivedi also reacted in the same manner, saying, "The question here is there are higher chances of an unwanted event taking places, do we have measures for those activities? Whose responsibility would it be if an unwanted event occurs due to food or liquor got from outside, which could create discomfort? There is so much of unpredictability in the outside world. How much one would keep himself / herself protected from anti-social elements? Watching a movie has a reason behind people or families wanting to relax / chill instead of being suspicious about anything they see or feel. The fewer things people carry from home the more they will be free and be able to enjoy the movie."

Indian TV actors were also not far behind when it came to voicing their opinions on the issue. Actor Karanvir Bohra who has acted in several movies said, "I didn't realize that actually is this the way of solving this issue? As a security measure, liquids should not be allowed as it can increase crimes."

Shubhangi Atre of popular comedy show Bhabiji Ghar Par Hain said, "I am worried that theatre and multiplexes don't turn to be unhygienic as people will eat and throw the litter here and there. It would be very difficult to sit inside the theatre for hours."

Saumya Tandon of Bhabiji Ghar Par Hai said, "The most important is that cinema prices will go up. I have looked at the cinema value chain, as I had invested in a company in this region (1018mb). I would like to highlight the financial problem by allowing outside food. A screen costs 1.5 - 3 cr to build and to make the theatre business viable the cinema earns profit from ticket and food. Now if the cinema is not allowed to make money on food then to sustain, the ticket prices will need to go up. This ultimately will come out of the consumers' pocket and reduce the theatre-going people in India thus affecting the whole business of cinema."

Actress Pooja Bisht said, "I personally feel there should be a list of such items which causes the excessive uncomfortable odor to avoid discomfort to other people and should not be allowed. I would rather go to a restaurant if I really want to eat something of my choice."

Veteran TV and Bollywood actor Sudesh Berry commented, "I feel the interval time should be more so that anybody who wants to eat drink and use the washroom can create a comfort level for people and they can come back again. But no eatables or drinks should be allowed inside at all."

TV actors like Aditi Gupta, Ojaswini Arora, Khushank Arora, Raghav Juyal and Devoleena Bhattacharjee also expressed their worries at the step of allowing food inside cinema halls.

Harshali Zine, who apart from TV has acted in several Marathi films, said, "There could be chances of littering in theatre." Actor Milind Pathak commented; "There will be fear of crime happening." We agree that this could happen! Actor Sumedh Gaikwad said, "Some people will surely take bad advantage of this decision and carry liquor in soft drinks. This is gonna be another curse to the overall movie watching experience."

Popular host and radio jockey, RJ Mantra said, "Just as food is not allowed inside theatre during live plays, as it not only distracts fellow audience members, it is also disrespectful towards performers. Food should not be allowed inside cinema halls. It is not a dining hall it is a cinema hall. People go there to appreciate art and to be entertained. Not to dine. You do have intervals to quench your thirst and nibble a bite. Do it then."

Popular comics also expressed their angst in a humorous manner. Suresh Menon said, "I would hate to go to a theatre smelling of food. And yes, who is going to control people getting mixed drinks, breath analyzers, maybe? What about chemical warfare after people consume rajma chawal, peanuts, and kanda bhajiya! It's going to be a smelly experience for sure." Balraj Syal and Atul Khatri also expressed similar thoughts.

DJ Paroma was of the opinion, "I have been in the nightlife industry where I have witnessed that people under the influence of liquor could prove to be a bad experience for the viewer as well as the others who have come to have a good time. I have had such experiences, too. A lot of unwanted situations can occur. Littering, odour, sticky food such as chewing gum being stuck on seats - all this will definitely lower my overall experience of watching a movie. The fun of munching on popcorn and nachos and cheese with a cold glass of cola bought from the cinema counters has its own charm."

Chitralekha Patil, President of Raigad District Women's Cell said, "I don't support this. For security reasons this is very dangerous, as many incidents can happen and this decision will only increase the crime rate. In terms of hygiene, too, it's going to be very difficult as people don't care when they are in public places – the clean cinema hall might just become the dirty neighborhood park."

Agreeing with these celebs, we feel the announcement made on Friday the 13th could indeed mean a nightmare for cinema patrons if food habits of people are considered, leading to hygiene issues. It could also be dangerous, as people may carry hard drinks inside or any material in their tiffin boxes that is not detected. This trend is also filtering into other states like Telangana now, where multiplexes may have to sell food at the maximum retail price (MRP) now, after Telangana's Department of Legal Metrology issued a warning against the high prices inside cinema halls.

The decision of outside food being allowed into cinema halls might look simple on the surface but it is not. A lot of things like safety of the viewers, property rights, hygiene, and the cinematic experience are involved and may surface if this decision is implemented.

Will the Maharashtra government's decision to allow outside food in cinema halls empower the viewers or endanger them?