Although coming-of-age film Wake Up Sid was aimed squarely at the multiplex audiences, it doesn’t mean that it escaped the notice of Mumbai’s masses. Early screenings on Friday were interrupted by protesters from the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) who disagreed with the use of “Bombay” to describe Mumbai. Karan Johar, whose Dharma Productions produced Wake Up Sid, offered an apology to MNS leader Raj Thackery and while it was too late to make any significant changes to prints of the film, the MNS gave Dharma three days to insert an apology at the front of all prints of the film.
Karan was quick to dismiss rumors that this incident had been staged. “There are several other marketing platforms for publicity of the film. This was not a publicity stunt.”
Even if this was not a publicity stunt for Dharma Productions, the protests from the MNS are symbolic of the real gulf between the glittery Hindi language film studios and the non-Hindi speaking population of the city that resents them. The working class MNS frequently comes out to protest things like rises in the prices of basic commodities but it has been on the losing side of some real cultural battles recently – despite the protests of the MNS, in March 2008, Mumbai’s only exclusively Marathi language cinema was shut down in order to be turned into a shopping center. And Raj Thackery has come under fire for his anti-migrant rhetoric, which some view as hate speech.