I had a post recently where I called Maharashtra a rising fundamentalist state. There was some discussion in the comments section.

Paraphrasing the opposing point of view: Theatre owners should screen Marathi movies. Marathi cinema is prospering and they are better than most Hindi movies. Theatre owners earn considerably, so this shouldn’t affect them greatly even if not many people turn up to watch movies.

The argument is fundamentalist, I’d argue, and on a slippery slope. Sample this recent news, which is a couple of blocks further down the slope:

Shiv Sena activists on Monday demanded that multiplexes in Mumbai reduce the price of Marathi film tickets.

So: Besides forcefully being asked to screen Marathi movies, theatre owners must also reduce prices. A lay man might feel that it is still a fair tradeoff, because theatres earn a lot anyway.

We’d certainly feel differently about the idea if we owned a business.

In a market, neither the buyer nor the seller must use an external factor to influence the transaction and have the upper hand. If one party has the upper hand, the market can correct itself. But if there is an external influence, the market never gets an opportunity to correct itself, and one side will always be at a disadvantage. Let me explain:

I’ll admit that theatre owners are often arrogant now to cancel screenings of Marathi movies if they don’t have sufficient bookings. (The same, I’m sure, also happens with Hindi movies.) But as Marathi cinema is improving now, more folks — even those with a non-Marathi background — are interested in watching Marathi cinema. As demand increases, a theatre owner would have to be stupid to not tap into Marathi movies. Eventually, it’s a fair transaction.

On the other hand, if a theatre owner is forced to screen Marathi movies at a discounted price, that is a rule without a time-limit. If the turnout isn’t consistent, he might have to shut down his business if he cannot bear the losses. Even if the turnout is good, he’s operating at a loss, which is not sustainable.

None of the chest-thumping Marathi fundamentalists would be interested in bailing him out. They’ll just move to another theatre and bully that owner.

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Most of us won’t sympathize with theatre owners in this example. One of the reasons — I think — is that Indians have a deep-rooted anti-business sentiment. I was part of a discussion where an interesting observation was made: In all Bollywood movies before the 2000s, a businessman was usually the antagonist, or the arrogant dad of the heroine, or someone who exploited his workers (the hero would be one, invariably). I can’t think of many movies where entrepreneurship or business was celebrated. We were a nation of blue-collared people, and are moving towards being white-collared now.

Only the color of the collar is changing.

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