An amicable end to the row over B. Unnikrishnan’s film seems to be not near.

Dark clouds still loom over the release of Mohanlal-starrer Mr. Fraud.

Hopes of a brief ceasefire faded a day after the Kerala Film Exhibitors Federation announced that cinemas are ready to release the movie from May 15 onwards.

The associations of producers and distributors have reiterated its earlier position that Mr. Fraud must be released as per the earlier schedule on May 8.

P.V. Basheer Ahamed (popular as Liberty Basheer), president of Kerala Film Exhibitors Federation (the apex body of ‘A’ class theatres), had held B. Unnikrishnan, director of Mr. Fraud, responsible for the decision by members of the Film Employees Federation of Kerala (FEFKA) and the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (AMMA) to abstain from the inauguration of the headquarters building of the exhibitors federation in Kochi.

Mr. Basheer pointed out that it was up to the producer and distributor of Mr. Fraud to take a call on whether to release the movie on May 15.

“A final decision on the screening of the movie will be taken at the general body meeting of the federation to be held in Kochi on May 13. But there is no change in our decision not to release it on May 8. Instead, theatres affiliated to the federation will screen the Rajinikanth-starrer Kochadaiiyaan on this date,” he said.

G. Sureshkumar, president of the Kerala Film Producers Association, rejected reports that the producer and distributor of Mr. Fraud had accepted the exhibitors federation’s offer to release Mr. Fraud on May 15. He also termed as baseless reports that the consensus emerged following the talks held between Mr. Basheer and actor Mohanlal at a function held here on Wednesday to celebrate the box-office success of Drishyam.

Mr. Basheer was trying to create confusion by issuing such statements. Exhibitors have to sign the agreement by Saturday expressing their willingness to screen Mr. Fraud from May 8. A combined meeting of producers and distributors to be held on May 5 will finalise the decision not to release new films to cinemas refusing to screen Mr. Fraud from May 8, he said.

Siyad Kokker, president of the Kerala Film Distributors Association, reminded that it’s unfair to treat Mr. Fraud as a movie made by the director B. Unnikrishnan alone. It has a producer and a distributor who are equally responsible for its fate and they will have to face the loss once the release date gets delayed, he said.

Mr. Kokker also recalled that at least one-third of the theatres affiliated to the exhibitors’ federation had already entered into agreement with the distributor of Mr. Fraud to release the movie on May 8.

Sibi Malayil, president of FEFKA, said there was no change in the organisation’s strike call from the second week of May once the exhibitors’ federation stuck to its stance not to screen Mr. Fraud from May 8.

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