Bengal may be the land where filmmakers such as Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen left a mark with their political satires. But try telling that to Mamata Banerjee.
A day after its release, Bengali film 'Bhobishyoter Bhoot' was taken down from cinema halls on February 16. Reason? Multiplexes alleged that they were under instructions from “senior authorities” to withdraw the film, and by Friday evening, the initiation of refunds for pre-booked tickets had already started.
The sudden disappearance of a Central Bureau of Film Certification (CBFC) approved film from the theatres of Kolkata left the city's artists and activists both confused and fuming.
On Sunday, the city witnessed artists participating in a demonstration called by actor Joyraj Bhattacharjee where they raised slogans against the state censorship of the film. Protesters also called the action by Banerjee a case of political vendetta.
This comes at a time when Banerjee has been welcoming towards films facing a backlash from right-wing groups. During the "Padmaavat" controversy, she asserted that she was ready to welcome the film and its crew and okayed the release of the film in Bengal.
Dutta said the film had been facing issues given its links with the leading Bengali production house SVF, set up by cousins Shrikant Mohta and Mahendra Soni. Mohta was earlier arrested by the CBI in connection with the Rose Valley ponzi scam.
The director also alleged that days prior to the film's release, the producer Kalyanmoy Chatterjee received a phone call and a letter from the West Bengal Intelligence expressing concern over the content of the film.
“We didn’t target any political party or person by name in our film. One party thinks we are from the other party and vice versa," said director of the film Anik Dutta.
Several personalities from the Bengali film fraternity took to social media to show their support for the film. Actor Soumitra Chatterjee also wrote a letter terming the withdrawal of the film as "vindictive" and "undemocratic".
"This is a blatant violation of art and freedom associated with it. It takes me back to the times when Nil Darpan was also banned. I'm more concerned about the future. If it can happen with a CBFC certified film, then what will happen in the future? We will have to then present our film's synopsis for getting approval and then proceed," said an actor who didn't want to be named.
"How can a cinema with a CBFC certificate be taken down from the theatres without any prior notice? Who took down the cinema from the theatres? It's surprising to see no one taking any responsibility. But I'm glad to see so many people standing beside Anik Dutta. This solidarity will pass on the message of our unity," said Screenwriter Sanjib Banerjee.
Dutta is known for his politically charged dialogues and social satires. He rose to fame with his 2012 directorial debut 'Bhooter Bhabishyat'. The film, a blockbuster, was also remade in Hindi. Dutta maintains that 'Bhobishyoter Bhoot' is not a sequel to the earlier film. Rather, it's a satirical take on the present socio-political scenario, he said.
The film stars Sabyasachi Chakraborty, Swastika Mukherjee, Paran Banerjee and Moon Moon Sen.