Anik Duttas Bengali film "Bhobishyoter Bhoot" allegedly disappeared from theatres in Kolkata on February 16, a day after being duly censored and released. The director questions why must he need to appeal for his fundamental right to self expression.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q. On March 10, the entire Bengali film fraternity marched with you in solidarity.
A. Not the entire fraternity. Some were scared, others are beneficiaries of the government's largesse. No one can be 'close' to political power. Only beneficiaries.
Q. I can only recall the case of the film "Kissa Kursi Ka", which disappeared after it was apparently burnt during the Emergency?
A. Well, my film was not even touched by the censor board. They passed the whole film without any cuts.
Q. It has been a month since the film disappeared. What are your hopes now?
A. We have taken legal route. That has been taken care of by my producers from Delhi in the Supreme Court. Some kind of a lawsuit has also been filed in the Kolkata High Court by a film viewer... That apart, I keep hearing loud whispers and rumours which I largely ignore. Also, I have political elements who approach me and my producer with offers to buy out the entire rights to my film. These are elements I am trying to stay away from.
Q. What would you like now?
A. We would like the film to be back in the theatres because that is our fundamental right. In the meanwhile, the film has already been restored in smaller cities of Bengal. Outside India, my film is the largest Bengali profit-earner ever. With the all-India release there is a little bit of a hitch since, the film's distributors are the same people who have violated the contract.
Q. Have you heard from the higher authorities who have apparently pulled down your film?
A. Not directly. But I keep hearing things from here and there. I get advise to seek the Chief Minister's intervention. I am told she is very fond of people falling on their knees and pleading so she can show her magnanimity. But why should I appeal for my fundamental right to self expression? No, I won't appeal.
I'll demand for my right to have my film restored in theatres. This lady MP indicated to me that I should emulate this woman whose interests were shut down until she publicly sucked up to the Chief Minister, after which her interests were restored. But I am not a person to do something like this.
Q. In fact, you had taken on Mamata Banerjee at a film festival where you said the festival was more about gloryifing her than about cinema?
A. Yeah. I'd presume that did not go down very well with her. It had created a huge uproar in the social media. The mainstream media and newspapers had kept quiet then as they've kept quiet now when my film has disappeared from theatres. If it wasn't for the social media, my case wouldn't even be known. And this isn't an isolated instance of Kolkata's mainstream media ignoring injustice for the sake of their interests.
Q. Would you say Mamata Banerjee controls the media?
A. If you look at the Bengal film industry, it is completely taken over by them (Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress), particularly the mainstream Bengali industry. The various film federations in Bengal are filled with politicians who know nothing about cinema. My film unit was repeatedly threatened by police and political elements while shooting "Bhobishyoter Bhoot".
Q. How did the ruling party get to know the content of your film?
A. You have to share your script with some people and one of them must have tattled. We had to shoot the film secretly, guerrilla style. The police realized what was being done to my film. They would warn us about the dangers. Even now the police are helpless. When stalwarts like Soumitra Chatterjee and Buddhadeb Dasgupta gathered at a particular spot in Kolkata to protest (in solidarity), that spot was declared closed for public meetings by the government as it was going to be beautified (laughs).
Q. This sounds extremely authoritarian?
A. Everyone talks about authoritarianism at the Centre. But what is going on in Bengal is even worse. There are spineless people everywhere. To her vote-bank, it clearly doesn't matter whether she is a despot.
Q. What is the solution?
A. The solution to me was making a political satire. I used cinema as a tool of protest. But look at what has happened.
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