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Bengali Director Anik Dutta Talks To Subhash K Jha.

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Bengali Director Anik Dutta’s film Bhobishyoter Bhoot disappeared from theatres in Kolkata on Feb 16, a day after being duly censored and released. It’s widely believed that the political satire offended Mamata Bannerjee’s government and was therefore shunted out. So where is the film that Anik Dutta made?

On March 10 the entire Bengali film fraternity marched with you in solidarity?

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.

But this is bizarre. I can only recall the case of the film Kissa Kursi Ka which disappeared after it was apparently burnt during the Emergency?

Well, my film was not even touched by the censor board. They passed the whole film without any cuts .

It’s been a month since the film disappeared. What are your hopes now?

We have taken the legal route, That’s 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 who is questioning his fundamental right to seeing the film. 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.

What would you like now?

We’d 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 and 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.

Have you heard from the higher authorities who have apparently pulled down your film?

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 selfexpression? No, I won’t appeal. I will demand for my right to have my film restored in theatres.This lady MP indicated to me that I should follow 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 the person to do something like this.

In fact you had taken on Mamta Bannerjee at a film festival where you said the festival was more about gloryifing her than about cinema?

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(government ads worth crores).A section of school teachers have been in on a hunger strike for more than a fortnight now to press for their demands for jobs. Their plight has gone unreported.One teacher who was pregnant lost her children.

Would you say Mamata Bannerjee controls the media?

If you look at the Bengal film industry it’s completely taken over by them(Mamta Bannerjee and her AITC party). 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 we were shooting Bhobishyoter Bhoot.

How did the ruling party get to know the content of your film?

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 is helpless.When stalwarts like Soumitra Chatterjee and Buddhadeb Dasgupta gathered at a particular spot in Kolkata to protest about my film, that spot was declared closed to public meetings by the Government, as it was going to be beautified(laughs).

This sounds extremely authoritarian?

Everyone talks about the 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.

What is the solution?

The solution to me was making a political satire. I used cinema as a tool of protest. But look at what has happened. The Government is completely denying a hand in stopping my film.

Very Kafkaesque?

Indeed.

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