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Exit the Ghost

Going by Soumitra Chatterjee’s statement of protest, there is reason to assume that the ban order has little or nothing to do with cinema per se.

Editorial | Kolkata |

Gujarat is a long way from Bengal and not merely in terms of distance. More the sense of shock, therefore, that the film, Bhobishyoter Bhoot, has suddenly been withdrawn from cinema halls in Kolkata, a city that is given to preening its feathers over film appreciation, let alone the romantic euphoria during the annual festival. The development has been greeted with consternation generally, most particularly by professional filmmakers and film buffs. While the thematic content still remains largely fogbound ~ save for the epithet, “political satire” ~ the speculation that a ghost is waiting in the wings in the season of elections remains a matter of conjecture. Nonetheless, eyebrows are bound to be raised over the fact that screening was stopped 24 hours after the film was released last Friday. If the raucous protests at the Academy of Fine Arts is any indication ~ notably in the presence of Soumitra Chatterjee, Sabyasachi Chakraborty, and the film-maker, Anik Dutta ~ the cultural glitterrati appears to have drawn a fine distinction between the state government and the city’s police headquarters, claiming that the imprimatur was advanced from Lalbazar, coinciding with Tuesday’s change of guard. It would be direly presumptuous to imagine just yet that the withdrawal is symptomatic of the uncertainty on the eve of an election. Presumptuous too is the fear that the film posed a potential law and order problem. Ergo, it devolves on the department of information and cultural affairs to clear the air before the controversy intensifies. Even if political satire flits across the screen, prudence would suggest that the thematic content be interpreted sportingly. The film was cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification. More the reason why the state authorities ought to come upfront on why the screening has been stalled ~ an infringement on one’s fundamental right to view a film. Going by Soumitra Chatterjee’s statement of protest, there is reason to assume that the ban order has little or nothing to do with cinema per se ~ “This is a vengeful act triggered by some comments made by the film-maker in the past”. The short point must be that West Bengal is not a state where cinema is made for the cans. Any film, for that matter, is a form of entertainment that is open to subjective reflection. The police or the state government would hate a comparison with the BJP’s Gujarat. Sad to reflect, Bhobishyoter Bhoot, is doomed to suffer the fate of Rahul Dholakia’s Farzana that is riveted to the post-Godhra attack on the residents of Ahmedabad’s Gulbarg Society. Slender is the possibility of the film’s commercial release being revived in Kolkata, supposedly the fountainhead of libertarian thought and action. The attitude of the establishment cannot take precedence over the role of the Central Board of Film Certification. The arts ought not to suffer, not the least in Bengal. At stake is the freedom of creative expression and aesthetics.