It is distressing to reflect that the spirit of the Kolkata International Film Festival has been tarnished by two developments in places as far apart as the city and Mumbai. The enormity of the tragedy of sub-inspector Amitabha Malik, who fell to the GJMM’s bullet in Darjeeling recently, has been trivialised with the installation of his “statue” ~ almost as an entertaining sideshow, if visuals are any indication. Worthies of the festival directorate and West Bengal’s information and cultural affairs department do owe an explanation for this crude contraption that appears to have delighted the ha-ha brigade, as often as not to neutralise the cerebral impact of a Godard film.
Mr Malik certainly deserved better from a city that preens its feathers over its cultural consciousness. The impact could scarcely have been more putrid, to say the least. It is sad to reflect that the week-long festival has reduced the Nandan complex to an echo-chamber of the annual frivolity that marks the inaugural at the Netaji Indoor Stadium. In the net, the ferment in the Hills, currently no less acute than what it was 30 years ago, has been trivialised. There was no call to make a laughing stock of all that has happened in Darjeeling since the first week of June. Visitors must have been aghast over so facile a perception of entertainment.
A no less critical development, one that chimes oddly with the Kolkata festival and the forthcoming show in Goa, has been the resignation of the head of the Indian Panorama section’s jury for the national festival scheduled to be held from November 20 to 28. Film-maker Sujoy Ghosh’s resignation follows the sudden, and as yet unexplained, exclusion of the Malayalam film, S Durga, and the Marathi production, Nude. Hence the uninformed and reckless speculation that the I & B ministry suspects that S Durga actually stands for Sexy Durga. Both films have been dropped after being cleared by the jury in September, and hoi-polloi has been kept guessing about the official reason, let alone the thematic context.
A week ahead of the festival, the ministry is wary of rocking the applecart by being explicit with its explanation. Suffice it to register that the I & B ministry has overruled the decision of the IFFI jury, and the action makes a travesty of free speech and expression. Small wonder that the political class has swiftly jumped onto the bandwagon, with the Congress lampooning the Central government for what it calls an expression of “crude censorship that has now reached a new low”. This is cinema for the cans once more and cultural policing at its worst… as had happened with a couple of films in Gujarat that had a bearing on the 2002 pogrom.