Bhobhishyoter Bhoot crosses Bengal regime obstacle

The Supreme Court ordered the West Bengal government to pay compensation of Rs 20 lakh to the producer of Bhobishyoter Bhoot

Kolkata/New Delhi: Remember Bhobhishyoter Bhoot, the movie directed by Anik Dutta and disliked by some politicians in Kolkata? Despite efforts to ban it in the halls, the movie eventually got screening permission from the Supreme Court. “The rest is history. I still believe the crucial time was lost and politicking over the movie still did not end,” wrote a member of the filmmaking crew on Facebook.

Half Pencil, an association of filmmakers, cinema aficionados and intellectuals, will showcase the movie on 1 September at Inox Satyam, Delhi, at 11:00 AM. It’s a Sunday and the hall is close to Chittaranjan Park, the largest hub of Bengalis outside Bengal.

Producer of Bhobhishyoter Bhoot Kalyan Chatterjee has shared the movie with the hall owners without charging a rupee, and the director, Anik Dutta, has consented to visit us during the show. The organisers hope he will talk about his movie, and what triggered the slugfest, and why politicians are getting increasingly intolerant of criticism.

Half Pencil has booked the hall. There will be 178 tickets which will be distributed free of cost. The tickets will be placed at the counter of Slice of Bengal, the popular saree and accessories store in CR Park. Those coming from faraway places need to write on the Facebook page of Half Pencil and they will keep their tickets.

Bhobhishyoter Bhoot will trigger the launch of Half Pencil. The organisers are already in the business with some funding of a theatre group and some donations for health and educational causes.”Please come and join the gang, and watch this lovely movie,” Half Pencil wrote.

Bhobishyoter Bhoot is a Bengali satirical comedy film directed by Anik Dutta. This movie was released on 15 February 2019. However, this is not a sequel to the director’s earlier blockbuster hit Bhooter Bhabishyat.

Right after the release, Bhobishyoter Bhoot was removed from different theatres in Kolkata. Noted actor Soumitra Chatterjee, actor-director Aparna Sen and filmmaker Srijit Mukherjee condemned the de facto ban. This was “extremely undemocratic”, said economist and London School of Economics Professor Maitreesh Ghatak.

The Statesman called the unofficial censorship an “infringement on one’s fundamental right to view a film” in an editorial. Other scholars and commentators termed the de facto ban “clearly unconstitutional” and in violation of Indian Supreme Court precedents, and an example of “liberal hypocrisy” (considering the ostensibly left-liberal credentials of the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee). When asked about the incident, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had told the press: “I will not answer. Don’t ask me this question.” Processions and marches have been carried out to protest against the ban.

A writ petition against the ban was filed before the Calcutta High Court by film enthusiasts. The Supreme Court ordered the West Bengal government to pay compensation of Rs 20 lakh to Kalyanmoy Billy Chatterjee, producer of Bhobishyoter Bhoot, for imposing a “virtual ban” on the screening of the movie. The court imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh on the Mamata Banerjee-led government. “Free speech cannot be gagged for fear of the mob,” the court said. It expressed concern over “growing intolerance” in society against artistic freedom.