The ghostly disappearance of a Bengali film from screens a day after its release is still an unsolved mystery. But the Supreme Court today directed Mamata Banerjee's government to ensure that the film is screened without obstruction.
The film, Bhobishyoter Bhoot -- in English, The Ghost of the Future or The Past of the Future if you like -- is labeled by those who have seen it as a dark satire on the state of politics and politicians of every hue in West Bengal.
The Supreme Court has ordered the chief secretary and principal secretary to see that the film is screened.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee, when asked about the film's disappearance, had snapped, "Don't ask me such questions."
The producers told Supreme Court the Censor Board had cleared the film and no one had the right to stop its screening.
Just before the film's release, the Special Branch of West Bengal Police, had sought a special screening of the film as they had reports the film may lead to "political law and order problems". The producers had declined to oblige.
Directed by Anik Dutta, the film was released with much fanfare on 15 February. But from the afternoon of the 16th, it simply disappeared from the multiplexes in the city and single screens, too.
Multiplex spokespersons initially claimed here were technical snags, then said "higher ups" had called and asked for the film to be removed as it could "cause law and order problems".
Sources said the calls had come from top police officers who could not be named.
But filmmaker Anik Duttta, its producer and actors deemed it an attack on freedom of expression. Top actors in the city, including Soumitra Chatterjee and Aparna Sen, took to the streets on Sunday from Dhakuria to protest the muzzling of a film. Earlier, a protest meeting was held outside the Academy of Fine Arts.
Soumitra Chatterjee called it a "fascist" act to pull the film off screens. Anik Dutta said it was an attack on the freedom of expression. The film was critical of several political parties - CPM, BJP, RSS and Trinamool. Anik Dutta said, "as an independent filmmaker" he had the right to do so.
At one of the early protest rallies, Sabyasachi Chakraborty who acts in the film, said he suspected it may not be the government that had decided to scuttle the film screening but perhaps rival film producers close to the ruling party.
Anik Dutta's debut film Bhooter Bhobishyot of 2012 was a huge hit. His new film plays on the same choice of words. But while the first one was pure comedy, the new film is a political satire that must have hit home for it to have been yanked off screens with so little ceremony.