Bengali film, critical of Mamata Banerjee, blocked by regional censor board

Bengali film, critical of Mamata Banerjee, blocked by regional censor board

A scene from the Bengali film 'Kangal Malsat'

Kolkata:  The regional body of the Central Board of Film Certification has refused to pass Kangal Malsat, a Bengali film by filmmaker Suman Mukhopadhyay.

The letter of refusal cites unnecessary use of abusive language, sexuality, a casual approach to portraying social movements that may hurt sentiments and a distortion of history.

But Suman Mukhopadhyay says this is a dangerous trend.

"It is frightening because it is interference of an artist's work and it is happening again and again in West Bengal. It is not the first time. There was Ambikesh Mahapatra cartoon case, there was the segregation of newspapers and TV channels as friendly and not friendly, there was the student who was called a Maoist because she asked a question. All these small small events are symptomatic of a mindset of what I will say are fascist tendencies," says Mr Mukhopadhyay.

According to the filmmaker, Kangal Malsat is actually about the rebellion of the poor against the Left in West Bengal; against the Left's focus on industry, on urban infrastructure like flyovers and malls. Only the last seven to ten minutes of the film focuses on the Trinamool Congress (TMC) government that replaces the Left in the state.

In those few minutes, there is an oblique reference to the Singur movement against the Tata Nano plant. Singur is not mentioned. Only once, the father of an aspiring industrialist disparagingly tells his son, "Even the Tatas had to leave Bengal? What do you think you can do?

As for distortion of history, there is a scene in which a person is watching the swearing-in of the newly-elected Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on TV. He doesn't look very excited and he yawns.

"There is nothing in the constitution that says you have to be enthusiastic about a chief minister being sworn in," says Mr Mukhopadhyay. "So where is the problem?"

Somewhere in the last few minutes of the film, there is also a jibe about Ms Banerjee's frequent pronouncement that she will turn Kolkata into London, something many ordinary Kolkatans are always talking about.

On the complaint of use of abusive language, Suman Mukhopadhyay is categorical: "If Gangs of Wasseypur and Delhi Belly can pass the censors, there is no reason why Kangal Malsat can't."

The man who wrote the novel on which the film is based, Nabarun Bhattacharya, who is also the son of noted writer Mahasweta Devi, suspects Ms Banerjee is not personally behind the "ban", as it were, just her loyalists.

"I don't think it is a conspiracy. I don't think the chief minister knows about it," he says, "I think it is overenthusiastic work done by some of her followers trying to please her."

He may well have a point. The regional certification board has 160 members and some suggest it is packed with Mamata Banerjee loyalists and full time TMC leaders, including trade union leader Dola Sen and the TMC students' wing's president Shanku Panda. For them, the last straw perhaps was the fact that renegade party MP Kabir Suman is starring in the film.

While no one from the Trinamool was willing to comment, Kabir Suman says, "With Srimati Mamata Banerjee, the problem is she cannot countenance critique, the moment there is a critical utterance about any policy of hers or any step of hers, she flares up as if you know it was qayamat... So if a politician cannot or if a system or government cannot take critique then it is certainly not a democratic government or a democratic person."

An appellate tribunal of the Central Board of Film Certification will review the film on March 4 in Delhi. The director has been asked to join the viewing and he is hoping there is light at the end of the tunnel.

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