Protests After Bengali Film 'Bhobishyoter Bhoot' Pulled from Cinemas Without Explanation

The film's director had criticised West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee a few months ago.

New Delhi: A day after the Bengali film Bhobishyoter Bhoot (Ghosts of the Future) was released on Friday, it reportedly disappeared from cinema halls in West Bengal without an explanation. According to the Indian Express, the makers of the film are not sure why this step was taken.

“Yes, I heard screenings have been stopped but what I have gathered is that local police stations have instructed the halls. The cops had warned my producers previously also that the content of the film could cause a problem,” director Anik Dutta told the newspaper.

The police had asked for a special screening of the movie before the release, Dutta said, but that request was turned down. The film – a dark comedy that reportedly explores the current political scenario – had already been certified by the Central Board of Film Certification.

“Despite release orders issued to the exhibitors with advances paid for exhibition of the film from 15th Feb to 21st Feb 2019, yet without any prior notice or information, they suddenly withdrew the film on the afternoon of 16th Feb,” the film’s producers, Indibily Creative Pvt Ltd, said in a press release.

Also read: This Film on Kashmir Sought CBFC Clearance 6 Months Ago – and Is Still Waiting

Dutta had criticised West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s style of functioning a few months ago. He said at a panel discussion at the Kolkata International Film Festival in November 2018 that Banerjee encouraged a culture of sycophancy and that her photos were all over one of the festival’s key venues.

While single-screen theatres largely said that the movie was taken off for “technical” reason, multiplexes said they had received an order from the “authorities”, Indian Express reported.

Several leading voices in the Bengali film industry have expressed surprise at the move and lent their support to Dutta. A protest demonstration was held in Kolkata on Sunday against the government’s “censorship”, with several activists, poets and film industry professionals in attendance.

The protest in Kolkata. Credit: Facebook/Bhobishyoter Bhoot

“I can’t believe this. How can one film even after receiving the clearance from censor board face such a situation? After the release, the reaction was mixed. Some said it’s good and few others criticised. It’s natural. Nobody is giving the exact reason. All are speaking about some higher authority. This is not a good advertisement of Bengali cinema,” actor Kaushik Sen, who plays in the film, told the Times of India.

Filmmaker Srijit Mukherji expressed solidarity with the makers of Bhobishyoter Bhoot on Facebook.

According to Scroll.in, the film faced a series of obstacles even before it was released. “Different state film federations pressured technicians to leave the film, and many left,” Dutta told the website. “Some producers told the cast and crew that if they worked in the film, their work in other TV series and films would be stopped.”

This issues, according to Dutta, arose because of the film’s reported link with Bengali production house SVF, which had bought the rights of the director’s previous film Bhooter Bhobishyot. One of the founders of SVF, Shrikant Mohta, was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation on January 24 in connection with the Rose Valley chit fund scam

SVF had sued the producers of Bhobishyoter Bhoot, saying they own the rights to the first film and therefore any sequels, Dutta told Scroll.in. However, the director insisted that this film is not a sequel. “A sequel should either have the same characters or a story that progresses from the previous film. By that definition, Bhobishyoter Bhoot is not a sequel.”