Movie censorship

Coming soon: A Bengali film about the 1946 Kolkata riots with SP Mookerjee as the hero

Milan Bhowmik’s ‘1946 Calcutta Killings’, which has been cleared after a lengthy battle with the censors, claims to reveal the ‘true history of Bengal’.

Milan Bhowmik’s 1946 Calcutta Killings had been stuck with the Central Board of Film Certification since September 2016. Bhowmik’s film, which is also to be released in Bengali as Danga The Riot, was recently cleared with a few cuts by the CBFC’s Film Certification Appellate Tribunal and will be released soon with a U/A certificate.

The censor board’s Kolkata office refused a certificate last year after finding the film to be “extremely polarising”, according to a report in The Hindu. In a letter sent to the producers, it was alleged that the movie might cause communal disharmony and that it contained “derogatory and false references” about political leaders of the time, such as Jawaharlal Nehru.

1946 Calcutta Killings is set during the months leading up to the communal riots that engulfed Kolkata from August 16, 1946, following the announcement of the Direct Action Day protest by Muslim League leader Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The protest was in response to the rejection of the Muslim League’s proposal for a separate homeland for Muslims by the Indian National Congress. The riots and killings took over 4,000 lives and displaced even more within a matter of days.

Bhowmik’s film features several historical characters, including Nehru, Jinnah, Bengal’s last prime minister Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, and Syama Prasad Mookerjee, the founder of the Bharatiya Jana Singh (the precursor to the Bharatiya Janata Party). Mookerjee is played by former Film and Television Institute of India chairperson Gajendra Chauhan.

Mookerjee is presented as the film’s hero. The story shows the Hindutva leader during his tenure as president of the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha. “He was a true secular,” Bhowmik declared. “For him, Hindus, Muslims, everyone was mother India’s child. If he was not secular, he wouldn’t join hands with Fazlul Haq of Krishak Praja Party to fight Jinnah. Do today’s historians and journalists know this? My film will put forth Bengal’s real history in front of the new generation.”

1946 Calcutta Killings.

After the censor board refused to certify 1946 Calcutta Killings, the filmmaker moved the Calcutta High Court. Two months later, he withdrew the writ petition and appealed to FCAT.

“The Kolkata CBFC members are useless and they have no knowledge of history,” Bhowmik said. “The censor board members are 30-35 year old boys who have grown up seeing song-dance films. How will they know history?”

On May 8, 2017, FCAT suggested some changes and directed the censor board to come to a decision after Bhowmik submitted the film with the necessary cuts. The Kolkata CBFC office asked Bhowmik to send the film back to the censor board headquarters in Mumbai.

In July, Bhowmik sent to a letter to the Kolkata CBFC office in which he threatened to kill himself if the censor board did not clear his film within a week. The film was sent back to FCAT, which finally gave a nod to the release.

“In the film, Jinnah abuses Nehru telling him, ‘Tum toh ek number ka aiyaash ho’. Sure, Nehru is India’s first prime minister after independence but he wasn’t the prime minister in 1946,” Bhowmik said. “The board cannot understand that. They see that Nehru is getting abused, and there’s Gandhi and Netaji in the film, then there’s Hindu-Muslim riots, so they got scared.”

In the trailer, Mookerjee spouts such lines as “Hindu dharma is sanatan dharma” and “If there’s one religion that can stand the baggage of other religious texts, then it’s Hinduism.” In several scenes, Jinnah is seen rebuking Nehru for not caring about India and blaming him for its destruction. There are graphic scenes of Hindus and Muslims slashing each other on the streets. Some Muslim characters are seen spouting provocative lines such as, “Now no one can stop Bengal from becoming Pakistan”, “Hindus will only survive by name” and “Hindustan ko kabrstan mein dafn karke main Pakistan banaunga.”

Set against this backdrop is a love story between a Muslim man and a Hindu woman. “It’s a clean film, a beautiful love story, a Hindu-Muslim romance, and yet the CBFC had a problem,” Bhowmik claimed.

Chal Sanam, 1946 Calcutta Killings (2017).

Bhowmik disagreed that his film demonises Muslims, but added that “Muslims who live on Indian soil and eat Indian food and yet sing Pakistan’s praises should be thrown out of the country”. This is “not a communal sentiment” but a “humanistic sentiment”, the filmmaker said.

Bhowmik is all praise for Gajendra Chauhan – “Such a dear person he is, a good actor and a sensitive human being.” Chauhan is also starring in Bhowmik’s next film, based on the Indian Army. West Bengal governor and BJP politician Kesari Nath Tripathi has written a song for one of Bhowmik’s upcoming films.

Although 1946 Calcutta Killings has hardly received any traction on social media in Bengal or elsewhere, it has found support online among Bengali Hindutva supporters. The Hindu Samhati, among others, has been trying to revive the memories of the 1946 riots in the state for a while.

The director, however, insisted that his film is not politically motivated. “I have taken whatever is happening today in our society and have transported it to 1946,” Bhowmik said. “We are supposed to be secular but political leaders are driving a wedge between us.”

Bhowmik did not specify whom he considered responsible for the communal disharmony he depicts through his film. “People say Modi is a rioter; if so, then Congress is also a rioter, Mamata [Banerjee] is also a rioter,” he said. “Nobody is a rioter but certain political circumstances are making people think on such lines.”

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

It’s the new year and it’s already time to plan your next holiday

Here are some great destinations for you to consider.

Vacation planning can get serious and strategic. Some people swear by the save and splurge approach that allows for one mini getaway and one dream holiday in a year. Others use the solo to family tactic and distribute their budget across solo trips, couple getaways and family holidays. Regardless of what strategy you implement to plan your trip, the holiday list is a handy tool for eager travellers. After having extensively studied the 2018 holiday list, here’s what we recommend:

March: 10 days of literature, art and culture in Toronto

For those you have pledged to read more or have more artistic experiences in 2018, Toronto offers the Biblio-Mat, the world’s first randomising vending machine for old books. You can find the Biblio-Mat, paper artefacts, rare books and more at The Monkey’s Paw, an antiquarian bookseller. If you can tear yourself away from this eclectic bookstore, head over to The Public Library in Toronto for the Merril Collection of over 72000 items of science fiction, fantasy magic realism and graphic novels. With your bag full of books, grab a coffee at Room 2046 – a café cum store cum studio that celebrates all things whimsical and creative. Next, experience art while cycling across the 80km Pan Am Path. Built for walking, running, cycling and wheeling, the Pan Am Path is a recreational pathway that offers a green, scenic and river views along with art projects sprinkled throughout the route. You can opt for a guided tour of the path or wander aimlessly for serendipitous discoveries.

Nothing beats camping to ruminate over all those new ideas collected over the past few days. Make way to Killarney Provincial Park for 2-3 days for some quiet time amongst lakes and hills. You can grab a canoe, go hiking or get back to nature, but don’t forget to bring a tent.

If you use the long-weekend of 2nd March to extend your trip, you get to experience the Toronto Light Festival as a dazzling bonus.

June: 10 days of culinary treats, happy feet and a million laughs in Chicago

Famous for creating the deep-dish pizza and improv comedy, Chicago promises to banish that mid-year lull. Get tickets for The Second City’s Legendary Laughs at The UP-Comedy Club - the company that gave us the legendary Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert and Key & Peele. All that laughter can sure work up an appetite, one that can be satiated with Lou Malnati’s classic deep-dish pizza. For dessert, head over to the Ferrara Original Bakery for mouth-watering treats.

Chicago in June is pleasant and warm enough to explore the outdoors and what better way to soak in the sunshine, than by having a picnic at the Maggie Daley Park. Picnic groves, wall climbing, mini golf, roller blading – the park offers a plethora of activities for individuals as well as families.

If you use the long weekend of 15th June, you can extend your trip to go for Country LakeShake – Chicago’s country music festival featuring Blake Shelton and Dierks Bentley.

August: 7 days in London for Europe’s biggest street festival

Since 1964, the Notting Hill Carnival has been celebrating London’s Caribbean communities with dancing, masquerade and music ranging from reggae to salsa. Watch London burst into colours and sparkle at the Notting Hill Carnival. Home to Sherlock Holmes and Charles Dickens Museum, London is best experienced by wandering through its tiny streets. Chance encounters with bookstores such as Foyles and Housemans, soaking in historic sights while enjoying breakfast at Arthur’s Café or Blackbird Bakery, rummaging the stalls at Broadway market or Camden Market – you can do so much in London while doing nothing at all.

The Museum of Brand, Packaging and Advertising can send you reminiscing about those old ads, while the Clowns Gallery Museum can give you an insight in clown-culture. If you’d rather not roam aimlessly, book a street-art tour run by Alternative London or a Jack the Ripper Tour.

October: 10 days of an out-of-body experience in Vegas

About 16 km south of the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and St. Rose Parkway in Henderson, lies a visual spectacle. Seven Magic Mountains, an art installation by Ugo Rondinone, stands far away from the wild vibe that people expect in Las Vegas and instead offers a sense of wonder. Imagine seven pillars of huge, neon boulders, stacked up against one another stretched towards the sky. There’s a lot more where that came from, in Las Vegas. Captivating colour at the permanent James Turrell exhibit in Louis Vuitton, outdoor adventures at the Bootleg Canyon and vintage shopping at Patina Décor offer experiences that are not usually associated with Vegas. For that quintessential Vegas show, go for Shannon McBeath: Absinthe for some circus-style entertainment. If you put the holiday list to use, you can make it for the risefestival – think thousands of lanterns floating in the sky, right above you.

It’s time to get on with the vacation planning for the new year. So, pin up the holiday list, look up deals on hotels and flights and start booking. Save money by taking advantage of the British Airways Holiday Sale. With up to 25% off on flight, the offer is available to book until 31st January 2018 for travel up to 31st December in economy and premium economy and up to 31st August for business class. For great fares to great destinations, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of British Airways and not by the Scroll editorial team.