By Shoma A. Chatterji
When Gunday was shot extensively in West Bengal and later when the Hindi film starring Priyanka Chopra, Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor was dubbed in Bangla, little did anyone know that the release of the film would be mired in controversy. In Kolkata, the release of Yash Raj Film’s Gunday simultaneously in Hindi and its dubbed Bangla version has raised the hackles of the entire Bengal film industry. The uproar has led to the Bengal film fraternity urging its local industry not to screen any dubbed film in the theatres henceforth.
The Gunday dubbing uproar is preceded by almost the entire Kannada film industry coming together in January this year to participate in a bandh and a rally protesting against other language films to be dubbed into Kannada. The protest had strong political backing with former Deputy Chief Minister R Ashok saying, “At present, Kannada cinemas run successfully in 10 to 12 districts of Karnataka. If cinemas dubbed from other languages are screened, this number will reduce. Lakhs of people depend on cinema for a living and if dubbing comes into play, their lives will become miserable.” This seems to be the grouse of Bengali films too as dubbing a film from one language to another poses questions of economics as well as cultural identity. While, on the one hand, a free and democratic society should have no issues with dubbing of films from one Indian language to another, on the other, if a Hindi film is dubbed in a regional language alongside its original Hindi version, this has a negative impact on the regional cinema of the state concerned. It would also tend unwittingly to either distort or misrepresent or mutate the specific cultural elements of the home culture of that given region.
However, when contacted, Ali Abbas Zafar, director of Gunday stated, “The film hasn’t released in West Bengal and we are not releasing it either.”
Prosenjit Chatterjee, the superstar of Bengali film industry for 30 years now says, “This is not a personal agenda against any producer from Bollywood. We have high regard for legendary producers like the late Yash Chopraji. But the Bengali film industry right now is reaching out in different ways by broadening the contours of its reach and context and the Bengali audience is being pulled back into the theatres again. At this juncture, the simultaneous release of a Bollywood film in Hindi and Bengali would create a fragile ambience adversely impacting on Bengali cinema. We will not back any Bengali artiste from the Bengali film industry who participates in such dubbing ventures now and in the future,” he said adding that the industry would like to see Hindi films running parallel to films made by Bengali by the local film industry and urged everyone concerned not to screen any dubbed film in theatres or run dubbed serials on television any more.
Arun Mehta, who distributed Krrish 3 and Chennai Express in West Bengal, said that the protest of the Bengali industry is rooted in the fear that the release of films dubbed into Bengali would narrow the financial and box-office prospects of their films. “It would occupy most of theatres in the state, blocking the release of Bengali films,” he said. While talking to PTI, actor Parambrata Chatterjee of Kahaani fame said, “We are not issuing any threat to anybody. But the local industry has its stake. This is our united stand and we mean it,” and actor-director and producer Arindam Sil assured that as line producer of Gunday and many other Hindi films he could vouchsafe that no artiste from Tollygunj did the Bengali voice-over for the film from Bengal.
Film-maker Aniket Chatterjee, known for his distinct genre of satire cloaked in humour films like Chhoye Chhuti, Bye Bye Bangkok, Goday Gondogol and Mahapurush O Kapurush, marks a note of dissent. “In principle, I am totally against the dubbing of other language films in Bengali. Also I do not understand the hoo-haa because commercially, all dubbed films have failed miserably. Even the Bengali dubbed version of Gunday has hardly had any takings at the box office. However, the Bengali film industry right now is full of Bengali films copyrighted from Southern and even Punjabi hits. Actors from South and Bollywood are acting in Bengali films with their voices dubbed in Bengali by others.”
Producer Srikant Mohta of Shree Venkatesh films said to PTI, “At a time when Tollywood films are attracting a good audience response due to content and quality we have to work for saving this limited market.”
Leading actors from Bengali cinema including Jeet, Dev, Payel Sarkar, Haranath Chakraborty, Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, Srijit Mukherji, Raj Chakraborty, Mahendra Soni, Shrikant Mohta, Ashok Dhanuka, Nispal Singh, Sudeshna Roy and several technicians gathered at the Bharat Lakshmi Studio to protest against the ‘disaster’. It, however, remains to be seen what the industry decides in the coming days.
-With inputs from Agencies