Taking a stance against the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), filmmaker and economist Suman Ghosh will not release his documentary ‘Argumentative Indian’ in Kolkata this weekend as scheduled. The film, which documents the life of Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, was flagged by the censor board for its use of the words ‘Gujarat’, ‘Hindu India’, ‘Cow’ and ‘Hindutva view of India’.
The hour-long documentary “The Argumentative Indian” – shot in two parts in 2002 and in 2017 – was screened at Nandad III on Monday and was scheduled for release this Friday. However, after the screening of the documentary at CBFC’s regional office in Kolkata on Tuesday, director Ghosh was told the documentary could only be released with a UA certificate, if he agreed to beep out words like “Gujarat”, “cow”, “Hindutva view of India” and “Hindu India” which were spoken by Sen in the context of the present political climate in the country. The director, however, refused to follow its diktat and as a result uncertainty looms over the release of the documentary.
Speaking to the media, Ghosh slammed the CBFC for asking him to beep certain words. “It asked me to beep the word Gujarat as Sen was speaking about Gujarat riots in the documentary. Then it asked me to beep the word cow which in my opinion was very funny. We were also asked to beep words like Hindu and Hindutva. We objected to it. We know how films like Udta Punjab and Lipstick under My Burkha went into controversies following its dispute with CBFC regarding film certification. I don’t agree with what happened with these films and rightfully the opposition voice was raised. But I never thought such parameters would be followed in documentaries which is not a scripted movie and when it is about a person with such international stature. I was a bit shocked to experience this,” he said.
Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, who is presently in Santiniketan in Birbhum district, told reporters, “I have nothing to say on this as I have not directed this documentary. I am the subject of the documentary and being a subject of the movie I should not comment on this. The director will give his opinion on this. I don’t want to be a part of this discussion.” Prof Sen added, “If the government has reservation about the documentary then there could be discussion on such reservation where others would place their opinion. I should not speak on this.”
It may be recalled that in March, the CBFC had delayed the release of a Bengali film “Shunyota” (Emptiness) which was the first movie made with the subject of demonetisation. Director Suvendu Ghosh had alleged that members of local CBFC had similarly asked him to beep some dialogues and words which had criticised the Centre’s demonetisation move.
Significantly, Amartya Sen is a fierce critic of the Central government and is a regular in raising his voice against several issues. Sen had criticised the Centre’s demonetisation move and recently spoke against the Basirhat violence.
According to member of film fraternity, Sen’s relationship with the central government might have played a role in the latest controversy surrounding the documentary. Veteran Bengali actor Soumitra Chatterjee said it was “foolishness” on the part of CBFC not to allow its release and such move amounts to “fascism”. “This is nothing but foolishness. I don’t know why we still call ours a democratic nation when we don’t have the right to express our pinions and views. The person who has spoken such words is one who has such international repute. This is a kind of fascism. We cannot expect more from a government which bans eating beef,” Chatterjee said.