Actor Gajendra Chauhan, who had a tumultuous tenure as chief of the Film and Television Institute of India, will appear on the big screen as Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee, the founder of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh that is the BJP’s parent.
The film, 1946: Calcutta Killings, documents the riots between the Hindu and Muslim communities in West Bengal, called the Great Calcutta Killings, during the Partition. The film is expected to release around December 22.
“If Syama Prasad Mookerjee had not been in West Bengal at that time, it is possible that West Bengal would not have been a part of India. It would have become a part of Pakistan,” Chauhan said in Delhi’s Constitution Club, a short distance from Parliament.
The film’s trailer is replete with communal violence and has dialogues containing allegations against Jawaharlal Nehru. In one scene, a Muslim girl reading the Hanuman Chalisa has it snatched from her hand by her father.
“The film has been passed by the Censor Board. We have come to you after getting a Censor certificate,” said Chauhan, “The mistake is when we tell Muslims of India to go to Pakistan. This is wrong. A Muslim person is a part of us. My wife is from the Muslim community. If you come to my house, you will see the Hanuman Chalisa and the Quran. There is namaz as well as reading of the Hanuman Chalisa. Hindustan asli kya hota hai woh aapko mere ghar mean dekhne ko milega (What Hindustan really is, you will see in my home),” he said.
Adding that he was associated with the BJP, Chauhan said he was inspired by Mookerjee’s idea of “one Constitution, one country”. “I felt that, somehow, he didn’t get any credit,” the actor said.
Chauhan said he had been apprehensive about not fitting into the personality of Mookerjee when director Milan Bhowmik approached him for the role, but the make-up artistes did a good job with his looks. “When I saw the mirror, I could not recognise myself,” Chauhan said. He followed this up with visits to the Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation in Kolkata, and speaking to people an copying his actions from photographs.
Chauhan added that the film had run into trouble with the censor board and some lines had to be eliminated. “I feel the censor board should consult historians when historical films are under consideration,” he said, alluding to 1946: Calcutta Killings as well as Padmavati.
Chauhan’s stormy tenure as FTII chief ended in October. He said: “FTII mein kuchh kaam karne ka sabse kam mauka mila aur maine sabse zyada kaam kiya (I got little time to do work in FTII but did the most).”
He added: “If I had not been chairman for one year and two months, the diploma would never have been converted into a masters degree. There was a two-year gap, and I started a new batch in 2016. In 2014 and 2015, the institute was closed and there were no admissions. I brought in a new course, new system and new staff, new director and new registrar. I brought in new security, had studios built. The hostel is 50 years old and I… got an approval in principle from the Ministry that a new hostel would be built.”