Shoma A Chatterji
When Gunday was shot extensively in West Bengal and later when the film was dubbed into Bengali, nobody suspected the release would be mired in controversy. The Bengali film industry is protesting the dubbed Bengali version of the film and it is urging theatres not to screen it anymore.
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. However, Ali Abbas Zafar, director of Gunday says, “The film hasn’t released in West Bengal and we are not releasing it either.”
Bengali film actor Prosenjit Chatterjee, 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 simultaneous release of a Bollywood film in Hindi and Bengali would adversely impact Bengali cinema. We will not back any artiste from the Bengali film industry who participates in such dubbing ventures now and in the future.”
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.
Filmmaker Aniket Chatterjee, who is known for his distinct genre of satire cloaked-in-humour films such as Chhoye Chhuti, Bye Bye Bangkok, Goday Gondogol and Mahapurush O Kapurush does not support the trend of dubbing films into regional languages. “In principle, I am totally against the dubbing of other language films into Bengali. But commercially also, all dubbed films have failed miserably. Even the Bengali dubbed version of Gunday has hardly any takers at the box office.”
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 other technicians gathered at the Bharat Lakshmi Studio to protest against the “disaster”. However, it remains to be seen what the industry decides in the coming days.