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Dear Mr Bachchan, if you can ignore atrocities in Bengal and talk about ‘civil liberty, freedom of expression’, others can boycott a movie without sermons

Your statement on liberty and freedom sounds ridiculous to me as you expressed it from the stage where the Chief Minister of West Bengal was present as the host.

Respected Mr. Bachchan,

I hope this letter will reach you through social media and will find you in a good health, Mr Amitabh Bachchan. I would like to extend my gratitude to you for adding one more reason to feel proud as an Indian. You are not only an artist but also an inspiration to life. Your tweets after winning a cricket match, your humbleness in front of other celebrities, your interaction with kids at the KBC set, your emotions after hearing stories of others in KBC, your gratefulness to Yash Chopra, Balasaheb, Dhirubhai Ambani or JRD Tata make your life a lesson for all of us and put you in a sphere where no other personalities from Indian cinema can reach in the near future.

Your speech from 2012 to 2015 at Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF) surprised many of us to think how you managed to cite such strong historical references to draw a meaningful conclusion about Kolkata’s influence on Indian cinema; indeed, your speech reflected a small-scale thesis on Kolkata’s culture. During the inauguration of KIFF this year, you said “questions have been raised on civil liberty and freedom of expression”. I would like to add a few more examples to your concern to make this issue more realistic.

It is meaningless to state that cinema is not just a medium to entertain people; but, traditionally it mostly tells the story of life. Our generation may not feel the brutality of the holocaust if Schindler’s List, The Boys in the Stripped Pajamas, and The last days would not have made. All these movies delivered a silent justice to the Jewish people who suffered in the past. When we look back to the history of our country, we had to suffer horribly due to the division of the land. With full respect to all, we must accept the fact that Bengali Hindus in Bengal, Sikhs in Punjab, Buddhists and Hindus in Jammu-Kashmir have been confronted with the most devastating bloodbath for survival. How many films have we made on this topic, Sir? Extending this historical connection, Kashmiri Hindus faced even more cruelty later when they became refugees in their own country. Nobody from Bollywood expressed their concern on that matter. Even more surprisingly, when “The Kashmir File” was made a certain portion of Bollywood preferred not to support it. Where was your “civil liberty and freedom of expression” at that time, Mr Bachchan?

Since independence, the number of the Bengali Hindu community in Bangladesh (or erstwhile East Pakistan) dropped down to around 6% from almost 30%. Many movies were made on that issue but none of the movies addressed why the Bengali Hindu had to move out from there. It was deliberately done to serve some political purposes. Towards the end of the 1960s, the secret agent of the Soviet Union, KGB operated their wings to spread cultural Marxism throughout the world. With that aim, they captured the cinema industry in Kolkata which was the cultural capital of India at that time. You may wonder to know that the dead body of the legendary Uttam Kumar was not allowed to enter Rabindra Sadan the as he was not a supporter of the ruling communist party. After his death, the Bengali film industry became a mere political tool. Those celebrities bent their head down to the ruler to capitalize on personal gain.

Nowadays, it is even worse. With the continuous decline in the economy of the state, people lost their interest in cinemas. Consequently, most Bengali films nowadays are made with the aim to satisfy the Bengali-speaking majority of neighbouring Bangladesh. Therefore, those films focus to demean Hinduism to gain attention in Bangladesh. It also has some connection with West Bengal politics as it ideally matches with Mamata Banerjee’s appeasement politics towards the minority to retain the chair.

Your statement on liberty and freedom sounds ridiculous to me as you expressed it from the stage where the Chief Minister of West Bengal was present as the host. A movie on political satire, namely, “Bhobissoter Bhoot (The Ghost of the future)” was banned in West Bengal under Mamata’s regime. Journalists like Sanmay Banerjee and Shafilkul Islam have been harassed for raising their voices against the dictatorship of Didi. People like me who have no political connection were threatened by the workers of the ruling party when we posted something on social media against the ongoing dictatorship. Very recently, common people were hackled while they were going to attend the meeting of the leader of the opposition in the state. It is hard to believe that you do not aware of how people were killed, raped, and threatened after Mamata Banerjee won the state election in 2021 on the second day of May. I am wondering if you tried to be sarcastic to put your opinion on freedom and liberty in front of the dictator Mamata Banerjee!

The purpose of my writing is not to demean you in any way. I am only attempting to explain the reality of the state under Mamata’s dictatorship. She has been oppressing the voice of common people, using mass media to control the narrative, rigging votes by using the might of her goons and most importantly using “intellectuals” to fool people. The people are helpless in the state. The young generation like me had to leave our families to earn our livelihood and the remaining people in the state have been exploited politically to keep the dictator politically relevant and alive.

Lastly, I sincerely believe that you will agree with me that freedom should flow both ways. You prefer the freedom to praise Mamata Banerjee for inviting you to the inauguration in KIFF and to ignore her ruthless political aggression to kill more than 200 workers of the opposition party. In the same way, people should have the freedom to select movies which glorify indigenous culture and to boycott the movies which demean the same. I hope that make sense.

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Rudra Prasanna Banerjee
Rudra Prasanna Banerjee
Postdoctoral Scientist, Washington, USA. PhD in Molecular Biology & Genetics, University of Alberta, Canada.

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