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KIFF keeps off row, no photo of Didi at venue this year

Barring advertisements across the city, it seems the organisers have stayed away from putting up Banerjee’s photos at the state government-run Nandan, the main venue of the film festival.

ET Bureau|
Nov 13, 2019, 02.38 PM IST
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Mamata Banerjee’s pictures, found in abundance in Nandan last year, have gone missing this year.
By Kathakali Nandi

One year after Bengali filmmaker Anik Dutta courted controversy by questioning the need to have pictures of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at the venue of the Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF), the Nandan auditorium complex this year is devoid of the chief minister’s photos.

Barring advertisements across the city, it seems the organisers have stayed away from putting up Banerjee’s photos at the state government-run Nandan, the main venue of the film festival.

As the Kolkata International Film Festival enters its 25th chapter this year, the Nandan complex has been done up with film posters, film reels and installations of items reminiscent of yesteryears’ films.

Banerjee’s pictures, found in abundance in Nandan last year, have however gone missing this year.

Speculation is rife that the Information and Cultural Affairs department, which organises the annual event, has decided not to put up Banerjee’s photographs.

“If the absence of the huge faces on flexes of a political leader or anyone else unrelated to films at the main venue at KIFF is due to my utterances or the controversy or the public outcry that ensued, I would say it’s a positive outcome and that’s how it should be in a democracy,” Dutta told ET.

Last year, while critising the political ‘excess’, Dutta had said: “In reality, cinema does not belong to a director or producer. It belongs to the person whose pictures are splashed all over Nandan and the city.”

This February, his film ‘Bhabishyater Bhoot’ was pulled off from multiplexes and cinema halls across the state a day after its release.

While sources close to the filmmaker’s team said that the satirical film depicting some political leaders irked the state government, others said Dutta’s criticism did not go down well with the chief minister and may have been the reason why the screenings were stopped. After a legal battle fought in the Supreme Court, the film was back in theatres in March.

Despite the controversy, Dutta’s film ‘Barunbabur Bandhu’ was selected as the first film under the Bengali Panorama section at this year’s KIFF. The film, however, was not screened at the Nandan complex. It was, instead, done at the Rabindra Ocakura Bhawan at far away Salt Lake area.

Refusing to comment on the absence of Banerjee’s photographs from Nandan complex, KIFF chairperson Raj Chakraborty said: “I wasn’t present last year, so I’m not aware of any controversy. As the chairperson, it’s my task to look into the beautification of Nandan and make the 25th year of the film festival a success. I don’t want to look back at what happened in previous years.”

COLOUR DIVIDE

On the other hand, KIFF organisers seemed to have made up for the lack of the chief minister’s photos at an exhibition at the Gaganendra Shilpa Pradarshashala, within the Nandan complex. The exhibition portrays photos across the KIFF’s 25-year-long history. But the display has been divided in half with photos from 1995 to 2010 depicted in black and white, while photos from 2011 to 2019 have been displayed in colour. Almost all the photos from 2011 to 2019 feature Banerjee.

The film festival was started in 1995 by former chief minister Jyoti Basu during the Left Front regime. Since 2011 — after Banerjee took charge, ending the 34-year Left Front rule — the film festival has been upgraded to a major event, featuring Bollywood celebrities every year at its inauguration.
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