Kolkata: A movie based on Great Calcutta Killings, communal riots in which more than 5,000 people were murdered and about a lakh were rendered homeless in August 1946, has been cleared after four cuts by the Central Board of Film Certification.
Directed by Milan Bhowmik, ‘1946 Calcutta Killings’ has Gajendra Chauhan, former chairman of Film and Television Institute of India, playing the lead role of Syama Prasad Mookerjee, founder of Bharatiya Jana Sangh.
Chauhan’s appointment as FTII chief had irked students and many celebrities who protested against ‘saffronization’ of premier institution.
When asked why a controversial person like Chauhan was selected to play the role of Mookerjee, Bhowmik said, “He was never a controversial person. He was selected for the role because I was very impressed with his character as Yudhishthira in Mahabharata. Also, he has a striking resemblance with Syama Prasad Mookherjee in terms of looks. Lots of people were screened for the role but we found him fit to pay the role.”
Great Calcutta Killings took place following the announcement of Direct Action Day protest by Muslim League leader Muhammad Ali Jinnah after the Indian National Congress rejected his proposal seeking a separate homeland for Muslims.
Jinnah had said that Muslims would suffer in the hands of large Hindu majority once the British pulled out. This led to one of the worst communal riots in British-controlled India.
The movie was stalled by CBFC since September 2016.
Last year, the Regional Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) in Kolkata said the movie was ‘extremely polarising’. They also feared that it might cause communal disharmony.
“It is very unfortunate that we were asked to remove key dialogues and scenes of the movie,” said Bhowmik.
“They (CBFC) felt that some of the dialogues referring to Jawaharlal Nehru, Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha and Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy (last Prime Minister of Bengal during the British Raj who later became the PM of Pakistan after partition) were derogatory in nature. In the film, Jinnah abuses Nehru… This was objected by the CBFC. We have changed the dialogue a bit,” he said.
“There was a dialogue in the movie where Hindu Mahasabha leaders threaten to blow up a police station… The censor board objected to it. We have removed it… On the context of Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy also, we were asked to change a line where he is telling a senior police officer that Hindus are behind the killings.”
“I decided to highlight Mookherjee in the movie because many of us are not aware about his role in fighting for Bengal. It was mainly because of him that Bengal was saved during partition. It is my tribute to him,” Bhowmik said, adding that West Bengal Governor Kesari Nath Tripathi’s poem also finds mention in the movie.