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Hall ‘windfall’ for 3 Kanya

- Intended: film doesn’t reach Star; Unintended: free publicity

Calcutta, Nov. 3: One arm of the Mamata Banerjee government has pulled the plug on a film loosely based on the Park Street rape while another denied having a hand in that. The upshot may be unintended publicity that can stoke the curiosity of more viewers.

3 Kanya, which released yesterday, did not show at Star theatre in north Calcutta, though posters said it was scheduled to be screened there. The film’s print never made it to the theatre because Team Mamata was allegedly unhappy with some of its scenes, though the censor board had cleared them.

Star was the only hall directly associated with the administration that was scheduled to screen the film. The Trinamul-run Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) owns the property, though it is run by a private entity.

The screening of a film cleared by the censors can’t be stopped across halls as long as the state’s law and order is not under threat.

“If the censor board passes a film, nobody can have a say. The censor board gave 3 Kanya an A certificate. I have never heard of a film being re-censored because of an objection either from the people or the government,” said Prabhat Roy, member of the central board of film certification.

A cabinet minister is said to have acted on behalf of Mamata and “instructed” the film’s Star distributor not to send it to the theatre. The minister confirmed his involvement to The Telegraph this afternoon.

About an hour later, mayor Sovan Chatterjee arrived at Writers’ Buildings for a meeting with Mamata, who had just finished a chat with the director of information.

Then, home secretary Basudeb Banerjee rushed to the “press corner” to deny any interference by the state. “It is (a) baseless (charge). I have enquired about it. The CMC owns Star theatre and the management is with a private company, which decides the films to be screened. The government has no role to play. For responsible journalism, kindly check the facts with the government or me. The government has no desire at all to ban any film,” he said.

In Indian cinema, the more famous Teen Kanya is a 1961 film by Satyajit Ray based on three Tagore short stories — Postmaster, Manihara and Samapti.

The 2012 film revolves around three women — Rituparna Sengupta as Aparna, a TV anchor (with 24 Ghanta); Ananya Chatterjee as Nancy, a call girl who is picked up by a trio from a nightclub, raped in a hotel room and dumped on the road from a car; and Unnati Davara as Damini, a cop who is handling Nancy’s case.

Nancy approaches Aparna for justice and the episode is aired on TV. But then the focus shifts to Aparna’s disturbed mental state and her edgy relationship with Damini, and the fate of Nancy and her rapists.

The rape sequence apart, the film has some obvious parallels with the Park Street case — a TV channel highlighting the plight of the victim, a woman police officer probing the case — though director Agnidev Chatterjee said it was “a fictional tale” drawing upon some real-life incidents.

At one point in the newsroom, Rituparna questions her editor boss (played by Biswajit Chakraborty) why most journalists are turning a deaf ear to Nancy. His reply is a Bengali slang that is not used in polite company. Sterilised, it translates into something like “they are all too busy tailing ‘Madam’.”

A section close to the chief minister brought the “objectionable” parts of the film to her notice on Wednesday, government sources said. According to the sources, a section of the administration swung into action on Wednesday evening to make sure the film was kept off the screen wherever possible.

Government sources said the minister known for his proximity to Mamata spoke to officials of Artage, a media planning organisation based in Parnasree that has been running Star since April 1 and paying Rs 15 lakh a year to the CMC as rent. “The Artage management pleaded helplessness as posters had already been put up and everyone knew that Star was one of the venues. Tickets had been sold. They were also apprehensive about crowd trouble if the film was not screened,” a source said.

The minister then approached Goodwin Pictures, through which films reach Star for screening. In the consignment of prints that reached Star on Thursday, 3 Kanya was missing.

Asked this evening, Prosenjit Kar of Artage said: “Bolbo na…. (I will not tell you anything).”

Artage, which handles government hoardings and banners, gets films for Star through Goodwin.

Agnidev said he got a call this morning from the film’s distributor. “He said Star had cancelled shows and asked me to talk to someone from the government about it. I called up (education minister) Bratya Basu, who plays a doctor in the film, and he told me I should ask Star to speak to him.”

“I am not sure what anti-government statement there is in the film. If they have an objection to any particular dialogue, I am ready to delete it. But we have an agreement with Star and if they don’t screen my film, I will file a case against them,” Agnidev said.

Minister Basu, also the chairman of a committee to look after Star, said he did not know the story line when he acted. (See chart)

“The private company called Artage decides which films they want to screen at Star. The committee (of which he is a part) had nothing to do with this decision. I was told the decision to not screen the film had been taken by Artage even before it released. It could be for business-related reasons.”

During the last days of the Left rule, a group of CPM leaders in Hooghly had stalled the staging of the play Pashu Khamar, which was based on George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

Arijit Dutta of Priya, where the 3 Kanya premiere took place yesterday and who used to manage Star before being replaced by Artage, said he “did not find anything anti-government in the film”.

Arindam Sil, who has done a small cameo in the film, too, said he found nothing anti-government in it. “We don’t live in Iran that we need to live in fear if we dare to speak the truth. Our present government has been so friendly towards the cultural section, I don’t think the chief minister could have had anything to do with it.”