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Tuesday , May 27 , 2014
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Director in nightlong detention
Hotel denies complaint

Filmmaker Suman Mukhopadhyay at New Town police station on Monday afternoon. Picture by Bhabatosh Chakraborty

Filmmaker Suman Mukhopadhyay was summoned to a police station on Sunday evening and questioned through the night on the basis of a complaint by an “institution” that has since denied going to police.

Mukhopadhyay was allowed to return home on Monday evening after a city-based industrialist intervened, more than 18 hours after the filmmaker had walked into the police station.

“Suman Mukhopadhyay was examined on the basis of a specific complaint lodged by an institution with New Town police station,” Arnab Ghosh, deputy commissioner of the detective department of Bidhannagar police, told Metro later.

Police sources said the “institution” that Ghosh had declined to name was Swissotel, the star address at City Centre New Town. They said an FIR was drawn up based on Swissotel’s complaint, charging Mukhopadhyay under IPC Sections 406 (criminal breach of trust), 420 (cheating), 427 (mischief causing damage to the amount of Rs 50 or upwards) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention).

Two of the charges — cheating and criminal breach of trust — are non-bailable.

Swissotel denied lodging any complaint amid allegations that the filmmaker had paid the price for being critical of the Mamata Banerjee government. “We have not made any complaint against anyone,” a spokesperson for Swissotel Kolkata Neotia Vista said in an official statement.

Asked if that meant the complaint had been “withdrawn”, the hotel insisted that it did not make a complaint in the first place.

The filmmaker had apparently been to the hotel with an actress on Friday, a day before she was admitted to a hospital with an arm injury. The nature of the injury necessitated an intimation to the police, after which the cops got down to trying to establish that Mukhopadhyay had had a hand in it, sources said.

The charges that the police say were made by “an institution” came up after the police realised that the actress wouldn’t lodge any complaint against the filmmaker, the sources said.

“Mukhopadhyay broke a glass table and left the hotel without clearing the bills,” an officer at New Town police station said.

The filmmaker was then contacted over the phone and asked to report at the Bidhannagar South police station. He reached the police station around 5pm on Sunday. “A process was initiated to arrest him on Monday morning. An arrest memo was prepared and arrangements were made to take him into custody. But the arrest memo was torn off after a decision was taken not to arrest Mukhopadhyay,” the officer said.

According to one lawyer not linked to the case, “half an hour of questioning should have been enough to ascertain what happened at the hotel”.

Sources close to Mukhopadhyay alleged that the police visited the actress several times in the hospital on Saturday to question her about what had happened. She was specifically asked if the filmmaker had been at the hotel with her.

According to the actress’s official statement to the police, she was out with friends when she fell and hurt herself.

Actor-director Koushik Sen received a text from Mukhopadhyay at 7.30 on Monday morning that said he was being harassed by the police. Sen sought advocate and former mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya’s counsel.

The police were in the process of transferring Mukhopadhyay to the Barasat district court on Monday morning when a lawyer sent by Bhattacharyya stepped in. “There is a ceasework by lawyers at Barasat court. So had he been taken there, he would have had to spend at least another night in detention,” a close friend of the filmmaker said.

The friend, who is also close to the actress with whom Mukhopadhyay was at the hotel, said she “did not take his name even once in the formal report to the police (necessitated by her admission to hospital for an injury)”.

On Monday morning, Mukhopadhyay’s wife met him at New Town police station, where he was taken late on Sunday. “She is the daughter of Shyamanand Jalan, one of the pioneers of Hindi theatre in Calcutta. The Jalans being family friends with the Neotias, who own Swissotel, they helped remove the hurdles,” a source said.

A friend of Mukhopadhyay from the film and theatre fraternity said: “It seems that Swissotel was under pressure from the police and the police were under political pressure.”

Many in the film and theatre circuit alleged that “political vendetta” was the reason for Mukhopadhyay’s detention. “There was no valid reason for detaining him for so many hours and the kind of harassment he faced. It seems anyone could be held up for any reason even if it’s personal,” actor-director Sen said.

Although a part of the culture clan that had taken to the streets against the erstwhile Left Front government, Mukhopadhyay has never warmed up to Trinamul. He had, in fact, vehemently protested when Trinamul used his face for a campaign poster in the run-up to the 2011 Assembly elections. He went on to criticise the Mamata Banerjee government, especially when crimes against women shot up in the state.

Mukhopadhyay had told The Telegraph last year that the “fear to express” wasn’t new. “But when we thought of paribartan, we expected things to happen differently. Unfortunately, things are being repeated and (are) often worse.”

Later that year, his film Kangal Malsat was refused the censor’s nod following a report by a state panel chaired by a member of Mamata’s culture clan.

Some feel Suman’s latest play Mephisto might have ruffled some feathers, given that its protagonist Hendrik Hofgen, “who wants to be the best actor in Germany”, bears a similarity to a theatre artiste-turned-Trinamul leader.

suman mukhopadhyay’s version

Filmmaker Suman Mukhopadhyay spoke to Mohua Das on Monday night

At 1pm (on Sunday), I got a call from Bidhannagar South police station asking me to meet them. They wanted me to be there in the next half an hour but I finally went at 5pm.
Usually for a police interrogation, there has to be some legal protocol and they need to produce some papers but I did not ask for any because I did not think it was necessary at that point.... They made me sit there from 5pm to 10pm, without any registered complaint or legal documents to do so.

At 10pm, I was told that I would need to be taken to New Town police station because they needed to interrogate further. My lawyer, who was there with me, requested if we could come back the next day but they said there was no such scope. On reaching New Town, I was made to sit on a wooden chair in a closed room all night. There were no officers, no dialogue. Only some clerk and sentries on night duty.... They tried to bar me from using my phone but I had to in order to talk to my lawyer and friends.

In the morning, after 10am, the OC of New Town police station came in for another lengthy interrogation. And eventually I was asked to sign a document of arrest based on an FIR lodged by Swissotel. I did so. And then another round of interrogation followed. My wife Mallika was very supportive and she joined me in the morning and was part of the interrogation too. Then I came to know that I was being released.

It seemed to me that they just wanted to arrest me. The interrogation was about the (actress’s) injury and how the glass broke, whether it was an attempt at suicide, an accident or self-inflicted pain. But it wasn’t clear what exactly they wanted to know from me or who the complainant was until the next afternoon and more than 18 hours had passed. That’s when they produced the arrest documents with a registered complaint. Till then, they were clueless.

The senior officials later told me: ‘We have considered your stature in society and don’t want to harass you’.