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Visva-Bharati bars door to Priyanka's Nalini

University 'no' to commercial films being shot on campus

SNEHAMOY CHAKRABORTY   |   Published 30.06.18, 12:00 AM

Priyanka Chopra

Santiniketan: Visva-Bharati on Friday ruled out on-campus shooting of the Priyanka Chopra-produced Nalini, based on a teenaged Rabindranath Tagore's "relationship" with Marathi debutante Annapurna Turkhud.

The decision, which follows a preliminary denial of permission in February, was conveyed to director Ujjwal Chatterjee at a meeting with university officials here.

"The director tried to persuade us to give permission for shooting on the campus but I told him we would not," the officiating vice-chancellor, Sabuj Koli Sen, told The Telegraph.

"This is an educational institution. We don't want to disrupt its environment any more by allowing the shooting of commercial films."

Chatterjee claims that former officiating vice-chancellor, Swapan Kumar Datta, had granted him written permission for campus shoots last December, but Sen has put her foot down.

Priyanka's Purple Pebbles Pictures is producing Nalini, which happens to be the name Tagore gave Annapurna.

Tagore was 17 when, before leaving on a trip to England, he spent two months at the Mumbai home of eminent physician and social reformer Atmaram Pandurang Turkhud. Turkhud's daughter Annapurna, then 20, gave the young poet English lessons, and a friendship developed.

Chatterjee said that at Friday's meeting, he had even offered to shoot by drone, which would have meant a thinner crew presence on the ground.

He told this newspaper he had also argued that the film was a Tagore biopic, although he admitted that a biopic can be a commercial film.

Sen confirmed that Chatterjee had tried this line of argument but retorted that biopics are meant to portray someone's life as a whole and not an isolated "relationship".

Chatterjee said he had threatened the meeting that he would write to the human resource development ministry about the university blocking the shoots "despite the former officiating vice-chancellor giving permission".

"I shall also write to Visva-Bharati seeking an explanation," Chatterjee told this newspaper.

"If he writes to us, we'll reply," Sen said.

Another senior university official said: "We don't think the ministry can enforce shooting on the campus. It's solely our decision."

Teachers and other university staff backed the administration and threatened a protest if any commercial film was shot on the campus.

Bidyut Sarkar, secretary of the Karmi Sabha, the university employees' association, said: "This is not a shooting spot where anyone can wander in and make a film."

Controversy had erupted in December 2016 after the then Datta administration allowed the makers of Bengali film Posto, which featured Union minister Babul Supriyo, to shoot inside the Upasana Mandir on the campus.

Sources said a Kala Bhavana professor had objected, citing "damage" to artworks during the earlier shooting of Thinking of Him, a film on the ties between Tagore and Argentine writer Victoria Ocampo.

Others claimed the university had refused to allow the Thinking of Him makers to shoot "even in front of the temple", so the leniency shown to Posto opened Visva-Bharati to charges of inconsistency.

The university's latest decision is being seen as a firm step to avert similar controversies.

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