Vol. 5 Num 457 Wed. September 07, 2005  
Letters to Editor

Censor Board's indecision on "Nacholer Raani"

The full length feature film "Nacholer Raani" made under the banner of 'Pankowri' and directed by a young, promising director, Syed Wahiduzzaman Diamond, has created some unnecessary controversy even before its release. The film is reportedly based on the historic Santal movement in Nachole in the district of Chapainawabganj in the early fifties of the last century. Repressed to the extreme by the landlords and big estate holders (Jotedars) of Nachole and surrounding areas, the peasants, dominated in that area by the Santals, rose in revolt against the landlords. Incidentally, leadership to that revolt was provided by a son of one of the landholding families, Romen Mitra, and, more intensely, by his well educated wife, Ila Mitra.

Although the movement by the Santal peasants for a fair share of the produce of their land started in the 1940s of the twentieth century, it spilled over to the next decade running parallel to the creation of the new state of Pakistan. It is now a historic fact that big landholders of the area, in cohort with the police, started a reign of terror on the impoverished peasantry causing rape, death and destruction. As a sequel to an apparently unintended death of a few of the marauding policemen at the hands of some highly enraged Santals, all hell broke loose on them culminating in a full-scale attack by an organised police force on the bow-and-arrow-wielding community of Santals. The results were predictable: a massacre of the Santal peasantry. Looting, arson and rape followed. Many of the fleeing survivors were caught by the police at railway stations and elsewhere, the leader, Ila Mitra, being one of them.

This film is based on this historic event depending for its material on the statement recorded by Ila Mitra before a court in Rajshahi as well as on a few books written by quite a few eminent personalities of the country and interviews by the director of the film with some surviving participants in the revolt. The physical torture in police custody and in jail inflicted on Ila Mitra has reportedly been artistically portrayed in the film without any hint of obscenity or indignity shown to Ila Mitra. In fact, the uncompromising attitude of Ila Mitra in the face of these inhuman physical and mental tortures lifted her to a vaunted position as a human being and as a leader, which ultimately saw her elected to the West Bengal Legislative Assembly 3-4 times after she had gone there on parole granted by an intervention by Sher-e-Bangla A K Fazlul Haque and Moulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani after the United Front came to power in East Pakistan in 1954.

The Film Censor Board, while reportedly dubbing this as a good film, appears hesitant to allow release of the same depriving the viewers of an opportunity to witness a good film in the days when Bangladesh filmdom is dominated by what may be called a cartel of makers of obscenities and vulgarities. It is strange that the Board reportedly feels that even a symbolic representation of torture and indignities meted out to Ila Mitra will strain Indo-Bangladesh relations because Ila Mitra, after migration to India, was elected MLA in the West Bengal Legislative Assembly. In my opinion, it would put Ila Mitra at a still higher pedestal as a leader of the people. A nation that is afraid of facing its history, especially of the struggle of its people against oppressors, may easily be suspected not to have come out of the old colonial mould. The torture on Ila Mitra took place during Pakistan times.

The director of the film has reportedly shown it by focusing on a framed photograph of Mr. Jinnah which was on display in govt. offices in those days. The Censor Board reportedly feels that the existing good relations with Pakistan may be harmed by this.

What a strange logic! should we then deny our liberation war because of good relations with Pakistan? The Bollywood film "Mongol Pandey: The Rising" is running in packed houses all over great Britain. The British govt. even protested that so much of torture was not inflicted on the Indian people during the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. But the Indian Film Censor Board did not refuse certification to the film for fear of harming good relations with Britain. How can then the authorities think that scenes of torture on Ila Mitra portrayed in the film does belittle her as a leader?

When will our Film Censor Board come of age and quickly release films like "Nacholer Raani", thereby creating an atmosphere where good, artistic movies may be made in this country? Will the authorities care to take note that refusing or even causing delay in releasing a film like 'Nacholer Raani' only tarnishes the image of the government as a good, democratic institution?