Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Boycotting Buddha's Kolkata Film Festival


Forces more, fans few at Nandan fest
- Boycott spreads from screen to stage as eight-day theatre gala draws Nandigram glare

The 13th Calcutta Film Festival entered its third day amidst a tight security ring, with policemen outnumbering cine-goers and the normal celeb set giving Nandan a miss for Nandigram.

Bandh Monday also saw the boycott of state-sponsored programmes spreading from screen to stage, from Nandan to the Academy of Fine Arts, with another of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s pet pursuits coming under fire.

“Under the circumstances, Natyamela cannot take place,” said Rudra- prasad Sengupta, leading the charge against the eight-day theatre festival, scheduled to start from November 23.

Nandigram and its aftershock have taken a heavy toll on the film festival.

At Nandan, after the protest and police action on the first two days, the mood was subdued on Monday, with the city crippled by a bandh.

“The atmosphere is not conducive to watching films. I have boycotted the festival whole-heartedly,” said director Anjan Dutt, who has decided not to moderate a discussion on November 14.

Even those film festival regulars who were not part of the Nandigram protests chose not to be seen at Nandan.

“It’s not a boycott, but I don’t feel the urge to be a part of the festival this time,” said Koneenica Banerjee, who otherwise “hangs out with friends” throughout every film fest.

The Tollywood brigade was missing in action but a number of film buffs braved the bandh on Monday. Footfall picked up by afternoon, with long queues in front of Nandan 1, Rabindra Sadan and Sisir Mancha.

Anna Pesoner, a films studies student at Jadavpur University, was among them. “I took the Metro to catch an interesting mix of films at the festival,” smiled the German girl.

“Thank god, the Metro is plying!” exclaimed Sudeshna Das, a student of Presidency College, who took an autorickshaw from Santoshpur to Rashbehari Avenue to take the Metro to Rabindra Sadan,

Bank employee Anindya Chowdhury also refused to mix Nandigram with Nandan. “What better way to spend a bandh day than watching films?” he demanded.

Screenings were also held as per schedule at New Empire, SRFTI, Purbashree, Madhusudan Mancha and Okakura Bhavan. Only Star theatre cancelled screening due to “administrative problems”.

The film festival brass put up a brave front. “There was no impact of the bandh on the festival. Nandan 1 alone had a footfall of around 350 people for the noon show on Monday. We have 30 to 35 per cent footfall at all the venues,” said Nilanjan Chatterjee, the Nandan CEO and director of the film festival.

But Nandigram is threatening to do more than a Nandan at Natyamela. Natya Academy chairperson Kumar Roy, Rudraprasad Sengupta, Meghnad Bhattacharya, Prabir Guha, Soumitra Basu, Ashok Mukhopadhyay, Ramaprasad Banik and others have demanded the theatre fest be scrapped.

Manoj Mitra, Bibhas Chakraborty, Kaushik Sen, Bratya Basu and others had earlier boycotted Natyamela ’07 to protest the violence in Nandigram.