Why SC’s Order Revoking Bengal’s Ban On ‘The Kerala Story’ Was An Exercise In Futility

Why SC’s Order Revoking Bengal’s Ban On ‘The Kerala Story’ Was An Exercise In Futility

by Jaideep Mazumdar - Saturday, May 20, 2023 04:47 PM IST
Why SC’s Order Revoking Bengal’s Ban On ‘The Kerala Story’ Was An Exercise In FutilityPoster of The Kerala Story
  • The elephant in the room is the Trinamool government, especially Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who will not take kindly to any hall or multiplex following the Supreme Court order and screening a movie she does not want to be shown. 

The Supreme Court struck down the ban imposed by the Bengal government on screening of ‘The Kerala Story’ Thursday (18 May). 

But the order, for all practical purposes, is a fruitless one and the entire exercise — the producers of the movie seeking the lifting of the ban and the apex court conducting hearings before striking down the ban--has turned out to be an exercise in futility.

That’s because the revocation of the ban, coming a full ten days after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee ordered the state administration to issue the ban diktat to movie theatres, has not led to any movie hall in Bengal resuming the screening of the film. 

Owners and operators of movie theatres and multiplexes in the state are not sure if ‘The Kerala Story’ will be back on their screens anytime in the near future 

All movie halls and multiplexes had already slotted other movies — one English and several Bengali films — for release on Friday (19 May) by the time the Supreme Court struck down the ban Thursday afternoon. 

There are no slots left now for screening ‘The Kerala Story’, say movie hall owners. Also, hall owners are wary of angering the Trinamool government by bringing the movie back to the halls now. 

More so since Trinamool spokesperson Kunal Ghosh issued a statement after the apex court order that the state government should not be held responsible “if there are issues arising from the screening of the film”. 

“We depend on the state administration for a lot of things, including security. If we screen the movie now and people stage protests or some untoward incident happens, who will be responsible? We will not get any help from the state administration,” the owner of a movie hall in Kolkata who did not want to be named for obvious reasons told Swarajya

Arijit Dutta, former president of Eastern India Motion Pictures Association (EIMPA), said that all halls and multiplexes had already slotted new releases — ‘Fast X’ (an English movie) and three Bengali movies Tenida & Company, Nonte Fonte and Mahabhoj before the Supreme Court order was issued. Also, another Bengali movie — Fatafati — is doing well and most halls and multiplexes are continuing to screen it. 

“There is no slot left for The Kerala Story (TKS) in any hall or multiplex till next week. I haven’t been able to make a slot for the movie in my own halls,” said TKS Bengal distributor Satadeep Saha. 

Joydeep Mukherjee, who runs a multiplex in Kolkata's iconic Star Theatre, said there are no slots available for TKS this week.

Arijit Dutta, who owns the uniplex Priya cinema and operates multiplexes at New Town in Kolkata and in Durgapur, also said he’s not sure if he can slot TKS in any of his screens even next week. 

Though exhibitors in Bengal will not say in on record, the elephant in the room is the Trinamool government, especially Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who will not take kindly to any hall or multiplex going by the Supreme Court order and screening the movie she does not want to be shown in Bengal. 

Many exhibitors have grave and justifiable apprehensions about screening TKS now. “We all know that the state administration will not help us if we run into any trouble after screening the movie. It will be easy for any group to stage protests and indulge in vandalism or arson, and we will not get any help in that case from the administration. We don’t want to take a risk,” said an exhibitor on condition of anonymity. 

A few exhibitors even cited Mamata Banerjee’s nature. “She (the chief minister) may construe a decision on the part of an exhibitor to screen the movie as an act of defiance. And that will invite her wrath. Everybody knows that she is very vengeful,” said a Siliguri-based exhibitor.  

TKS, which released on 5 May, was being screened in 94 halls and multiplexes across Bengal and was doing very good business before Mamata Banerjee imposed the ban. 

TKS Director Sudipto Sen and actor Adah Sharma (who plays the role of Shalini Unnikrishnan/Fatime in the movie) were in Kolkata Friday (19 May) to urge exhibitors to screen the film. 

“We are very disappointed with the no-show of the movie (TKS) in Bengal. I urge all exhibitors, including our Bengal distributor Satadeep Saha, to show courage and exhibit the movie in halls in Bengal,” said Sen. 

He added that while exhibitors have the freedom not to screen the movie and viewers have the freedom not to watch it, he warned that he will move the Supreme Court once again if anyone is “threatened or pressured”.

Fit case for compensation of loss

Legal experts say that exhibitors are vulnerable and their reluctance to exhibit the movie is understandable.

But the producers of the movie can easily move the Supreme Court to ask for compensation from the Bengal government for the losses they have suffered due to the imposition of the ban. 

“The producers and distributors of the film definitely suffered losses because the Bengal government decided to suddenly impose the ban in an arbitrary and unilateral manner. The Supreme Court held the ban illegal. So the state government should now be held responsible for the losses and should pay compensation to the producers, distributors and others associated with the movie,” a prominent advocate of the Calcutta High Court told Swarajya

Another senior Supreme Court lawyer who has represented people and entities aggrieved by various actions of the Bengal government told Swarajya that this is a fit case for compensation of losses suffered due to the ban imposed on the movie by the Bengal government. 

“Since the ban has been revoked by the Supreme Court, the logical conclusion is that the ban was illegal. The state government is liable for its actions. Since movie halls in Bengal are not screening the movie, thus causing huge losses to the producers, the latter can move the Supreme Court once again praying for adequate compensation for the losses", the Supreme Court lawyer said. 

"In fact, I will say that the Supreme Court should impose an exemplary penalty on the Bengal government for banning a movie cleared for screening by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). The Bengal government has to be taken to task for acting in an illegal and arbitrary manner,” the lawyer added. 

Get Swarajya in your inbox everyday. Subscribe here.

An Appeal...

Dear Reader,

As you are no doubt aware, Swarajya is a media product that is directly dependent on support from its readers in the form of subscriptions. We do not have the muscle and backing of a large media conglomerate nor are we playing for the large advertisement sweep-stake.

Our business model is you and your subscription. And in challenging times like these, we need your support now more than ever.

We deliver over 10 - 15 high quality articles with expert insights and views. From 7AM in the morning to 10PM late night we operate to ensure you, the reader, get to see what is just right.

Becoming a Patron or a subscriber for as little as Rs 1200/year is the best way you can support our efforts.

Become A Patron
Become A Subscriber
Comments ↓
Get Swarajya in your inbox everyday. Subscribe here.

Latest Articles

    Artboard 4Created with Sketch.