The controversy surrounding a film on capital punishment -- withdrawn from a West Bengal government-run film complex allegedly for its anti-state content -- was stoked afresh with eminent filmmaker Aparna Sen and her actor daughter Konkona Sen Sharma rallying behind it as One Day From A Hangman's Life found screening space in Mumbai.
In a stinging editorial in her Bengali magazine Sananda, Sen said the big question was not whether director Josy Joseph was for or against capital punishment, but whether a filmmaker had the right to make and screen a film which was in conflict with the views of West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee. 'Can Buddhababu's branding a film 'rubbish' be enough reason for its withdrawal from the state-run film hall?' she wrote.
Joseph's One Day From A Hangman's Life, critically commenting upon the state government's personal interest in the hanging of rape and murder convict Dhananjoy Chatterjee, was withdrawn from the Nandan complex on June 20, two days into its premiere, after Bhattacharjee chanced upon its poster and exclaimed 'rubbish!'
'Though the authorities cited poor ticket sales as the reason of the withdrawal, I have seen many movies at the same venue with not more than 25-30 people. Documentaries rarely draw viewers and Nandan's credo, as we were given to understand, has always been promotion of good cinema. When was commerce so important in its scheme of things?' Sen questioned.
Calling the film 'an outstanding piece of art', Sen, who had strongly opposed capital punishment in the run up to Dhananjoy Chatterjee's hanging in August 2004, alleged withdrawal of the film was a 'direct infringement' on the freedom of expression of the director.
National Award-winning actress Konkona has also taken up the film's cause. She recently sent DVDs of the film to a select group of movie personalities in Mumbai for their comments.
Earlier, Magsaysay awardee litterateur Mahashweta Devi had come out in support of Joseph after a private screening of the film. 'I was impressed. The treatment of the subject is entirely objective. It is unfortunate that the film that could have initiated a debate on capital punishment was not allowed a chance to be screened in the city,' she said.
Having held private shows for celebrities in the state and turned down by a few other exhibition halls, Joseph has received an invitation from Mumbai's multiplex Inox for screening his movie there. A non-governmenal organisation, the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights, has also arranged for special shows across the state.