Controversy erupts over 'actor' Babul Supriyo's film shoot at Visva-Bharati

Updated: Dec 13, 2016, 12:45 IST | mid-day online correspondent

Controversy has erupted in West Bengal over BJP MP Babul Supriyo being allowed to shoot for his upcoming film in Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore's prayer hall at Visva Bharati University

Babul Supriyo
Babul Supriyo

The peaceful environs of Santiniketan have been disturbed and vociferous voices being raised in the halls famous for quiet reflection and deep thought.

Activists and residents of the ashram at Visva Bharati University in West Bengal's Santiniketan are seeking the intervention of President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi against shooting of a "commercial film" inside the ashram that, according to them is a disgrace to the establishment.

A controversy has erupted over allowing the "Upasana Griha" (prayer hall) of Rabindranath Tagore's Visva-Bharati University to be made a venue of the shooting ofa film which has BJP's Babul Supriyo as an actor. 

The stained glass temple, also known as "Kaach Mandir", built by the Nobel laureate's father Maharshi Devendranath Tagore, was intended by the Maharshi to be a place only for offering prayers to Lord Brahma.

Anil Konar, member-secretary of Santiniketan Trust told a news agency, "According to the deed prepared by Maharshi Debendranath Tagore, no activity other than offering prayers to Bramha can be undertaken. Allowing a film to be shot there has hurt the sentiment of the people of Santiniketan".

The unit of the film 'Posto', directed by Shiboprosad Mukherjee of "Belaseshe" fame, said that the controversy is unnecessary since prior permission was taken from the university authorities by producer Atanu Roy Chowdhury. 

Chowdhury said, "We had received the required permission for the shoot. We have shot 'Belaseshe' in Santiniken too. Never did we face any problem while shooting in Santiniketan. I feel an unnecessary controversy is being created." 

Swapan Kumar Dutta, the officiating vice-chancellor of Visva-Bharati, admitted that the permission was indeed given. "They completed shooting in the campus after we gave the permission. They followed all instructions regarding the use of Kaach Mandir. Neither have they violated the rituals nor caused any damage to the structure of the temple," he said.

According to Visva-Bharati insiders, the appearance of Babul Supriyo created the controversy. Babul visited the vice-chancellor last Thursday and immediately after the meeting, a section of people started saying that the temple's sanctity was broken by allowing the shooting. 

On Saturday, TMC minister Subrata Mukherjee in a programme at Bolpur near Santiniketan exhorted the students to protest on this issue, adding fuel to the fire.

"Now our rules seem to have changed. Earlier no permission for shooting used to be given. If we see there is a commercial film shoot during prayer in progress, then that means it is a disgrace to the honour of the ashram's culture," said Subodh Mitra, a resident of the ashram inside the varsity campus.

Mitra said the officiating Vice Chancellor Swapan Dutta "compromised" with the tradition of the prestigious university by allowing shooting of Bengali film "Posto" (Poppy Seeds) directed by filmmaker Shiboprosad Mukherjee inside the prayer hall.

"Such kind of (commercial) activities should stop inside the hall. The Vice Chancellor should either be removed or forced to tender his apology in public," he said, adding he will write to the President and Prime Minister for their intervention.

However, Dutta stood his ground asserting that the Tagore's vision of education is being captured through the movie.

"The concept of education at Patha Bhavan and its culture has been captured in the film. The tradition is still important since Tagore's system encourages one to become a good human being. There is no commercial aspect. It is like an art film and should be supported. Instead, one should protest against the slaughter of chickens and speedy bikes in the vicinity of the ashram," Dutta said, adding the varsity is not charging any fee for the shooting.

This is not the first time that the singer-actor-politician has landed in controversy. 

The singer, who is the Bharatiya Janata Party candidate from Asansol in West Bengal, has landed himself in a controversy way bakc in2014 when had had been accused of entering a temple in an inebriated state. The complaint had been filed by the Asansol Citizens’ Forum. Supriyo had denied the incident, saying "I am a teetotaller." The singer had suggested a political conspiracy to malign him.

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