Gumnaami, directed by Srijit Mukherjee, is set for a 2019 Durga Puja release. But weeks before its release, there’s already a lot of controversy around the film, and none other than Prof Sugata Bose – historian, politician and family member of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose – has hit out at Mukherjee.

In an interview with The Bengal Story, Bose had said that “those trying to distort history by projecting Netaji as the criminal Gumnami Baba are either fools or devils”.

Srijit Mukherjee reacts to Prof Sugata Bose’s various allegations:

Your upcoming film Gumnaami has been stirring up a lot of controversy. Some critics have pointed out that there is no factual/historical basis to the character Gumnami Baba, that it is hearsay and completely unsubstantiated, and therefore, you are simply trying to cash in on the Bengalis’ sentiments about Netaji.

Srijit Mukherjee: Those who are making such allegations are either naïve, or they are pretending to be so with some ulterior motive. My film is not about Gumnami Baba. It is set in the context of the Mukherjee Commission’s meetings – which is a historical (and factual) event between 1999 and 2005. Three probable theories on Netaji’s disappearance were discussed there – death in plane crash, death in Russia, or coming to India, living as Gumnami Baba and eventual death. My film deals with the arguments, counter-arguments and evidences in the Commission meetings – presented through two main characters. And that’s why the Censor Board has not only given the film clearance with a “U” certificate without cutting any scene, but has also praised its neutral approach.

Controversies are being manufactured without either watching the film or attempting to understand its context, and in some cases with ulterior motive.

Prof Sugata Bose – who is a member of Netaji’s family – has said that “those trying to distort history by projecting Netaji as the criminal Gumnami Baba are either fools or devils”…

Srijit Mukherjee: What am I supposed to say to that? Those who are unable to grasp what the film is about despite the film being written about in articles, from its posters, teasers and interviews, are neither fools nor devils… only, I doubt their intelligence quotient (IQ). And if discussing Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in the context of Gumnami Baba is tantamount to idiocy, evilness or contempt, then that list has names such as Netaji’s niece Lalita Bose (daughter of Suresh Bose), INA veteran Pabitra Mohan Roy, freedom fighter Leela Roy (a close associate of Bose), Calcutta High Court, Allahabad High Court, the government-formed Mukherjee Commission, Justice Vishnu Sahai Commission and a large number of publications. Are they too fools or devils in the opinion of Prof Sugata Bose?

Prof Sugata Bose has also alleged that with the closure of chit fund companies, Bengali film directors are being forced to rely on rumours in order to create hits…

Srijit Mukherjee: I feel sorry for Prof. Basu as he doesn’t seem to be aware of what’s going on in India. My films have been releasing during the Pujas for the past ten years and they have been blockbusters every time: with hundred per cent success rate. Therefore, just as Prof. Sugata Bose is no RC Majumdar, in the same way Srijit Mukherjee – despite being no Akira Kurosawa – needs no rumours or lies to make hit films and box office success during Durga Puja.

Why a film on Netaji, why a film on events from the past?

Srijit Mukherjee: I have made several films on historical events before. Rajkahini, Jatiswar… and most significantly, Ek Je Chhilo Raja, in which I have treated the complex Bhawal Sanyasi court case with a neutral approach and won a National Award. So this is nothing new for me, and does not involve propaganda or hype.

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Also read: Historian Dr Sugata Bose: Those trying to distort history by projecting Netaji as the criminal Gumnami Baba are either fools or devils.

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