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Friday, 16 November, 2001, 22:52 GMT
Bengal communists rage over Lenin film
By the BBC's Subir Bhaumik in Calcutta

Taurus, a film by Russian director Alexander Sukorov on the last few years of Lenin's life, has led to a major controversy among the ruling Communists in the Indian state of West Bengal.

The film was to be screened in the Calcutta annual Film Festival on Friday.


The film potrays a weak and infirm leader, a stark contrast to the firebrand revolutionary who established the world's first communist state

But it was withdrawn at the last moment.

Several senior Communist leaders have criticized the film for allegedly distorting the later life of Lenin.

But the state's Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, a big film fan, was believed to have personally suggested the film for screening to the festival committee.

Portrait everywhere

Statues of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin may have vanished in many former Communist countries but he stands tall in the heart of Calcutta.

The city's main thoroughfare is named after him.

Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Buddhadev Bhattacharya
Bhattacharya - is the party trying to show him who is in charge?

His potrait, along with that of his successor Stalin, are prominently displayed in offices of the ruling party.

But when Mr Bhattacharya suggested the screening of the film Taurus at this year's Calcutta Film Festival, little did he know many of his colleagues would react as sharply as they have.

The film on the last few years of Lenin, by Russian director Alexander Sukorov, potrays a weak and infirm leader, a stark contrast to the firebrand revolutionary who established the world's first communist state.

Earlier this week, Bengal's former Chief Minister Jyoti Basu and the Left coalition Chairman Biman Bose severely criticized the film and described it as a complete distortion of history.

Taken aback, Mr Bhattacharya said he would comment later.

A Communist cultural front started demonstrations in some film festival venues, demanding that the film not be screened.

On Friday the audience went in to see Taurus, only to be shown another film, Mother and Son, by the same director.

Many were annoyed.

Avoiding controversy

Festival director Angshu Sur said that the only print of Taurus they had received had to be sent off to London for screening in a festival this week.

Lenin
Calcutta's main street is named after Lenin

But sources in the festival committee said the film had been withdrawn at the behest of the Chief Minister who was keen to avoid a controversy within the party.

The Chairman of the Film festival committee and a leading film and theatre personality, Soumitra Chatterji, told journalists the potrayal of Lenin in Taurus was close to the accounts given by his biographers.

Observers say the Communist party leadership are unhappy with the Chief Minister for taking some recent initiatives without prior approval of the party - and they say the leadership may have used Taurus to embarrass Mr Bhattacharya and show the people that the party, not the Chief Minister, is in charge.

See also:

06 Nov 00 | South Asia
India's Red star fades away
15 Mar 01 | South Asia
Indian opposition capitalises on crisis
14 Mar 01 | South Asia
Scandal threatens Indian coalition
01 Mar 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: India
01 Mar 01 | South Asia
Timeline: India
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