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Farooki’s ‘Shonibar Bikel’ gets greenlight for release after four years

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The appeal committee of the Bangladesh Film Censor Board has rejected the board’s earlier objection to issuing a clearance certificate for Mostofa Sarwar Farooki’s highly-anticipated movie, “Shonibar Bikel”, paving the way to screen the film nationwide after four years in limbo.

The censor board blocked the theatrical release of the film, loosely translated as “Saturday Afternoon”, in 2019, when the acclaimed Bangladeshi director submitted it for scrutiny, citing the film may “incite religious tension in the Muslim-majority nation”.

The committee did not agree with the objections raised by the censor board at a hearing on Saturday and subsequently issued the necessary clearance, Daily Bhorer Kagoj Editor Shyamal Dutta, who was on the appeal panel, told bdnews24.com.

“We will soon issue a letter to the director that there is no bar for the film to be screened nationwide,” he said.

In an immediate reaction, Farooki, who has been actively campaigning against a crackdown on artistic creativity, said he has yet to receive an official notice.

Apart from journalist Dutta, members of the appeal panel, headed by the cabinet secretary and the chairman of the censor board as its convenor, included actor and parliamentarian Suborna Mustafa, actor Suchorita and retired additional secretary Nurul Karim.

The much-talked-about film, a Bangladesh-India-German co-production, dramatises the July 2016 attack on an upscale café in Dhaka’s Gulshan by Islamic militants who killed 22 of their hostages, including 18 foreigners.

The film aims to establish that terrorists use religion to divide and kill people, while the surviving hostages, all of them also Muslims, try to defend their own humanistic values, according to IMDb, an online database of information related to films and television series. The film unravels the clashes and contradictions of religion, ideology, and civilisation through a terror drama shot in a single take.

Noted Bangladeshi and Indian actors -- Zahid Hasan, Nusrat Imrose Tisha, Iresh Zaker and Parambrata Chattopadhyay -- were featured in the film, alongside celebrated Palestinian actor Eyad Hourani.

The movie has received numerous commendations from critics domestically and abroad for its production quality.

In 2019, the censor board rejected Farooki’s application to release the film upon receiving an objection from the board’s member representing the Bangladesh Ministry of Home Affairs.

It said at the time that the film may damage the country’s image since it was based on a “sensitive issue”.

Farooki has always maintained that his film was not a depiction of the grisly events that transpired in July 2016, rather the narrative of the film’s script was “inspired by those events”.

Recently, the Indian film authorities announced the release date of a film, 'Faraaz', directed by Hansal Mehta, which is based on the same militant attack.

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