‘Netaji No Baba’: Bengali Film ‘Gumnaami’ Caught In Controversy

Netaji’s family has objected to the movie probing the Gumnaami Baba theory as one theory around Netaji’s death.

4 min read

Bengali filmmaker Srijit Mukherji’s upcoming film ‘Gumnaami’, based on the theories surrounding Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s disappearance has been embroiled in controversy.

Members of Netaji’s family have objected to Mukherji exploring the ‘Gumnaami Baba’ theory of Bose’s disappearance as one of the theories of his disappearance in his movie. The family says that unlike the other two theories that Mukherji talks about in the movie, the Gumnaami Baba theory is ‘not a theory at all’.


‘Netaji Hated Babas’

Speaking to The Quint, Netaji’s grand-nephew, Chandra Kumar Bose, said that showing Netaji as possibly being ‘Gumnaami Baba’ after his disappearance on 18 August 1945 was an insult to his legacy.

The Gumnaami Baba theory, which surfaced soon after Netaji’s disappearance, claims that Netaji was living in hiding in Uttar Pradesh’s Faizabad as Gumnaami Baba after surviving a plane crash in Japan in which he was said to be killed. The theory goes on to state that Bose continued to live on in independent India till his death.

“Subhash Chandra Bose and Gumnaami Baba cannot be connected for the simple reason that the character of these two individuals are far apart. However, as there was a rumour in Faizabad that Gumnaami Baba was Netaji in disguise this angle was considered by the Justice Mukherjee Commission and a DNA test was done. DNA was taken both from Subhash Chandra Bose’s maternal side as well as his paternal side. The result was negative.”
Chandra Bose to The Quint

“Netaji was a spiritual person, but Netaji was no ‘baba’. He hated the concept of ‘baba’. You see it in his own writings. We should not denigrate him in this manner by comparing him to a recluse like Gumnaami Baba in Faizabad,” he added.

Director Srijit Mukherji, however, says that the Gumnaami Baba theory is just one of the theories that he has explored in his film, and that he has not passed any judgement in his film by inclining towards any one theory.

“If you’ve seen the trailer or the poster or the teaser (of the film), it is very evident that there are three questions that are being raised. Did he die in a plane crash? Did he die in Russia? Or did he die in India? So if there are 3 questions raised, I think isn’t it apparent and evident that I’ve dealt with all three theories?  My film takes note of the fact that people deserve to know what happened to their greatest hero 74 years after his disappearance. That is the greatest insult, the greatest possible slight, that can be made to a national hero.”
Srijit Mukherji to The Quint

Director Changed Name Of Film To Subvert Censor Board, Says Family; Mukherji Denies

The Bose family has also alleged that Mukherji changed the title of the film from ‘Gumnaami Baba’ to ‘Gumnaami’, in order to subvert the censor board. They also say that while the director has earlier said that his movie was based on the book ‘Conundrum’ by Chandrachur Ghose and Anuj Dhar, he has now changed his stance to say that it is based on the Mukherjee Commission hearings that probed Bose’s death.

The book ‘Conundrum’ asserted that Netaji died as Gumnaami Baba, whereas the Mukherjee Commission explored three theories of his death – death in a plane crash, death in Russia, and death in India (as Gumnaami Baba).

“A few months back we saw some teasers and some advertisements on social media about the movie. At that time, it was very clearly stated that his movie was based on a book called Conundrum. Conundrum clearly states that Gumnaami Baba was Netaji. Now when he (Mukherji) realised that Conundrum has not put forward any clinching evidence, he shifted his stance and he said his movie his based on the findings of the Mukherjee Commission. Now, Mukherjee Commission has very clearly stated that based on the DNA and on the handwriting experts’ verdict, Gumnaami Baba has nothing to do with Subhash Chandra Bose. So, why is Srijit Mukherji changing his goalpost?”
Chandra Bose to The Quint

Responding to the allegations of changing the name of the film, Srijit Mukherji said that the Bose family was ‘lying through their teeth’.

“There is not a shred of evidence, any poster, any trailer, anything, any announcement, or any interview where it is said that that the upcoming film is called 'Gumnaami Baba'.
It is a figment of their imagination,” Mukherji said.

Speaking about his movie being based on the book ‘Conundrum’, Mukherji clarified that even though that was the initial plan, after research he felt that the subject matter of ‘Conundrum’ was narrowing down the scope of the film. He, thereafter, decided to base the film on the Mukherjee Commission hearings which were more holistic. This decision, Mukherji says, was taken before the shoot for the film had begun.

“It is true that initially I thought of basing this film Gumnaami on Conundrum. When I started researching on the topic, I realised that basing it on one book will not be fair. This decision to base it on the Mukherjee Commission report and not on Conundrum was taken months back. What the members of the Bose family don’t realise is that you can’t shoot a film like that. You can’t, in the middle of the film or rather after you’ve shot the film based on Conundrum, change the script, shoot it overnight at all the locations and base it on the Mukherjee Commission hearings. So, clearly they don’t know how filmmaking works.”
Srijit Mukherjee to The Quint

Mukherjee’s film ‘Gumnaami’ releases on 2 October.

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