How would you feel if a film shooting at Taj Mahal involved blowing up a vehicle at the monument?
Something similar happened at a historic bridge in North Bengal.
Movie shooting at Sevoke Coronation Bridge this morning. As per sources full precaution was taken prior to the shoot. pic.twitter.com/ocQYnXXSBk— I Love Siliguri (@ILoveSiliguri) March 24, 2022
On March 24, 2022, Thursday, locals of Kalimpong district in North Bengal were shocked and terrified to hear a loud blast that came from the historic Sevoke Coronation Bridge that connects the districts of Darjeeling and Kalimpong. The locals were soon greeted with the sight of a burning truck. Videos circulating on social media of the alleged event showed a truck being blown up on the bridge.
The explosion was part of the shooting of a web series called Kaala, helmed by director Bejoy Nambiar.
Netizens poured their anger on the incident, asking why the police gave permission for such a shoot on a historic and fragile bridge.
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The Sevoke Coronation Bridge is a historic colonial-era bridge that connects the districts of Darjeeling and Kalimpong in West Bengal. The bridge was built by the British in 1941. Spanning the Teesta River, the Coronation Bridge in Sevoke is situated in the 22-km-narrow corridor – AKA the Chicken’s Neck Corridor – connecting Northeast India with the rest of India.
On Thursday, a group of filmmakers including Nambiar went to the location to film a scene, which involved blowing up a truck. East Mojo reported citing sources that police officials from the Sevoke outpost were also present at the shooting site.
However, when the loud blast was heard, locals rushed to the area and the people present at the shooting site allegedly fled. Aparajita Rai, the SP of Kalimpong, told East Mojo that initial investigation revealed that no prior permission was taken to shoot in the area.
Additional SP of Kalimpong Mohamad Azim also confirmed the same to DailyO over a phone call. Following the incident, the line producer of the shoot Chaitali Bandyopadhyay was arrested and she remains in judicial custody, Azim told DailyO.
WHAT WAS BEING SHOT AT SEVOKE?
Apparently, shooting was underway for a web series helmed by Bejoy Nambiar (of The Fame Game, Wazir, Taish fame). Nambiar was also present at the shooting site when the incident took place. Reports say he tried to leave the state for New Delhi in the aftermath of the incident, but had to return before he could get to the Bagdogra airport, when he got a call from the Kalimpong Police.
Now, an investigation is underway.
Mohamad Azim, the Additional SP of Kalimpong, told DailyO that all parties are cooperating with the investigation, but he said that he couldn’t reveal much about the case given that it is under investigation.
Sevoke Coronation Bridge (left) and director Bejoy Nambiar (right). Photo: Creative commons and bejoynambiar/Instagram
DailyO got in touch with Bejoy Nambiar, who also refused to divulge much on the case saying that it’s still under investigation. Nambiar is still in North Bengal at the time of writing this.
Chaitali Bandyopadhyay, the only person arrested in the case so far, has reportedly been working in the local film industry and was roped in for the web series. Bandyopadhyay is currently in judicial custody, where she has been remanded till April 7.
hope the blast intensity did no damage to the bridge!!!— Avishek Biswas (@Avishek_bs) March 24, 2022
Meanwhile, the locals have also demanded a CBI inquiry into the incident. There are allegations that the remains of the truck used in the blast sequence is being sent to Kolkata for forensic analysis. The bridge, right after the scene was shot, was painted over by the film crew. This was apparently done to hide any damages done to the bridge, allege locals.
WHAT THE LAW SAYS
Under the Ancient Monuments and Archeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, desceration of monuments can be punished with a fine of Rs 5,000 to Rs 1 lakh and in some cases, the accused can also face 2 years of imprisonment.
The Sevoke Coronation Bridge was built in 1941 to commemorate the coronation of Britain’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1937. The construction took four years. It is quite a fragile monument, having been neglected for long. In 2011, a powerful earthquake further damaged the bridge. However, the bridge has continued to function despite its poor upkeep.
It is not the first time that filmmakers in India have faced the heat for shooting at monuments, nor is it likely going to be the last. In 2009, Bollywood actor Salman Khan's film shooting for Veer at Rajasthan's historic Amer Fort was stopped mid-way by the High Court after a wall of the monument collapsed, injuring several on the set.