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Rituparna Chatterjee
Thursday , May 31, 2012 at 13 : 11

Mamata opens her heart to KKR, forgets Soumitra


New Delhi: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's unbridled joy at the Kolkata Knight Riders winning the fifth season of the Indian Premier League was on display at the Eden Gardens on May 29 during a lavish ceremony to felicitate the KKR players. She was seen thoroughly enjoying herself as team co-owners and actors Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla regaled the crowds with impromptu jigs to Bangla bands playing popular numbers.

Nothing wrong there. The home team has after all lifted the cup after five years. But several questions were asked about Governor MK Narayanan's comment that "this was the true poribartan (change) promised by the CM a year ago", thereby affiliating his apolitical post with the Trinamool Congress's 'poriborton' slogan and the giving away of gold chains to the players at the function. In my earlier post, I had questioned the involvement of the state government, and specifically the CM, with an event that was, at the end of the day, a club victory and not a national sporting achievement like India's ICC World Cup win.

The players, who actually helped the people of Kolkata achieve this dream, were relegated to the sidelines during the ceremony. "What is wrong in celebrating a much coveted win, even if it's a club cricket milestone for the city?" was the common response I received on social networking sites.

The scale of the celebrations raises some uncomfortable question that I doubt the West Bengal government will answer.

If Kolkata values its achievers, why has the government not felicitated legendary actor Soumitra Chatterjee after he received the Dadasaheb Phalke Award? The award is undoubtedly India's highest honour for exemplary contribution to cinema and the performing arts. While the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Sahara Group honoured Chatterjee, filmmaker Satyajit Ray's muse, there has been no official acknowledgment by the state government.

Chatterjee has given Bengali cinema a global face and structure through years of consistently brilliant performances. Chatterjee's association with Ray led to one of greatest eras in celluloid creativity. The 77-year-old thespian was awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke award for lifetime achievement this year. He has won international accolade, including the 'Officier des Arts et Metiers', the highest award of Arts by the French government.

It has been five years since the bloody Operation Nandigram, a then Left government backed open war against the Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee, set up to oppose the land acquisition of farmers. The committee had the support of among others, the then Opposition TMC.

At that time Chatterjee, a life-long Marxist, had sided with the Left Front and was cornered by the city's eminent voices criticizing his decision to support what they perceived as extreme police brutality. The scars of Nandigram have perhaps healed but the present government has perhaps distanced itself from the veteran actor.

In an interview he gave to The Telegraph in Kolkata in January this year, Chatterjee said "Yes, I have been a Leftist throughout, but that doesn't mean that I approve of the way that it works here in West Bengal. Things could have been done differently, maybe. When I read the Communist manifesto, I thought the words held truth and in fact it does even today....

When I was in college I went through this rebellious phase, probably like everyone else. I came close to politics during that time in my life." When asked by interviewer Suman Ghosh about his view of the current West Bengal government, Chatterjee said "I haven't been able to form any yet, it's too early... Haven't seen any big changes as such."

Mamata is a patron of arts and enjoys the support of several present day stars in Tollywood, the film industry in Kolkata, including Trinamool Congress MLA Debasree Roy. It makes the government's apathy to Chatterjee stand out in sharper relief.

Is it Chatterjee's political affiliation that has created the rift between him and state government? Would the WB government be as extravagant in honouring a veteran artiste as it was in the case of the lavish KKR felicitation ceremony?


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More about Rituparna Chatterjee

In her 10 years in the media, Rituparna has worked both on the field as a reporter as well as off it, on the desk. Lover of cumin flavoured "authentic" Chinese food. God is watching but that's no compulsion to keep the desktop neat.