West Bengal election: Screen taste

Mamata Banerjee

Bratya Basu, filmmaker and theatre personality, knows where he stands politically. His Ruddhasangeet is a theatrical attack on Left rule in West Bengal; now Mamata Banerjee, whom he reveres, has fileded him in Dum Dum against CPM minister Goutam Deb.

Chiranjeet Chakraborty, action pin-up boy of the 1990s and now in his late 50s, is not as sure about politics. "Mamata di called me and said she wanted me in her party. I told her I had no idea about politics. She said she had confidence in me and everything else would be taken care of," says Chiranjeet, who too is now a Trinamool candidate.

In the Lok Sabha polls, Mamata fielded actors Satabdi Roy and Tapas Pal, sucessfully. When she opened the Kolkata Metro extension, half the who's who of Tollywood, as Kolkata's film industry is known, were present.

The difference between her tryst with culture and the Left's lies in an effort to look beyond the elitist stereotype that the government's cultural showpiece Nandan stands for.

"Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee hardly ever looks beyond Nandan. He hardly ever acknowledges there is a Tollywood," says filmmaker Haranath Chakraborty, who makes potboilers. Bhattacharjee's clique includes filmmakers Tarun Majumdar, Goutam Ghose and Anindita Sarbadhicari, whose works are acclaimed but appeal largely to a select audience.

"In the past ten years, the number of standalone theatres has dropped from 850 to 300. Unless you are interested in the economics of the industry, what is the point of an intellectually invigorating film festival each year?" says Arijit Dutta, who runs Priya Entertainment that owns theatres and produces films.

"All these years, nobody invited us the way Mamata di has. From inviting us to railway functions to showing concern for the status of the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI), she has done it all," Chiranjeet says.

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