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Little Mamata’s night out

Calcutta, July 24: Picture this. The clock is inching towards 9pm. Mamata Banerjee, not yet into her teens, accompanies her mother to a movie hall near their Harish Chatterjee Street home. As the film starts rolling, she dozes off.

Sipping tea and turning the clock back by four decades and a half, it was a relaxed Mamata who was seated in the manager’s ante-chamber at Basushree cinema in Bhowanipore on Saturday evening. “Ma used to go for the 9 to12 show. I was in Class V-VI then. A lot of women in those times preferred the late night show, you know. Bijoli, Ujjwala, Purna… I have been to all those halls.”

The girl has since grown up to dent even the seemingly impregnable Red fortress of Bengal. But this evening, she looked a far cry from the fire-spewing political leader she is known to be.

Basushree was to host a Films Division documentary on Uttam Kumar on the actor’s 30th death anniversary today. But the screening would not start in a while. The other guests were not in yet.

“I watched films till Class XII. I remember seeing Sanyasi Raja,” Mamata said, her face brightening up. She would soon include the film along with three others in her party colleague Choudhury Mohan Jatua’s list of 20 Uttam Kumar films to be restored. Jatua is Union minister of state for information and broadcasting.

Janen, ami gaan shuntey bhalobashi, sotyi bolchhi. Kintu pari koi? (You know, I love listening to music, honestly. But I don’t get the time.) When was the last time I saw a film? Sangram, sanghorsho, marpit…ei korei chole gyalo (Struggle, conflict, combat … that’s what took up all my time),” she smiled wistfully.

But music is back in her life these days, she said, thanks to Shilpi Sansad, a forum Uttam Kumar had floated. “I also insist that all railway programmes should have a lot of song and dance.”

Her thoughts turned to Uttam Kumar again. “I’ve heard he used to memorise the lyrics of his songs.”

She then sent the few people in the room into titters by saying: “These days, no one plays the harmonium! Earlier they did riyaz in the morning and neighbours got so irritated.”

Sa ni dha ni sa…” she started humming. “Give me a harmonium… I can play.” She remembered how at a funeral, she had bailed out singer Nirmala Mishra. “Nirmaladi bollo, ki gaibo? Kotha bhule gechhi (Nirmaladi said, ‘What shall I sing? I have forgotten the words’). I suggested a few songs. She sang, I supplied the words from behind.”

By now, Uttam Kumar’s grandchildren have arrived. Hearing that Gourab is switching to the theatre, Mamata made an aide call up director Haranath Chakraborty. “You must back Gourab,” she instructed him. Word reached her that actress Supriya Chowdhury had arrived. Mamata stands up. “Is your kurta from Fab India?” she asked this correspondent. On getting an affirmative reply, she broke into a broad grin: “I may not go to the market, but I keep myself informed.”

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