Calcutta, Jan. 18: MLA Fatakeshto, directed by Swapan Saha, Minister Fatakeshto, directed by Swapan Saha…. Coming soon: MP Fatakeshto, directed by Mamata Banerjee.
The tale lies in the off-screen tail.
Mithun Chakraborty, the popular actor once associated with Left spectacles but who has drifted away since the end of the Jyoti Basu era, has been handpicked by the chief minister to run for one of the Rajya Sabha slots that will be vacant in April.
Mithun, whose movies from Mrigaya to Disco Dancer to the prescient Fatakeshto series mirror his real-life transformation from a Naxalite sympathiser to the solitary Bengali superstar without the chocolate-hero label in Bollywood, chose to steer clear of politics today.
“Let’s not get into the bigger issue of my political allegiance or switching affiliations,” Mithun told The Telegraph on phone. “I can only say that I have no clue about the world of politics. But if given an opportunity, I will surely put my best foot forward,” he added.
Five Rajya Sabha vacancies from Bengal are scheduled to come up in April. Trinamul is certain to bag three of the five seats in the elections scheduled on February 7, helping Mithun become an elected representative, a role he enacted in the mass-appeal MLA Fatakeshto and Minister Fatakeshto movies.
Mamata announced the 62-year old actor’s name as the Rajya Sabha candidate on her Facebook page today. “In our state, five Rajya Sabha members will be elected this time. One of these seats will be given to Mithun Chakraborty from the All India Trinamool Congress… Chakraborty is a well-known film personality. He has devoted his life to the cause of cultural and social activities with great success,” Mamata wrote.
While Mamata calls the actor Mithunda, he reciprocates by calling her Mamatadi and his sister.
Trinamul insiders said Mamata conveyed her decision to give the ticket to Mithun at the Keoratala crematorium, where the actor was present for the last rites of Suchitra Sen. “Ami bhebe niyechhi (I have decided),” Mithun quoted Mamata as telling him.
The crematorium may be an unlikely setting but it does mark an unforgettable moment in Mithun’s public life. Mithun’s attachment with the late CPM mass leader, Subhash Chakraborty, was such that the actor flew down to Calcutta on the day the then minister died, reached Writers’ Buildings and went on to join the huge crowd that had assembled there to take the body to the Keoratola crematorium.
Trinamul leaders said Mamata did not attach much importance to Mithun’s past links with the Left.
“Everybody knows that he was very close to Subhas Chakraborty during the heyday of the Left Front government. But the popular sentiment attached with Mithunda cannot be underestimated and she will use him extensively in the Lok Sabha campaign,” said a Trinamul minister.
Mithun told this newspaper that he had been first offered the Rajya Sabha seat when he came to attend the inauguration of the Kolkata Film Festival last November.
“Earlier, too, she had approached me but I was too busy with my film commitments. She feels I am the right person as it is a respectable position and not really politics. She said Sachin Tendulkar, Rekhaji are also in Rajya Sabha and somebody like me should go from her state,” said Mithun.
Trinamul sources said Mamata was extremely fond of Mithun and made it a point to invite him to all big cultural events held in Bengal after she became chief minister.
Fondness for Mithun is not the sole reason for his nomination, said sources in the party.
According to some of them, Mamata has been looking beyond career politicians and trying to field eminent citizens to represent Bengal in the upper House.
“In doing so, she is following a trend that has become visible in national politics as well…. Be it the Congress or the BJP or even the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), several political parties are trying to woo eminent citizens,” said a source.
While Mithun’s name has been finalised, names of a few academicians, a doctor and a theatre personality are also being considered for the two other sure-fire Trinamul seats in the upper House.
Mithun, also called Mahaguru by his fans, climbed the ladder of stardom mouthing one-liners mixed with adrenaline-pumping action and a trademark dance style in the nearly four decades of his acting career, which started with the national award-winning performance in Mrinal Sen’s film Mrigaya in 1976.
While studying in Scottish Church College in north Calcutta, Mithun found appeal in Naxalite politics and was learnt to have been involved in the preparation of leaflets and pamphlets.
“His Left leanings and brief involvement in Naxalite politics were perceived to be the reasons that prompted Mrinalbabu, himself a Leftist, to cast him in Mrigaya. Since then, there was no looking back for Mithun,” a CPM insider said.
Filmmaker Sen expressed surprise when he learnt about Mithun’s candidature, saying he was not aware of the actor’s “political aspirations”.
“The little that I have known him, I believe he would do well if he makes it to the Rajya Sabha. But I would have been happier if he was nominated by some other party,” the nonagenarian told The Telegraph.
Mithun had developed a special bond with Chakraborty, the late CPM leader. “Whenever Mithun came to Calcutta, he would go to Subhasda’s house for lunch or dinner. Subhasda too had put up at Mithun’s hotel in Ooty,” said a CPM leader.
The bond saw Mithun hosting Hope 86, a song-and-dance show to raise funds for flood relief, at the Salt Lake stadium in 1986. On Chakraborty’s request, Mithun had ensured the presence of several leading actors of that time, including Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha.
CPM patriarch Jyoti Basu (Mithun called him Jyoti uncle), not known for cultural inclination, also attended the event following requests from Mithun and Chakraborty.
Besides such mega events, the actor had held live performances on several occasions across the state for fund-raising programmes initiated by Chakraborty.
As Basu’s successor Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, whose passion for matters cultural did not stretch to popular Hindi and Bengali films, did not approve of many actions of Chakraborty, the relationship between Mithun and the Left became lukewarm after Basu’s retirement.