|Bhattacharjee at the meeting with the culture clan at Vidya Mandir in south Calcutta. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Calcutta, April 5: Letters of regret from absent luminaries marked Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s interaction with the culture clan today in Calcutta, where he referred to the stranglehold of “chit fund money” on Bengal’s film industry.
But while he said the “infiltration by chit funds” was “tarnishing” Tollywood, the former chief minister took care not to sound critical of the absentees. He also suggested that the film industry had no choice if it wanted to continue earning a living.
A few grey eminences flanked Bhattacharjee on the dais at the Vidya Mandir event, organised by Left frontal bodies in the name of teachers, writers, artists and film industry people.
But Left-leaning Tollywood notables such as actors Soumitra Chatterjee and Biplab Chatterjee and director Buddhadeb Dasgupta stayed away, merely sending letters wishing the programme a success.
Known for his proximity to “intellectuals”, Bhattacharjee would have been wounded by the latest proof of his dwindling support among the culture clan, a large chunk of which has gone over to Trinamul since the Left’s 2011 Assembly poll defeat.
“Chit funds have been flourishing and investing in some newspapers under Trinamul rule. Unfortunately, chit fund money and black money have invaded the Tollygunge film industry too,” Bhattacharjee, the lone speaker at the south Calcutta event, said towards the end of his 30-minute address.
His reference was to deposit-mobilising companies such as Saradha, popularly referred to as “chit funds”.
“They are tarnishing the image of this industry. And what do I say? Tollygunge is bowing its head before chit funds,” Bhattacharjee said.
He, however, added: “But what do they do? They have no option. Otherwise, they won’t get any work. I have no intention of insulting any person in the cultural world….”
Those who sat in the first two rows on the dais included Tarun Majumdar, Abul Bashar, Ashoke Mukhopadhyay, Usha Ganguly, Chitra Sen, Pabitra Sarkar, Wasim Kapoor and Debesh Roy.
But many other avowed Leftists stayed away — such as theatre personality Sova Sen, actors Papiya Adhikari and Dwijen Bandopadhyay, and singers Amar Pal and Abhijit Bandopadhyay.
Mamata Banerjee’s glamour list of Lok Sabha candidates, on the other hand, boasts the star power of Dev, Moon Moon Sen, Arpita Ghosh, Soumitra Roy, Bhaichung Bhutia, Indranil Sen and Sandhya Roy.
A CPM leader said that Bhattacharjee had not had much expectations about today’s gathering and had initially hesitated over attending it.
“We knew that Tollywood is with Mamata now. So, Buddhada had no great expectations. But we thought that some prominent faces with Left leanings would come to today’s programme. But that did not happen,” a CPM leader said.
The recent switch by poet Subodh Sarkar, actor-director Arindam Sil and singer Indranil Sen to the Trinamul camp would have been playing on Bhattacharjee’s mind.
“Many personalities in the art and film worlds were very close to Buddhada when he was chief minister. So, their switchovers may have prompted his remarks,” a CPM state committee leader said.
Bhattacharjee has always taken the views of “intellectuals” seriously. After artistes and writers marched on Calcutta’s streets in protest against the 2007 Nandigram firing, he had addressed the fraternity at the Science City auditorium to explain his stand.
He had again addressed the culture clan at a Kala Mandir event before the 2011 Assembly polls.
In his speech today, Bhattacharjee touched on the political situation and the “anarchy’’ in Bengal.