The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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And the crown goes to...

Want to earn celebrity status in Calcutta' If you have a sporting bone in your body, make sure you become the captain of the Indian cricket team. If you have cells that can pass off as grey, make sure you win a Nobel in economics. If you happen to enter the arena of the arts, make sure you stay in there forever, and some.

If that sounds steep, please don’t potter around the city’s star chamber.

This, in a popular nutshell, is the result of an opinion poll conducted by Consumer Connect for Metro on Sunday, among 304 Calcuttans, across various age groups and socio-economic categories.

To begin at the end, the crown for Calcutta’s celebrity number one goes to Sourav Ganguly, with 53 per cent of the votes polled.

He wins it with silken ease — as if stepping out to a spinner at Eden Gardens and sending him soaring to the left of the Club House, where the country’s longest-serving chief minister (Jyoti Basu) and Ms beauty ’n’ brains (Aparna Sen) sit applauding the skipper.

Besides bagging the numero uno celebrity status in town, the Team India captain beats tennis ace Leander Paes and football skipper Bhaichung Bhutia comfortably to the city’s favourite sportsperson slot.

He also leaves in his wake the likes of Rabindranath Tagore, Satyajit Ray and Mother Teresa on the question of who the city is proudest of.

And – Dona, are you there' – Sourav ties for the third spot with Tollywood titan Prosenjit as the best-looking man in Calcutta!

The winner, after all, takes it all.

With Sourav having opened the opinion-poll innings in style, let’s get back to the basics.

If you’re constantly cribbing about how celeb-starved the city is, think again — an overwhelming 87 per cent of respondents feel the city has enough celebrities.

Then, if you think those curves or that cash can book a berth on the celeb ladder, you’re on a slippery slope — a majority of respondents feels achievement and moral integrity are smarter cards to the fame club than money and looks.

As far as the favourite non-resident Calcuttan goes, scholarship scores over the sitar. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen leaves music legend Ravi Shankar in his wake by more than a bit, followed by Ali Akbar Khan and then Jhumpa Lahiri.

The poll, carried out during the first week of June, gave respondents ranging from students to senior citizens a reason to shout out loud about how star-struck they were and to wear their living heroes on their sleeves (though a few legends did creep in, unaided).

What’s a viewpoint in Calcutta without a contradiction here and a controversy there'

If Sourav’s coronation confirms the crowning glory of the contemporary cricket craze, there’s a Coffee House flavour of nostalgia when it comes to the arts.

So, Rabindrasangeet veteran Suchitra Mitra (43 per cent) has only Sunil Shei Shomoy Gangopadhyay (36) as competition for a favourite from the field of arts and culture. The two veterans are followed by poet Joy Goswami, theatre personality Usha Ganguly and artist Bikash Bhattacharjee.

On screen, Soumitra Chatterjee emerges as the city’s actor number one, followed by Victor Banerjee and Sabyasachi Chakraborty, with ‘young blood’ Prosenjit barely fitting into the frame.

Along the same thought lines, Aparna Sen emerges as favourite actress by far, with today’s screen stars Debashree Roy and Rituparna Sengupta proving no patch on the past.

Staying with the beautiful people, the question of mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all throws up some more-than-skin-deep surprises.

When talk turns to looks, the city again conveniently slips into the past (or is that bankruptcy by another name').

Let’s face facts with a figure: The collective age of the two toppers, when it comes to Calcutta’s most beautiful man and woman, comfortably crosses a century.

The beloved beauty of the city remains Aparna Sen, followed by the screen goddess deliberately lost to the public eye for decades.

If the poll salutes Suchitra Sen from black-and-white memory, today’s Tollywood top draw Rituparna Sengupta just about manages to register her pretty presence.

Again, as far as the best-looking man goes, old is gold. Soumitra Chatterjee’s image as Apu — or is it Amal, or maybe Feluda — lingers, especially among the 46-plus age category, with Ray’s best man topping the charts.

But here, tomorrow is closer on the heels of yesterday, with Jishu Sengupta drawing heavily on his 18-25 fan following.

Young girls in the 18-25 age-bracket bend the best-man boundaries way beyond the silver screen and even invade the seat of governance. Yes, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee notches up a few votes behind the Jishus and the Jeets.

The chief minister who hangs out at Nandan and allows daughter Suchetana to do her own thing, is a clear favourite with GenX on the political pop stakes.

Gobbling up a chunk of the 18-25 pie, he staves off a late surge (backed by the 46-plus age-group) from his nonagenarian predecessor, Jyotibabu. Reflecting the Lok Sabha mandate, Mamata Banerjee is a binocular third.

Finally, a pot pourri of cricket and Bollywood, books and politics is stirred up when Calcuttans are asked who their most prized import would be in order to raise the celebrity quotient of the city.

No prizes for guessing that the loudest pitch is for Sachin Tendulkar. Next in queue for a permanent residentship in the city where he started off as a marketing executive is Amitabh Bachchan. Others on the most wanted list range from Amartya Sen to Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

But till Sachin shifts to Salt Lake and Amitabh to Alipore, the boy from Behala is the Maharaj.

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