|Dilip Pal’s Chappell-lookalike asura and the new one. Pictures by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya and Pradip Sanyal
2001: Osama bin Laden
2006: Greg Chappell
Terror got a new face today, with the Team India coach joining a dubious list of ‘public enemy number one’ — all portrayed as the asura by Puja organisers only to be defaced by police panic.
In the raging battle of good versus evil, of Durga versus Mahishasura — some would say Sourav Ganguly versus Greg Chappell — Calcutta Police have decided to play it safe.
The force led by Prasun Mukherjee — who famously fought and lost a fight of good against evil in the CAB presidential elections — made it clear that if the global face of terror as asura could have sparked trouble, if the bandit as asura was in bad taste, the cricket coach as asura could fan sentiments with Sourav struggling to regain a place in the team.
“We have decided to keep a close vigil and ensure that not a single Mahishasura resembles Chappell.
“Our suggestion to all Puja organisers is to follow this instruction. Police will intervene if this is violated,” said Pradip Chatterjee, deputy commissioner of police, headquarters.
The first to be no-balled in the cricket crackdown was artist Dilip Pal, busy modelling a Mahishasura on Chappell (as reported in Metro on August 28) for Deshabandhu Road Sarbojanin Durgotsab.
Officers from the Shyampukur police station came calling in Kumartuli late last night and told Pal “politely” to change Chappell into a “normal asura”.
"They told me they had orders from Lalbazar that I must change the way the asura looked so that it bore no resemblance to Greg Chappell," recounted Pal.
The veteran Puja artisan called up Yubak Brinda club in Baranagar and broke the news. “After a meeting we decided to follow the orders and gave the asura a moustache and a normal look. A lot of my time and craftsmanship has gone waste, but…” Pal trailed off.
Chandan Bera, a member of the Puja organising committee, expressed disappointment but saw a silver lining.
“We are obviously sad, especially the kids, as we had thought of this as a form of disciplined protest against the way Sourav has been treated.
The authorities have stepped in to curb that freedom of expression. But we are still happy that the controversy itself will carry our message to the people,” Bera said.
Kumartuli artisans have not taken kindly to the police action. “This is curtailing our artistic freedom. And if the authorities do have such holy cows we should be given a full list in advance. Why waste the efforts of an artist and demoralise him,” said Babu Pal, secretary of the Kumartuli Mritshilpi Sanskritik Samity.
The police, however, stuck to their no Chappell this Puja, please, line.
“We don’t want any controversy in the festive season. This year, the Sourav versus Chappell issue is a sensitive one and might cause trouble if played up during the Puja days. So, we have alerted all thanas to play it safe,” said a senior official.
Sourav could not be contacted for comment.
Still on sporting spirit, there was confusion till late on Wednesday whether the Zinedine Zidane head-butt on Durga’s lion for the Baruipur Madarhat Dakshinpara Puja would be red-carded.
While an officer of Shyampukur police station said that Zidane would not be allowed on to the Puja pitch, Kumartuli artisans claimed they had not yet received any such diktat against the French football hero.