| Fossils frontman Rupam and actress Churni Ganguly, judges of CESC The Telegraph True Spirit Puja, get into the festive spirit at the 41 Pally puja in Haridevpur as the Inca-style figures at the pandal look on. Picture by Pabitra Das
After three days of criss-crossing the city as conscience-keepers of the Pujas, it is time to applaud the six who have passed the test with flying colours.
41 Pally in Haridevpur emerged the Model Puja (Rs 50,000). With the crowning of the pandal themed on the Inca civilisation, the 2007 edition of CESC The Telegraph True Spirit Puja has proved that artistic excellence can go hand in hand with commitment to the community.
At 41 Pally, the organisers had dug deep to bring alive a forgotten civilisation. “I never thought I’d see Machu Pichu in Calcutta,” said Rupam, the Fossils frontman. Also, they had installed a closed-circuit camera in front of their main electric meter box to keep an eye on potential fire hazards. They had even set up a medical room, where trained nurses were waiting to attend to any pandal-hopper taken ill.
Industrialist Harsh Neotia was especially impressed with the use of non-combustible Siporex to build the Incan motifs. “They had the resources and made the effort of procuring it all the way from Maharashtra for an innovative purpose,” he said, putting a nine out of 10 on the scoresheet.
The decision was not an easy one, though. The Manicktalla Chaltabagan Lohapatty puja, which has figured on every True Spirit final list for the past five years, ran 41 Pally so close that the six judges — theatre personality Manoj Mitra, cricketer Devang Gandhi, actress Churni Ganguly, festival arts sculptor Myra Rasmussen, Dilip Samajpati of CESC, Biswadeep Gupta of Eden Realty Ventures, Bhaskar Ghosh and Somnath Bhattacharya of KPC Medical College & Hospital, Jadavpur, along with Rupam and Harsh Neotia — were forced into a tie-breaker.
Mitra spoke up for the theme at Chaltabagan — a bajra from Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay’s novel Debi Choudhurani. At Samajpati’s behest, the True Spirit considerations prevailed. A huge map pointing out the location of every emergency equipment scored points, as did the solar lights and emergency alarm at Chaltabagan.
“But isn’t it just too perfect'” asked Devang, drawing support from other judges. So, Manicktalla Chaltabagan Lohapatty was bestowed Five Star status (Rs 25,000).
Another puja to win the Five Star crown was Naktala Udayan Sangha’s airy and colourful citadel of bamboo, which offered good entry and exit facilities.
The rest of the final six had also brought a lot of positives to the table. “At all the pujas we visited on Friday, the participatory spirit was phenomenal. That was backed by tremendous creativity and innovative use of materials,” said Neotia.
The reception, perhaps, was the warmest at Yuvak Gosthi in Thakurpukur, where women in red-bordered saris showered petals and applied tilak on the foreheads of guests. “It gave a feel of a para puja where people come together for a cause,” felt Ghosh. The prize: Four Star status (Rs 20,000).
The Senhati Durgotsav Samity puja also had an air of community participation, with the pandal chock-a-block at anjali time.
“I love pujas in such open spaces,” said Churni. “I wish they had put the space to better use,” felt Mitra. A Four Star was what they got.
Behala Club, a former True Spirit Model Puja, has kept the flag flying. A crowd-puller, it has kept two exits as well as an ambulance and water ready for emergencies. This was the third of the Four Star pujas.
As the award was declared, the Haridevpur puja found another reason to celebrate its golden jubilee. “It is the briefing we get for participation in the True Spirit Puja that has showed us the direction,” said chief coordinator Dipankar Chatterjee.
Now, it is time for the 35 children at Samparc, the orphanage run by the club, to celebrate. “We are planning a mangsho-bhaat lunch for them on Navami,” said Chatterjee.