The Telegraph
Saturday , February 1 , 2014
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Mamata plays to the Left gallery

Mamata at the play with Sabyasachi Chakrabarty. (Subhashis Roy)

At work or play, Mamata Banerjee seems to be making all the right moves with known Left sympathisers in the world of art and culture.

A day after Mahasweta Devi announced Mamata as her choice for Prime Minister at the Brigade Parade Grounds, actress Kheyali Dastidar revealed at Rabindra Sadan that it was “love at first sight” for her while meeting the chief minister.

Husband Arindam Ganguly and co-actor Sabyasachi Chakrabarty appeared just as enthused about Mamata coming to watch Charbak’s play Ekhon Tokhon, a tribute to Indian cinema on its centenary.

They had apparently decided to invite Mamata — and stage the play at a venue and time convenient for her — in response to an unexpected gesture from her a few weeks earlier.

“It is known that we are Leftists. So it was a surprise to receive a call from the chief minister’s office,” Kheyali told Metro of her feelings on being informed that her father Jochhon Dastidar had been selected for a posthumous state-sponsored award.

If the actress had any reservations, a hug on stage at the West Bengal Tele Academy Awards at Science City on January 4 made her look at Mamata in new light. “There was no mistaking the genuineness of her emotion,” Kheyali recalled.

Sabyasachi was conferred a lifetime achievement award at the same function.

The lanky actor said on Friday that he and Kheyali weren’t confident that Mamata would accept their invitation to Ekhon Tokhon “on the spot”.

“We thought she would refuse but she agreed. All that remained for us was to visit Nabanna as a formality. Even there, she received us with open arms,” Sabyasachi said.

Mamata, usually fidgety, sat through the 140-minute play with ministers Bratya Basu, Firhad Hakim and Aroop Biswas by her side.

After the play ended, she took the stage to embrace Kheyali and spoke for over three minutes.

“It is known that I love cinema, theatre and culture. When Sabyasachi, Arindam and Kheyali requested me, I said I would come. It was a very good play. Kothao boring byapar nei (no part was boring),” Mamata said.

The chief minister had a word for every aspect of the production, be it the dialogues, the music or the dubbing in the black-and-white film pastiches shot for the play. “People should come and see this play to understand our cinema,” she said.

Turning to director Ganguly, she said: “Tumi eto sundar natok koro, jantam na (I didn’t know you do plays so well).”

“Excellent, superb, fabulous,” was Mamata the theatre critic’s verdict as she handed over the mike, only to take it back to mention Sabyasachi’s acting along with that of the rest of the cast.