Monday, 30th October 2017

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Art and politics need not mix

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  • Published 22.07.10

Calcutta, July 21: A motley group’s absence from Trinamul’s biggest rally in Calcutta has sent out the message that Mamata Banerjee’s honeymoon with her culture clan is over.

Some of the most vociferous supporters of change in Bengal — painters Suvaprasanna, Jogen Chowdhury and Samir Aich, theatre personalities Bibhash Chakraborty and Saonli Mitra, poet Joy Goswami and writer Mahasweta Devi — were missing on a day Mamata launched the final leg of her journey towards Writers’ Buildings.

Instead of keeping under wraps the list of those who were not there at the programme, Mamata offered an explanation for their absence. “We could not inform all the distinguished representatives from the world of art and culture about today’s rally because of paucity of time,” Mamata said in an unapologetic tone.

But Trinamul sources said the “paucity of time” argument had a larger message, given that the martyrs’ day programme is always planned in advance and held on July 21 every year. “She (Mamata) doesn’t want to involve most of her cultural brigade in any of her political activities,” said a Trinamul insider.

The message assumes importance as Mamata has been embarrassed several times by some of her hand-picked members of the culture brigade.

First, Trinamul MP Kabir Suman openly criticised the party and then another close aide fell out of favour for apparently collecting money using her name.

According to Trinamul insiders, today’s list of invitees revealed her preference. The fortunate few included singer Nachiketa, former bureaucrat Debabrata Bandyopadhyay, academic Sunanda Sanyal, writer Mahasweta and theatre personality Bratya Basu.

Bratya, however, could not attend the rally because he was out of Calcutta on a professional engagement. The reason behind Mahasweta Devi’s no-show could not be independently confirmed.

Mamata’s rise in Bengal politics after Singur and Nandigram coincided with her increasing popularity among the representatives from the world of art and culture. Many of them became regulars at her programmes.

She had personally invited Suvaprasanna, his wife Shipra, Mahasweta and Bratya to last year’s martyrs’ day programme.

“This time we weren’t invited. We had been told that the meeting today was going to be purely political. Also, it’s not necessary for us to make an appearance every time there’s a meeting and expect to be felicitated with bouquets,” said Suvaprasanna.

Theatre personalities Chakraborty and Mitra said they were in favour of change but as they did not belong to any political party, they did not expect any invitation.

But Mamata’s culture team saw two new faces — singer Santanu Roychowdhury and folk artiste Parikshit Bala — both of whom also performed at today’s programme. Actor Biswajit was there on the dais, too, and was seen chatting with Mamata.

“My father was here for some work and he must have stayed back for today’s programme,” said Biswajit’s actress-daughter Pallavi Chatterjee.