Jatra earns party wrath - Mouthpiece denies ad space to pala named after chief minister

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  • Published 14.08.06

What’s in a name? A lot, to go by the experience of a jatra troupe.

Sovabazar-based Natta Company, which has been regaling audiences across Bengal for more than a century, has become the target of political wrath for the title of its latest play, Mukhyamontrir Ma.

The troupe has been denied advertisement space in CPM mouthpiece Ganashakti and some individuals are reportedly threatening it not to perform the jatra.

“This never happened before,” said Makhanlal Natta, proprietor of the 137-year-old group. “The title doesn’t refer to any particular chief minister. This is a social play and as theatre practitioners, we feel it is our duty to refer to contemporary events. There is no ban order, but some individuals have vowed not to let the pala to be performed.”

The story is about a mother and a son, long separated. The mother has to serve a 13-year prison term. “Some of the dialogues echo the Bengal chief minister’s speeches. How can that hurt their sentiments?” asked Natta.

Unfazed by the threats, he asserted that Mukhyamontrir Ma would debut as scheduled on September 7 and he would seek legal help if required.

Rallying around Natta, Agragami Jatra Company’s Prasanta Goswami regretted the political brow-beating. Deby Hajra, of Satyanaryan Opera, feels that with such political opposition to the title, Natta Company may finally have to change it. “Some years ago, a group had staged Manoniyo Mukhyamontri Bolchi. It did not face any problem. I wonder why such a thing is happening this time,” said Hajra.

Actor/dramatist Utpal Roy points out that the pala names are less to do with the text than the commercial aspect.

Bookings are made six months in advance and the one thing that sells a pala so early is its name. “Once, two palas on bodhus were launched simultaneously, Pujarini Bodhu and Pukurey Bhasche Bodhur Lash. Though the first one was much better, the second grabbed most bookings because of its catchy title,” explained Roy, who plays a drunkard, Pancha Pint, in Mukhyamontrir Ma.