Mamata slogan invades stage and screen

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  • Published 25.11.09

Mamata Banerjee’s war cry has made it to the silver screen as well as the jatra stage.

Inspired by the success of the Trinamul leader’s slogan “Ma Mati Manush”, the makers of Bengali film Krishna have used the “three magic words” in bold on its posters.

The posters are the talking point in town, as are the jatras on offer this season. At least six prominent jatra troupes of Chitpur have put up bright hoardings of Banglar Ma Mati Manush Kadche… Agnikanya Asche, Ghum Kereche Ma Mati Manush, Mati Amar Ma and Ma Matir Lorai.

“Yes, we were inspired by Trinamul’s slogan, which for us means revolt against corruption,” said Shankar Roy, the director of Krishna, to be released on December 4.

The film has another Trinamul connection — actor and party MP Tapas Pal, who plays an honest cop. Krishna takes pot shots at the Singur fiasco, with farmland acquisition featuring prominently in the script.

Pal said: “Ma Mati Manusher gondho paben ei filmey (The audience will get a feel of Ma, Mati, Manush in this film)!” The director insists “we are neutral” but the script is peppered with phrases such as “paribartaner haoa (winds of change)”, which has been helping Mamata sweep one election after another.

“The dialogues are in keeping with the winds of change blowing across the state. We used the phrase so that audiences can relate to the film easily,” said Roy.

Uttam Maiti of Uttam Opera, which is presenting Banglar Ma Mati Manush Kadche… Agnikanya Aschhe, said: “Paribartaner haoar sathe jatrao paltachhe (The winds of change have affected jatra too). Now viewers want to see realistic stories... what could be more real than the current political turmoil in the state? Our story centres around a small party led by a young woman and how she fells the ruling party and ushers in change.”

The play includes scenes from Singur, Nandigram and Lalgarh as well as the places devastated by Cyclone Aila. Maiti said the protagonist, Agni, was modelled on Mamata. Agni overthrows the three-decade rule of a Communist party led by Bangseswar Bhattacharya. Agni’s party symbol is jora pradip (twin lamps) and Bhattacharya’s acchola bansh (bamboo pole).

Shilpilok Opera’s Ma Matir Lorai has a similar plot, depicting a village girl’s protest against acquisition of agricultural land. “The protagonist, Banalata, wears a white cotton sari and slippers and carries a cloth bag on her shoulder,” said manager Ranjit Chakraborty. The Mamata parallel is hard to miss.

There’s, however, a twist to the tale. The original Ma Mati Manush play, penned by Bhairab Gangopadhyay 34 years back and which possibly influenced Mamata while she was scouting for a slogan before the Lok Sabha polls, was pro-Left. “Ma Mati Manush was written around the time the Left Front defeated the Congress in Bengal,” said Meghdut Gangopadhyay, the son of the playwright.

Bhairab, who worked for the Left in Burdwan’s Mulgram, portrayed the “pristine village culture” threatened by urban corruption.

With Trinamul using the slogan to woo the masses, Meghdut felt it was time play was rewritten “to deliver the true message of Ma Mati Manush”. The rewritten play, Ghum Kereche Ma Mati Manush, backs the Left’s call for “harmonious growth of agriculture and industry”. Bhairab Opera started staging the new play from Puja.

Others have joined the “Ma Mati” brigade for popularity, with plays like Mati Makha Gaer Ma and Langol Chalay Matir Ma. Nandadulal Adhikari, the director of Mati Amar Ma, said: “We picked the name for its popular appeal. Our play shows the corruption in the distribution of Aila relief.”

Sociologist Prasanta Roy says he isn’t surprised with the surfeit of “Ma Mati Manush” in jatra titles. “Politics has been a part of artistic expression throughout history,” he said. “Dominant motif in society has a commercial value”.

The theatre groups would agree. They have received “overwhelming response from viewers and back-to-back” bookings.