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HindustanTimes Fri,24 Oct 2014

This year at Durga Puja, do as the French do

Arpit Basu, Hindustan Times  Kolkata, July 12, 2013
First Published: 15:39 IST(12/7/2013) | Last Updated: 15:47 IST(12/7/2013)

You could call it the first FDI in religious activity in West Bengal. France will sponsor a Durga Puja in Kolkata this year - the first foreign country to do so - creating a milestone of sorts.

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Besides giving funds, France will also send two artists to work with local ones to create a theme around 100 years of Indian cinema, one of the most prominent vehicles of cultural exchange between the two countries.

There are also plans to bring a member of the French World Cup soccer team to inaugurate the puja, or pujo as it is called in Bengal.

Though the budget is relatively small at Rs. 40 lakh, the organisers are expecting it to open up the pujas to a growing western audience, which in turn, throws up a vast tourism potential.

"I witnessed puja last year and wondered why doesn't this festival takes the shape of the carnival in Rio. It is my job to improve Indo-French cultural ties and this is an excellent opportunity," said Stephane Amalir, director, Alliance Francaise, Kolkata, who was one of the driving forces behind the effort.

Alliance Francaise, which is funded by the French government, is bearing the expenditure of this puja.

The puja that has been selected for the honour is Pallimangal community puja that is in its 54th year. It is located on Anwar Shah Road, a mere two blocks away from South City shopping mall.

In 2013, India celebrated the 100 years of its cinema. The Cannes film festival, arguably the most prominent global film festival, paid a tribute to the Indian film industry in May.

The theme was chosen keeping in mind the French fondness for India's cinema.

The French sponsorship of Pallimangal community puja is the culmination of a 20-minute documentary shot about the puja by a French journalist for France TV II, a national channel in France. The programme evinced interest in France and a team of visitors came to Kolkata in October 2012 to see the pujas.


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