After the Nandan lobby intellectuals, it is the turn of commercial Bengali cinema and theatre to raise the issue of land acquisition and industrialisation.
Filmmaker Haranath Chakroborty’s "Tulkalam" starring Mithun Chakraborty and Rachana Banerjee has struck a chord with viewers. The movie is running to packed houses in Minar, Bijoli and Chhabighar which are mostly haunted by Bengali cine-goers looking for something more than the regular commercial fare.
Breaking the myth that urban middle class shun commercial Bengali cinema, many like gynaecologist Sudhir Biswas and bank executive Priti Sinha went and watched the film. Dr Biswas, who took his wife and 19-year-old daughter to watch the film, said, “Although the dialogues were bit trite at times, the pace of the film ensured we were on the edge of our seats.
Moreover, the issue was represented well enough for people to start thinking,” he said. Priti, who went with her boyfriend Ranjan, echoed similar feelings. “While the dialogues were somewhat loud, probably targeted at rural audiences, the movie was good for one watch,” she said.
While similarities between real life people in the contemporary arena of pro and anti acquisition are obvious, Haranath makes his protagonist Toofan, played by Mithun, say, “Industrialisation is needed but not over farmlands or by displacing farmers.”
Even the other characters, including the South Asian industrialist played by Nimu Bhowmik, a social activist enacted by Rachana Banerjee, the opposition leader played by Arun Mukherjee and the South Asia-based Bengali businessman played by a newcomer, have uncanny resemblance with many of those who form the on-ground dramatis personae at Singur and Nandigram.
While Haranath claims that the Mithun factor is behind the rush, he cannot deny that the freshness of the issue has a major role to play behind ‘house full’ signs at all the 47 theatres Tulkalam has been released across the state.
“All three shows in most of the halls are having a full house, particularly at the three city theatres. Although it would take a few more days to realise the returns, viewers have undoubtedly got hooked. Interest about the film had grown even before it was released because its central theme had become known,” Haranath said.
Haranath, however, credits the film’s idea to filmmaker Anjan Chowdhury, who wrote the script but passed away before the film was released. While Tulkalam is one of the most political films to come out of Tollywood stables in recent times, according to Haranath, Chowdhury’s earlier hits Shatru and Pratibaad, also dealt with social issues.
The city’s commercial theatre district, Chitpore, that has always shown a penchant for recent happenings, is also tapping in on the issue. All the theatre companies involved with production seem to be changing their storyline, even though their titles prominently feature Nandigram.
Srishtidhar Pal of Digvijayi Opera, getting ready to present Roktakto Nandigram (Bloody mayhem at nandigram), denied that the play was on the recent incidents at the East Midnapore hamlet. “Since our shows would be commercially released from October, we are yet to work on the finer details of the story. Although not spinning around Nandigram, the story of farmers would have a significant part,’ Pal said.
Subhasish Maiti, general manger of Uttam Opera and producer of Tulkalam Nandigram (Bedlam at Nandigram), said that their play would be a social drama. “It would primarily be a social play for all to see, but elements of the present situation would be there, speaking of farmers and rural society, without disturbing communal harmony or political feelings,” he said.
Another ‘social drama’, Kalkeuter Chhobol (The bite of Snake), also has Nandigram prominently splashed in its promos but on hitting the road later this year it would shy away from issues. “While playwright Utpal Roy is presently working on the story, we do not want it to a political piece. If the story demands, elements of recent incidents would be there, but keeping away from political complications,” said Gopal Patra of Nataraj Opera.