Saturday, November 17, 2007

Punch and Judy show :Mrinal Sen loses credibility


It has taken Mrinal Sen exactly 24 hours to reduce an incredibly massive people’s protest to a Punch and Judy show. His participation in Wednesday’s rally of intellectuals against the CPI-M and the next day's procession by so-called pro-CPM celebrities is either a classic instance of dithering or, what seems more likely, a calculated flip-flop. Clearly, he has tried to humour fellow-travellers on both sides of the fence as state patronage is so very essential if the performing arts are to flourish. He had, after all, inaugurated the Kolkata Film Festival barely a week ago. In the event, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's Mrinalda may not have let the Chief Minister or his party down. He has definitely let down the 60,000 people, in effect denuding the impact of the spectacular, if silent, protest against the operation at Nandigram. Unwittingly or otherwise, he has confirmed the Chief Minister's impression that the jhola brigade isn't consistently Leftist, still less uniformly intellectual, a loosely-used term if ever there was one.
In retrospect, hoi-polloi ought to have been in the vanguard of the anti-CPM mahamichil, an overwhelming, perhaps even unprecedented, demonstration of people’s power. Instead, stars, starlets and do-gooders of the ladies’ coffee-meet variety exploited the photo-opportunity to the hilt. As did Mr Sen on both days, making sure that he was panned by the TV cameras. On Wednesday, he was protesting against the “recapture” of Nandigram; Thursday saw him joining the chorus line of pro-party, pro-government slogans. The effect verges on the comical. And his attempt to establish a common link is worse than a fatuous justification. The Chief Minister may have “hugged me”, but the 60,000 he pretended to lead are not convinced. By acting as a hound today and a hare tomorrow, a distinguished film-maker has lost his credibility.