Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the leading lady of Bengali jatra

Kolkata: Her life story doesn`t lack drama, and now it`s feeding the Jatra folk theatre form of Bengal known for its dramatic, over-the-top performances. Even plays unrelated to the firebrand Mamata Banerjee are making sure they cash in on her brand name.

The script of Banerjee`s life, full of struggles and slogans, has prompted jatra performers to unleash at least five plays based on her life, now that she is chief minister.

"Mahakaraney Mukhyamantri Mamata" (chief minister Mamata at the state secreteriat) which will portray her life`s journey, is based on a book written by the leader herself.

"The jatra is based on her life. From Nandigram, where she started her crusade to Singur and finally her entry as chief minister into the secretariat from where she was once driven out, all have been included. It is based on a book written by her," Gautam Chakraborty, the producer, told reporters.

Bengali jatra, which still continues to be a rich source of entertainment, particularly among the rural masses, is all geared up for the festive season. Play rehearsals have begun in right earnest.

Most of the plays focus on the ultimate glory - Banerjee`s ascent to the chief minister`s throne for which she put up a long battle.

Banerjee`s Trinamool Congress and its allies swept the recent assembly polls in ending the Left Front`s unprecedented 34-year rule in the state.

`Banglar Kshamatay Mamata` (Mamata in power in Bengal), `Banglar Masnade Mamata` (Mamata at the helm of Bengal), `Mahasangram Joyee Mamata` (Mamata the victorious), `Matir Ghore Mamat (Mamata in a mud house) all have the life and achievements of the leader as their central theme.

Some jatra makers have used the name `Mamata` in the title even though their play has nothing to do with the firebrand leader. "Maa Ache Mamata Nei" is one of such.

Banerjee has not only become the face of Bengal politics, but the places associated with her political struggles are also being used by the producers to attract viewers.

A drama titled `E Kaaler Karun Arjun` (Karan Arjun of the Modern Era) concentrates on the political violence and turmoil that took place in places like Nandigram, Singur and Netai. The punchline is: "Netai, Nandigram, Singur will no more witness bloodbath - Karan Arjun, the saviours, are here."

While Singur and Nandigram were the backdrop of intense peasant struggles spearheaded by Banerjee, Netai was the scene of a carnage allegedly by miscreants owing allegiance to the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) which led the Left Front.

"Be it politics or anything, Didi`s name is everywhere. She is the talk of the town. Why should we not use her name if its helps in publicity?" says a producer of one play.

The name of a production `Badla Noy Bodol Chai` (Change, Not Revenge) is the carbon copy of a popular slogan coined by Banerjee ahead of the assembly polls. `Agnikanya` (Firebrand lady), `Asche Agnikanya` (Firebrand lady cometh) have indirect reference to Banerjee.

Traditionally on the day of the Rath Yatra Festival - which fell July 3 this year - the jatra producers announce their upcoming dramas, with the shows starting in the Durga Puja season in September-October.

Huge display advertisements are splashed across all major vernacular dailies to promote the dramas.

Though Bengali jatra is still a big mode of entertainment for the masses, it has been on the decline in the face of satellite television and multiplex-movies.

The jatra producers hope Banerjee who came to power riding on the `winds of change` can also change their fortunes.


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