Basu’s political journey to get a jatra rendition

By Sreecheta Das

INDIAN EXPRESS, Posted online: Wed Jul 14 2010, 02:50 hrs

Kolkata : Some have termed it a gimmick, others a propaganda but Raja Sarkar of Arya Opera is not wary of the criticisms for his decision to stage Jananeta Comrade Jyoti Basu — a jatra-opera on the life and times of the legendary leader.

The jatra, focusing on the entire political career of the country’s longest serving chief minister, will be staged first on September 17, coinciding with the Vishwakarma Puja celebrations.

Sarkar, who is both the script-writer and the director of the jatra, will begin the rehearsals from August 18.

Sitting inside the tiny, congested office of the 40-year old Arya Opera, located in the bylanes of Chitpur, the hub of Bengal’s jatra — a form of folk theatre depending on melodrama and hyperbole — Goutam Chakraborty, the producer, said he had conceptualised the jatra the very next day after Basu’s demise. “Later, I sat with Raja to give a concrete shape to my ideas, and the project was finalised,” he added.

With its penchant for bringing alive political themes, the Bengali jatras in the past have depicted the lives and times of several political figures ranging from Spartacus to Karl Marx, Lenin and Stalin; from Hitler to Subhash Chandra Bose and Sheikh Mujibur Rehman.

“I personally admire Jyoti Basu and his political pragmatism. Like any other human being, I am sure there were some faults in his character too. But for me, his merits are rare. I wanted the people to take a trip through the life of this legend,” said Sarkar, who will be performing Basu on stage. To play the roles of Somnath Chatterjee and Subhash Chakrobarty, who were close to Basu, the actors have not been decided yet. The jatra will begin with a scene of Basu breathing his last in a hospital, and from there it will take off in a flashback mode, depicting every significant event in the leader’s life — starting from the time he returned to India after completing his law in England.

“We have tried to divide Basu’s life into three parts. We will focus from the time when he first actively joined parliamentary elections in 1946, followed by his involvement with the food movements like Tebhaga movement, and his undeniable role behind the forming of the Left Front in 1976 and then again in 1979,” said Sarkar.

“It is very difficult to capture the wide spectrum of Basu’s political life in a two-and-a-half to three-hour long jatra. We don’t have many artists also. Many cast members will have to play more than one role,” Sarkar added.

Emphasising that the jatra is strictly based on the political career of Basu, Chakraborty said, “To keep the length short we had to entirely chop out his personal life. Even Chandan Basu and Kamal Basu or his granddaughter could not be fitted in.”

When Mallika cooked for Basu

TNN, Jul 23, 2010, 01.03am IST

KOLKATA: Tossing her cascading curls, as Mallika potters around in her squeaky clean kitchen, dicing cauliflower florets and potatoes and heating up desi seasonings with bay leaves, cumin seeds and red chillies, she looks the quintessential officegoer rustling up a dinner after a hard day's work.

As director of a PR firm in London, she leads a busy professional life, but loves doing her own cooking for the family after a long commute. There's a difference here, though. She is also doing it for the camera to teach busybodies on the net the secrets of easy and healthy Indian cooking. And now, she is all set to spice up India with the launch of her cookbook, "Miss Masala: Real Indian Cooking for Busy Living", based on her popular blog www.quickindiancooking.com, on July 23 in the Capital. It was launched in Kolkata on July 21.

Cooking comes to this eldest granddaughter of the former chief minister Jyoti Basu naturally. "In our family, everyone is a foodie, my grandfather loved good food. I never found him cooking, but my grandmother did and so did my parents. My father cooks awesome roast lamb. My mother is also a great cook. Actually, everyone at home loves to talk about food. So, we would be discussing what to have for dinner while having lunch," remembered Mallika who lives in London with her husband and a toddler. "Miss Masala" has already been launched in the UK. The anecdotal book, full of hilarious tales and frank tips, makes for a rivetting read.

During her university days in England (she did her masters in journalism there), she started yearning for home-cooked food. "I thought I must start cooking myself," said the 32-year-old, who had grown weary of takeaways during her student days.

Mallika's mother sent her a copy of the "National Indian Association of Women Cookbook". She also culled recipes from her grandmother's culinary oeuvre. The result was practical cooking, tasty and healthy. Cooking became a habit after some time and then Mallika wondered, how about sharing the recipes with others? In 2006, she started her blog, which became an instant hit. Every month, the blog had about 18,000 visitors. And then the idea of the book struck her. "It has yummy recipes, whether you're cooking to impress or kicking back on the couch. My stress is on available ingredients and to make cooking a stress-free exercise."

Mallika recalled preparing her first dish for her grandfather. It was Bournvita "cooked" in milk, with slices of banana and biscuits! "He had every bit of it and even said it was good. I don't know how good it was, but he was always very encouraging," recalled Mallika, who often prepared pasta, soups and salads for Basu when she grew up.

So, from Goan, North Indian, South Indian and Bengali (kosha mangsho, bhoger khichuri, chholar dal and bhapa doi) to Thai and Chinese, "Miss Masala" features a tastebud tickler from almost every region. "But no pabda machher jhal, please, because I don't like it." Mallika does not like using too much of turmeric either as it stains her nails.


Use power to bring welfare, not to dominate people: Somnath Chatterjee

TRIBUTE: Schoolchildren place near a statue of veteran Marxist leader Jyoti Basu during a function to mark his 96th birth anniversary in Kolkata on Thursday. Photo: Sushanta Patronobish.

By Indrani Dutta

THE HINDU, KOLKATA, July 9, 2010

Power has to be used to help bring about people's welfare and not as a means to dominate them. One cannot afford to ignore the feelings and perceptions of the common man.

These oft-repeated words of veteran Marxist leader Jyoti Basu were recalled by Somnath Chatterjee, former Lok Sabha Speaker, at a meeting here on on the occasion of the 96th birth anniversary of the former West Bengal Chief Minister.

Delivering the first Jyoti Basu Memorial Lecture, Mr. Chatterjee said that as Mr. Basu always emphasised, “only in the hands of a united and eternally vigilant citizenry and a leadership committed to the cause of the people will democracy be safe.”

The lecture, organised by the West Bengal Forum for Parliamentary Studies, was held on a lawn in the Assembly where Basu sat for many decades, either on the treasury benches or in the opposition.

The former Chief Minister, Siddhartha Shankar Ray, one of Basu's friends, sent a letter saying that although his kidney ailments bound him down, he hoped that Mr. Basu's spirit lived on in the House.

Invoking the name of the leader again and again in his speech, Mr. Chatterjee said Mr. Basu always believed that “it is man and man alone who creates history,” and “despite many crests and thrusts, the people will finally emerge victorious and gain freedom in a classless society, free from exploitation of any form.”

Mr. Chatterjee said Mr. Basu had tremendous capacity to assess the significance of developing situations, political or otherwise, and could quickly react to them most aptly.

“He set an outstanding example of how to run a coalition government in harmony, and with understanding among the partners,” Mr. Chatterjee added.

The implementation of land reforms and devolution of power of governance to the grass-root level were among Mr. Basu's greatest achievements, but with his pragmatism, he also ushered in the 1994 Industrial Policy of the State government, Mr. Chatterjee said.

Striking a poignant note during his brief speech, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said it was a painful moment for him to talk about a man whose association had been an asset in his life.

“Mr. Basu was imprisoned without trial, but he never meted out that treatment to anyone. Rather, he pioneered the setting up of a State-level Human Rights Commission. He held aloft secular ideals, and the image and stature that has got inextricably linked with him is one that does the State proud,” Mr. Bhattacharjee said.

Rajarhat Newtown to be named after Basu

Ajanta Chakraborty, TNN, Jul 9, 2010, 12.38am IST

KOLKATA: The Left Front government has decided to christen Rajarhat as Jyotinagar after late CPM patriarch Jyoti Basu. The government is also looking for land at Rajarhat so that a museum and education and research centre in Basu's memory can be set up soon.
This project, in fact, has taken precedence as the ruling CPM has decided to give up Basu's former residence, Indira Bhavan, soon. Basu's belongings are still in this two-storey bungalow at Salt Lake, where Basu's 96th birth anniversary was celebrated on Thursday.
"We are making preparations so that Rajarhat is known as Jyotinagar within the next three months," state housing minister Gautam Deb, who is also chairman of Hidco the agency that runs Rajarhat-New Town said on Thursday. In fact, it was on Basu's birthday celebrations in 2007 when the idea of renaming New Town was first announced by protege and former transport minister Subhas Chakraborty.
The renaming plan includes beautification of a 48-hectare waterbody at the junction of VIP Road and Rajarhat. The centre of the waterbody has been land-filled to create an island which, too, will be landscaped so that a statue of Basu can be installed here. Sources said the ruling CPM had planned Jyotinagar for long, and it was with this thought that the island was carved in the waterbody at the Rajarhat-VIP Road junction.
Hidco officials said the government would announce the Jyotinagar project after finalizing an elaborate programme to mark the christening. "Initially, people were looking for an appropriate occasion to announce Rajarhat's new name. But it has been decided that a leader of Jyoti Basu's stature wouldn't need any excuse for the honours," said an official.
The brisk activity to rename Rajarhat and set up a museum in Basu's memory comes in the wake of a refusal by the now Trinamool-run Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) to rename Eastern Metropolitan Bypass after the late patriarch. Last week, the newly formed KMC board turned down the Left Front's proposal, submitted soon after Basu's death on January 17, citing road renaming rules which makes it mandatory to name a stretch only after two years of a person's death. Hidco officials said such rules wouldn't come in the way of Jyotinagar.
For the moment, however, both the government and the CPM mandarins at Alimuddin Street are more concerned with finding a suitable plot for setting up the Jyoti Basu Education and Research Centre and the museum in the patriarch's memory.
Basu's aide Joykrishna Ghosh said, "The CPM has decided to vacate the bungalow soon; they are looking for a suitable plot to set up the museum." The monthly rent of Rs 8,895 for this seven-room bungalow had been footed by the party since Basu stepped down as chief minister in 2000. The urban development department has been trying to look for a plot in Salt Lake, but the government is now more keen on having the museum in Rajarhat.
An official said, "More land is available at Rajarhat for the research centre where Marxism and related subjects will be studied. A separate wing will house the museum where Basu's belongings and books will be preserved."

Basu home hums on b’day


THE TELEGRAPH, Issue Date: Friday , July 9 , 2010

Indira Bhavan throbbed back to life six months after Jyoti Basu’s death on the occasion of the 96th birth anniversary of the communist who lived for 20 years in the Salt Lake house.

“It’s good to see so many people here after so long. It reminds me of the good old days when Basu was alive. In his last years, he used to sit on the verandah and wave at the crowd of well-wishers,” said Basanta Jana, Basu’s longtime aide and a state government employee, who still stays in the irrigation department’s guest house in DE block and takes care of the property.

Thursday’s programme was organised by Subhas Chakraborty’s widow Ramola.

The day started with a host of students from various schools in the township gathering in front of Indira Bhavan, carrying 96 balloons. As the clock struck 10, they entered the compound in a line and paid homage to a life-size statue of Basu.

“Amar raat pohalo sharod praate...,” played in the background.

Former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee and Joykrishna Ghosh, who was the confidential assistant to Basu, turned up at Indira Bhavan. So did a host of Left Front leaders, including Asoke Ghosh of the Forward Bloc and Biswajiban Majumdar, former chairman of Salt Lake municipality.

No one from the former chief minister’s family visited Indira Bhavan during the day.

“The void left by Basu’s death cannot be filled... it hurts to observe his birthday in this house when he is no more.... I don’t see anyone from the new generation who can take his place,” said Chatterjee, wiping off his tears.

Ghosh, too, was gripped with emotion. “He was never keen on celebrating his birthday but had to bow to the wishes of Subhasda and Ramolaboudi. On his birthdays, he would tell us to wake him up early so that he was ready to receive his visitors in time.”

Two books on Basu were launched on the occasion and fruit cakes (Basu’s favourite) were served to the guests.

On his last birthday, at least 2,000 people had come to wish the former chief minister. This time the count was barely 400. “We can’t expect such huge gatherings now. But I will keep celebrating his birthday at Indira Bhavan every year till I am alive,” Ramola said.

But how long will Indira Bhavan remain Basu’s? “His belongings, still in the house, may soon be shifted to Alimuddin Street. We fear that if Trinamul comes to power at Writers’, it may not want the property to be associated with Basu any more,” said a source.

Glowing tribute from party, personal touch from enemy'

TNN, Jul 9, 2010, 12.38am IST
KOLKATA: Amidst the formal speeches and the unveiling of a portrait at the state assembly to mark Jyoti Basu's birth anniversary, the personal touch was added by Basu's self-confessed "political enemy" and personal friend, former chief minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray.
The ailing Ray was unable to attend the ceremony at the assembly. Instead, he sent a letter to speaker Hashim Abdul Halim, saying "I must get ready to meet Jyoti soon with at least part of my kidney working". "I have so many memories of Jyoti. We were ferocious political enemies, particularly after the Chinese aggression in 1962, but outside the House, we were the best of friends. People would see us together, sitting next to each other watching cricket matches at the Eden Gardens, or at musical or dance programmes... Jyoti was a very lovable person and we were attached to each other very much, in spite of severe differences. I only hope that this spirit would remain forever in the House," Ray said.
Delivering the first Jyoti Basu memorial lecture, former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee described the late CPM patriarch as a leader of utter simplicity and sincerity. Possibly indicating at the political situation of the state where the chief minister and leaders of the main opposition party Trinamool Congress are not on speaking terms, Chatterjee reminded that Basu had an excellent relationship with the other opposition leaders as well as those from the Left Front.
Before beginning his speech, Chatterjee hinted at his hope of seeing Basu's official residence Indira Bhavan being turned into a museum. "I went to his house this morning. The chair he used to sit in is still there. I don't know how long it will remain so. I hope the government will decide on this," he said.
In Chatterjee's speech, there was also a lesson for the beleagured CPM which has seen a steady erosion in its votebank, something that had pained the leader in his last days. "He constantly exhorted the party workers and the leaders not to lose touch with the people," Chatterjee said.
Rajya Sabha deputy chairman K Rahman Khan, CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, PCC president Manas Bhunia and speaker Hashim Abdul Halim paid glowing tributes to Basu.


Jyoti Basu remembered on 96th birth anniversary

IANS, Jul 8, 2010, 06.05pm IST

KOLKATA: Hundreds of people, including long-time comrade and former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee, visited Indira Bhavan, the house where Communist patriarch Jyoti Basu spent his last days, to remember the leader on his 96th birth anniversary, the first after his death.
A life-sized wax statue of the legendary Marxist leader and a chair on which he used to sit, were fixed on the balcony of the house in Salt Lake as people from various sections of society came to pay their respects to Basu. Politicians and commoners are demanding that Indira Bhavan be converted into a museum in Basu's memory. He died January 17 after a prolonged illness.
At Indira Bhavan, boys and girls came with balloons and flowers. A bouquet of red roses with 97 written on it was placed on the dais in front of the balcony. Basu would have turned 97 had he been alive today.
"As long as I have strength in my body to walk I will come to this house every year on this day to pay tribute to Jyoti Basu. I would request the government to preserve this house," said Ashok Ghosh, state secretary of the All India Forward Bloc. "We want this house to be converted into a museum so that we can come for paying our respects," said Gita Roy, a resident of Salt Lake.
"We demand that the Brigade Parade Ground be renamed after Jyoti Basu," said Ramola Chakroborty, widow of Jyoti Basu's ardent disciple Subhas Chakroborty. Brigade Parade Ground is a sprawling stretch of greenery in the Maidan area in the city's hub where Jyoti Basu addressed numerous meetings attended by millions of his party workers and admirers.
"Jyoti Basu is not only a legendary leader but also a path, a way we should follow. He himself is an ideal. He was a people's leader," said Somnath Chatterjee. Among the admirers who paid their respects was state Fire Services Minister Pratim Chatterjee.
Born July 8, 1914, in Kolkata to a wealthy family, Basu took to Communism in London. On his return to India, he joined the undivided Communist Party of India (CPI) and plunged into the Left movement. Basu made his debut in electoral politics in 1946. He was elected to the state assembly 11 times, losing only once in the hugely controversial 1972 elections. After the CPI split in 1964, he joined the CPI(M) and was elected to its central committee and politburo.
He was West Bengal chief minister from 1977 until he retired in late 2000 due to ill-health. The last of the nine founding politburo members of CPI(M), Basu almost became India's prime minister in 1996 at the head of a centre-Left United Front government. But the CPI(M) vetoed the proposal, forcing him to dub the party's decision a "historical blunder".

Finding the best of Basu was challenging: portraitist

— Photo: PTI / Swapan Mahapatra A pavement artist gives final touches to a pencil sketch of late CPI(M) leader Jyoti Basu beside another sketch of cricketer Sourav Ganguly in Kolkata on Wednesday.

By Ananya Dutta
The Hindu, 8th July, 2010

It took artist Wasim Kapoor a three-month search through newspaper clippings, magazine photographs and promotional literature to find the perfect photograph of Jyoti Basu.

The photograph will be transferred to a 7'X4' canvas that will be unveiled in the West Bengal Assembly on Thursday, the occasion of the veteran Marxist leader's 96th birth anniversary.

“I needed a picture of him standing, but not one in which he was making a dramatic gesture with his arms outstretched. Those are better suited for sculptures; paintings need more subtlety,” Mr. Kapoor told The Hindu on Wednesday.

Interestingly, the picture finally selected was one of Mr. Basu and Prime Minster Manmohan Singh that appeared in The Hindu.

“The photograph — a frontal shot of JyotiBabu — was ideal for the dimensions of the canvas, but he looked too static in it. To capture the dynamism of the charismatic political leader, I made him turn slightly to the left and added a brush of motion to his dhoti — as if he is just about to walk.”

The painting, commissioned by the Assembly, was two-and-half months in the making. The slight angle difference between the photograph and the portrait nearly led to a last-minute catastrophe.

“The painting was ready, it had been signed and reviewed by several of my peers, but I was not fully satisfied. And a day before the painting was to be delivered, I realised that the angle of the shoes in the portrait was not right,” Mr. Kapoor said.

While the shoes in the photograph were pointing straight, the ones in the painting had to be aligned differently. Immediately, someone was sent to the shoemakers nearby a find a similar pair. A family member was asked to wear the shoes and pose at various angles, while the artist took pictures from his mobile phone camera.

Painting Mr. Basu was challenging, Mr. Kapoor admitted, even though he has painted portraits of several political personalities, including Parliamentarian Hiren Mukherjee and veteran Congressman from Bengal, Bhupendra Nath Bose, that hang in Parliament.

“First, there is the persona of the subject, himself. Second, the portrait would hang in the Assembly that boasts of the works of renowned portraitists Atul Bose and J. P. Ganguly. And finally, there is the expectation of the work being judged not only as a likeness of Jyoti Babu, but also for its artistic merit.”


Basu's portrait to be unveiled in West Bengal Assembly

Kolkata, July 3 (PTI): A life-size portrait of late West Bengal chief minister and Marxist patriarch Jyoti Basu will be unveiled in the state Assembly on July 8.
The portrait by noted painter Wasim Kapoor would be unveiled by former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee on the 96th birthday of Basu, West Bengal Speaker Hasim Abdul Halim said here today.
Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman K Rahman Khan, Finance Minster Pranab Mukherjee, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee and CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat are among the leaders invited to the programme, he said.
"I have invited her (Mamata) to the programme on the 96th birthday of Basu who was a member of the Assembly since 1946 and chief minister between 1977 to 2000,"
Halim told a press conference.Asked whether Banerjee and Karat have confirmed their participation, Halim replied, "I have invited them. It is up to them whether they will attend or not.