Anyone even superficially clued into the lead up to the West Bengal elections would be aware of the tug of war, wooing and speculation that has gone into celebrities joining the political parties—namely the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). When Mithun Chakraborty -arguably one of the most famous Bengali actors to have achieved pan-Indian stardom – attended the BJP rally last month and expressed his support for the party, it was like a jolt to many who took pride in the largely secular fabric of the Bengali culture: Chakraborty’s political roots, after all, lay in the Naxal movement.
Chakraborty might be the biggest name to have joined the BJP but he is not alone: film personalities such as Rudranil Ghosh and Parno Mittra are among the party’s candidates representing important centres. Two days before the first phase of elections kick off on March 27, a group of Bengali artists, from cinema, theatre, music, have released a music video that urges the people of West Bengal to reject the hate-based politics of the BJP (without naming it), and look into its own cultural history through song and poetry.
Starring such artists as Parambrata Chatterjee, Anirban Bhattacharya, Sabyasachi Chakraborty, Rudraprasad Sengupta, Anupam Roy, Rupankar Bagchi, Riddhi Sen and Suman Mukhopadhyay, the song evokes Tagore, Chaplin, and Ray even as it reminds viewers of Nazi ruled-Germany, travelling from the boi para of college street to Jadavpur University to the Chinese Kali temple—symbolic spaces of the city’s pluralistic character.
Titled “Nijeder Mote, Nijeder Gaan”, the video is interspersed with newspaper clips and reports of of atrocities committed under the current regime: from the attack on students to the mob lynchings. Even though largely in Bengali, at one point, the song transitions into Faiz’s “Hum Dekhenge”, which had become the rallying cry during the anti-CAA/NRC protests. It’s a much needed pushback from the community of artists of Bengal, which faces perhaps its most important election in recent memory.