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Interview Bengali

Rudranil Ghosh: Many in film industry felt let down by Trinamool and hence switched sides

The actor, who was the BJP candidate in chief minister Mamata Banerjee's original constituency in Kolkata and lost, says everyone will work together to take Bengali cinema forward irrespective of party affiliations.

Roushni Sarkar

In the eight-phase assembly election that ended in West Bengal earlier this month, a host of celebrities from Bengali cinema contested on behalf of the Trinamool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), making the polls a star-studded event.

Of all the starry candidates, actor-writer Rudranil Ghosh, perhaps, was the most controversial, given the number of times he has changed his political affiliation in the past decade. Starting out as a leftist, Ghosh became a star campaigner for the Trinamool Congress after it came to power in the state for the first time in 2011. Ahead of this year's election, he jumped ship again, this time to join the far-right BJP.

Ghosh, who had once described prime minister Narendra Modi as a 'riot-monger' on television, stood for election from Bhabanipur, the constituency in Kolkata that Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee represented in the earlier assembly, losing to her aide Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay by more 30,000 votes. (Chattopadhyay has since resigned from the assembly to allow chief minister Banerjee to contest a by-election and enter the assembly again after she lost her own battle against aide-turned-rival Suvendu Adhikari in Nandigram.)

This time, Rudranil Ghosh raised the BJP's favoured ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogan while campaigning and was heavily trolled on social media platforms for 'changing colour’ rapidly. He was also criticized for his statement that he “was unable to work within the party [dole theke kaj korte parchhilam na]" while leaving the Trinamool Congress.

In an interview with Cinestaan.com after the results came out, Ghosh expressed his views on the people’s verdict and shared his expectations of the new government led by Banerjee. Excerpts:

You contested Bhabanipur, the constituency of Mamata Banerjee herself. There was much hype and you exuded confidence of winning the seat. What is your reaction after the result?

See, Sobhandeb got 70,000 votes and I got more than 43,000 votes. Of the 70,000, around 25,000 have been from Muslim-dominated areas. And 43,000 is not a small number either. The entire lot of Muslim votes went to Trinamool and hence this huge margin. There was nothing we could do about it.

However, at the same time, the voters of Bhabanipur have not totally discarded the BJP. Though Trinamool received the majority of votes, I would say a huge number of people are still with the BJP. The ratio of votes obtained has been 6:4.

Why are you dividing voters on the basis of their religion?

I am not dividing the voters according to their religion; I am just stating the facts regarding the result.

Trinamool has had a landslide victory, but the BJP has got the position of a strong opposition. As a BJP contestant, how do you think your party is going to move ahead?

It is difficult to say at this moment. We have seen how terror has been unleashed all over the state since the results were declared. I want all political parties to come forward and stop the violence. We know Trinamool workers have attacked and vandalized the properties of not only BJP workers but of CPI(M) [Communist Party of India (Marxist)] supporters as well.

This is disheartening for the political environment of West Bengal. People have given their verdict and everyone has the right to choose their political affiliation. But we have been getting attacked since the time we were campaigning for our parties during the election. I have been attacked, too. Our honourable chief minister has acknowledged these incidents of violence as well. Hopefully, she will take action to ensure peace soon.

But I strongly believe in the importance of a strong opposition. Following the democratic system, as the opposition party, we would perform the duties of the opposition and raise our voice if the new government fails to work for the people. I think managing around 80 seats is not a joke. I think BJP now has even more responsibility.

২১শের ভোট যুদ্ধ শেষ। মানুষের রায়ে আশাতীত সাফল্যে প্রথম স্থানে তৃণমূল এবং দ্বিতীয় স্থানে বিজেপি। সিপিএম ও কংগ্রেস শূন্য।...

Posted by Rudranil Ghosh on Sunday, May 2, 2021

The 2021 assembly election was a star-studded event. Both Trinamool and the BJP had celebrity contestants. However, after the defeat of the BJP, Tathagata Roy, former state unit president and former governor of Tripura and Meghalaya, attacked the celebrity contestants with offensive remarks about their profession. How do you react to that?

I think Tathagata Roy has aged considerably and failed to update his thoughts with the times. I don’t agree with his remarks at all. I believe professionals from various fields, including film, education, medicine, should join politics. It is important to have a healthy political environment. I also believe that till now Mamata Banerjee was primarily seen as the Trinamool Congress supremo. I hope that from now she will represent the state as chief minister of all, irrespective of political ideologies.

How do you think the change in the political scenario will affect the power dynamics operating in the Bengali film industry?

Of course the situation demands a change because many workers in the industry had faith in the Trinamool Congress but were let down by the government and hence changed their affiliation. Numerous incidents of corruption and depriving deserving people of posts have been reported with people close to those in power getting positions instead.

It is true that Trinamool has secured more seats in the legislative assembly, but that doesn’t mean people have no complaints any more. I am an optimist and believe that the new government will rectify its mistakes and work for a better future without political bias.

The field of cinema is not separate from other fields. Nobody expects that only people associated with Trinamool will get work in the industry.

There have been rumours that many who shifted to the BJP from Trinamool before the election will return to Trinamool again. Have you thought about that?

I haven’t heard of any such news. I know that our honourable chief minister herself invited her former party candidates who shifted to the BJP to join Trinamool again. I haven’t yet taken any decision in this regard.

What are your plans for your film career from here on?

I don’t think this election phase will affect my film career. At least it should not. My profession has no link with it. The government officials who worked for the Election Commission have returned to their respective departments. Similarly, political workers from all parties will now return to their regular lives. During Durga Puja, the organizers dedicate their entire time and energy, forgetting all other duties. Similarly, during elections, which is also a puja of democracy, people from different parties performed their duties. We don’t do puja just for the best pandal contest. Similarly, no matter what the result, we must return to our respective professions.

Bengali cinema runs with the contributions of many, not a few. I believe workers of different political affiliations will take Bengali cinema forward. The COVID-19 pandemic has already caused losses to many. We must concentrate on helping the industry survive.