“Even Ray was very global,” Mukherji adds. “And Robi Thakur (Rabindranath Tagore) was very global. He marketed himself very well.”
“And Vivekananda marketed himself very well,” adds Dasgupta. Any moment now, I expect the swami to open the door and walk in.
Soon, they are all correcting each other and adding to the argument and smoking and drinking. The door opens and closes. The lady with the red bindi makes her Shakespearean “exits and…entrances” and “all the world’s a stage”. The scene fits every Bengali stereotype I have; every one that they insist is not true.
“My grandfather wore a dhuti (dhoti) but played Frank Sinatra at home,” says Dutt. “So please, let us not say that Bengali-ness is about dhuti and rosogolla and bhadralok. Let us not make them this monolithic paan-chewing group who wants to make movies instead of selling potatoes.”
Frankly, this group would be terrible at selling potatoes. Look at them now, talking about Truffaut and Kieslowski and Wong Kar-wai. These aren’t brittle, time-conscious Bollywood film-makers who are engaged in the debilitating high-stakes game of commercial cinema. These are “artistes” who have made their peace with commercial success. They don’t disdain it any more; they go after it. “Look at us,” says Dutta. “We are talking about distribution, posters, hoardings. Two pegs down, and we are all relaxed.”
I ask Chatterjee, the young actor, why he is in Kolkata instead of Mumbai. “Kolkata is an international city but it hasn’t reached saturation point,” he replies. “I want to be part of that ferment.”
Tamil film actor, Surya, much as I enjoy him, could not have delivered that line. He might have attempted that sentence, but to use the word, “ferment?” That word and that line can only be owned by a true-blue “intellectual Bengali,” the one that these guys insist doesn’t exist.
Shoba Narayan thanks Arijit Dutta for his adda. She wishes she could return the favor, but sadly, the Kannada film industry comes together to support alleged wife-beaters, like the actor, Darshan.
Updated: 25 Nov 2011, 10:48 PM IST