Kolkata: Mathur Sen Garden Lane is a neighbourhood in Jorabagan area of north Kolkata which the Google GPS fails to pick up.
Hence, when Mithun Chakraborty said at his induction speech at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election rally earlier this month that he grew up in a dingy lane where sunlight hardly ever came in, it was not a mere rhetoric. The Bollywood folklore is replete with stories of strugglers turning into legends - be it a Amitabh Bachchan, Chakraborty or a Naseeruddin Shah, but it’s impossible to measure up to the enigmatic journey of this 70-year-old.
It’s one thing to be rejected at the doorstep of producers, suffer the humiliation of playing bit roles for years before making the cut - but none possibly had the experience of fleeing to the City of Dreams as a political activist on the run than seek a career in films. After plunging into Naxalite movement which took Chakraborty’s generation in Bengal by storm from late Sixties to the early ‘70s, Chakraborty was apparently asked by his father to leave Kolkata to avoid police arrest. Then known as ‘Gouranga,’ he shacked up with a relative in Mumbai before moving onto the FTII (Film & Television Institute of India) in Pune to study acting - but his past caught up there was as well.
While in Pune, feedback of his political inclinations reached the then FTII director Roshan Taneja as well but Chakraborty somehow convinced him to be allowed to continue with his course - going on to vindicate his faith by passing out as a gold medallist. More than half a century later, he has traversed the whole political gamut after being close to the Communist Party of India (Marxist) who were in power in Bengal for 35 years, then joining the Trinamool Congress (TMC) as a Rajya Sabha MP and finally jumping the ship to the BJP.
Ever since he announced his re-entry into politics with the ‘Cobra’ lines which started trending in social media, speculations have mounted on two fronts for the last 10 days - what prompted him to move from the Far Left to the Far Right? And if he has done so, will he be coming to the forefront by agreeing to contest the high voltage assembly elections from a seat and be ready to be projected as the chief ministerial face for the BJP?
The chief ministerial face had been a ticklish issue for the Saffron brigade, who had pitched their battle by rallying around Modi so far to take on the aura of the current incumbent and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee. After Sourav Ganguly, the ‘Dada’ of Indian cricket, had ruled out his foray into politics for now, it’s anybody’s guess as to whom BJP has on their minds - and the speculation is Chakraborty may be more than just a high profile campaigner.
A number of theories are doing the rounds as potential reasons behind Chakraborty coming back to mainstream poltics. The most damning one is that in October 2020, the Mumbai Police filed an FIR against his eldest son Mahaakshay and the actor’s wife Yogita Bali on a complaint of rape and cheating filed by a woman. The police had registered an offence under section 376 (rape), 313 (causing miscarriage without woman’s consent) and others and the probe was transferred to the crime branch in New Delhi.
A Delhi court later granted anticipatory bail to Mahaakshay and his mother in the case - and the veracity of the charges could not be proved.
The other theory is that a number of Chakraborty’s luxury resorts, which fall in the Nilgiris Green Corridor, are running the risk of being demolished as per a court order - and the veteran actor had agreed to cozy up to BJP for a redressal of his personal problems.
I have a vision for the state - you will see a changed Bengal in six months if we come to power
Much before this, Chakraborty’s name had surfaced in the Sarada ponzi scam in 2016 - a scar which allegedly involved names of several heavyweight Trinamool leaders some of whom have now jumped the ship. He was a brand ambassador for the Sarada group and was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate about money received from the company - a reported amount of Rs 12 million approximately which he subsequently returned to clear his name.
The actor has, however, vehemently brushed off talk of any such compulsion to join the BJP - and left the question of contesting the elections onto the party hierarchy’s court. In an interview with one of the regional channels on Tuesday evening, he said he hasn’t joined politics just to sit in the opposition. ‘‘I have a vision for the state - you will see a changed Bengal in six months if we come to power,’’ he said animatedly. Will he then go the whole hog? ‘‘We are a very regimented party and I cannot comment on it. If the offer comes, I will think about it,’’ he said.
Is a bigger role then reserved for him, should the BJP manage to topple the Mamata government? The next few weeks may hold the key to the answer.
From Disco Dancer to Tahader Katha, it’s been a long journey
By Manjusha Radhakrishnan, Assistant Editor Features
Dubai: Long before the words ‘nepotism’ and ‘favouritism’ entered the Bollywood lexicon, there was a self-made actor Mithun Chakraborty who made it on his own steam and merit.
Born on July 16, 1950, into a lower-middle-class Bengali family and christened Mithun, Chakraborty – his adopted star name - holds the rare distinction of scooping the coveted Indian National Award for Best Actor nod for his first film. He also earned the crown of being a common man’s extraordinarily ordinary hero.
In 1976, Chakraborty made a cracking debut with ‘Mrigayaa’, directed by Mrinal Sen. The realistic and gritty period drama - set against the background of British rule in India - Chakraborty played a rebel tribal ‘Guniya’ who fights to defend his tribe and his lady love Dungri (Mamata Shankar).
While his debut film established him as an actor with incredible heft, it was his dazzling masala-fuelled blockbuster ‘Disco Dancer’ in 1982 that catapulted him into an instant star. The songs ‘I Am A Disco Dancer’ and ‘Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Aaja’, form this rags-to-riches fable about a young street performer from Mumbai slums making it big as a pop idol and are some of Chakraborty’s most defining songs of his career.
And let’s not forget that this superb Elvis impersonator also made sure that his hit songs became fodder for spoofs and costume parties.
Recently even teenage pin-up boy and agile dancer Tiger Shroff, danced to ‘I Am A Disco Dancer’ re-mix, as a nod to its long-enduring popularity.
The 70-year-old actor, who was known in his youth as a staunch Naxal sympahiser, went onto act in over 350 films in languages including Hindi, Bangla, Bhojpuri, Tamil, Telugu, and Odiya. Apart from winning three National Awards for his debut film, ‘Tahader Katha’ (1992) and ‘Swami Vivekananda’ (1998) in his prolific career, he is also a record holder in the Limca Book of Records for releasing 19 movies as a lead actor in 1989.
His turn in films including ‘Wanted’, ‘Boxer’, ‘Agneepath’ and ‘The Don’ made him a household name in India. Often labelled as the poor man’s Amitabh Bachchan, Chakraborty couldn’t re-invent himself with the same agility that he displays in his political party switches.
In an earlier interview with Pink Villa, Chakraborty claimed that he’s a satisfied artist. “I am fortunate that I got a lot of opportunities to prove myself. As I said earlier, it’s all about chance. There’s no other formula. I was a dancing star. The dance forms changed with time. First MC Hammer’s dance was popular and then came hip hop and later, new dance forms. I was inspired by Elvis Presley and Adele Astaire. Even today in every village you will see a Mithun Chakraborty. Sometimes, if people ask me why I did a particular role, I tell them maine chance liya (I took a chance),” said Chakraborty in that interview.
Chakraborty, a former Rajya Saba member, hotelier, and entrepreneur, has also judged a popular dance reality show for several seasons. His sagacious personality with a penchant for wordy slogans lives by this mantra: “I don’t carry any hang-ups. If a film flops, it flops... move on. I don’t live for tomorrow. Today is the day for me.”
A successful entrepreneur, a quiet philanthropist
By Gautam Bhattacharyya, Senior Associate Editor
Kolkata: Mithun Chakraborty is believed to be a man with a good business sense - while his philanthropic zeal is something which separates him from several big guns of the industry. Much bfeore leading members of Bollywood turned entrepreneurs, Chakraborty had built up his chain of hotels in southern part in India - in the hill station Ooty and in the Nilgiris.
Branded as Monarch Group of Hotels, one of his marquee properties is located at the highest point in Ooty which has a helipad built for him - where Chakraborty flies in from his base in Coimbatore. How much is he worth? Celebritynetworth.com, a celebrity-watch website, values him at $ 40 million as per 2016 figures.
He has, however, a proven track record in philanthropy - with his Foundation ‘Aamra’ (we) investing enough time and funds for research and treatment of Thalassemia - a genetic blood disorder. Chakraborty, who has made time to act in Bengali films from time to time, had been also at hands to raise funds for charity after floods affecting his state.
‘‘During lockdown, I had made arrangements to send foodgrains to the districts of Bengal. Mind you, I felt it was my duty to try and do something for my state...and I was not a part of BJP then,’’ he said.
Incidentally, Chakraborty had been the highest Income Tax payer in the Indian film industry during the peeak of his career for five years on the trot from 1994-1999, something which had the Indian government using him as a brand amabassador to espouse filing tax returns.