Last week I got an invitation to attend the 20th Kolkata International Film Festival. I was in Kolkata on a quickie tour so I politely declined, even as a film journalist friend quipped that this would be yet another opportunity to see Shah Rukh Khan charm Mamata Banerjee with a hug and his dimpled smile and the chief minister break into a blush.
As predicted, the next morning Mamata Banerjee was splashed across the papers with Khan and Amitabh Bachchan by her side. What got buried in the brouhaha that day were reports on investigations into the Burdwan blast case which does not exactly show Mamata Banerjee government in a very good light. Nothing sells like Shah Rukh Khan. Not even sex or serial blasts.
This is an old trick. Something Shah Rukh had himself pointed out when Aamir Khan clubbed the promotions of his film Ghajini with the release of his Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. “I think it is a very good strategy. He (Aamir) thinks he can ride off the brand that is Shah Rukh Khan, which is the biggest brand,” Shah Rukh had said in an interview. It was a strategy that was used by self-styled management guru Arindam Chaudhuri as he got Shah Rukh to endorse his ponytail along with his corporate empire which included four media publications, a consulting firm, a software company, and a movie production company.
The show Chaudhuri put up with Khan was so grand that for a while people ignored accusations of fraud against his educational institutions. Even as Chaudhuri became a regular fixture on Page 3 in most newspapers and on Op-ed pages in a few telling us what was going wrong with the world at large, his students graduated to an uncertain future and journalists working for his media companies went without pay for months. Till it all came crumbling down with the Delhi High Court restraining IIPM from offering MBA, BBA courses or advertising as a management and business school. The court also ordered Chaudhuri to prominently display on IIPM website that they are not recognised by any statutory body or authority.
Like Chaudhuri, Mamata Banerjee’s government is under the glare of law. As a bomb went off in Burdwan district in October, in a Trinamool Congress leader’s house, killing two who the NIA suspect were making bombs to wage an unholy war in Bangladesh, Mamata’s minority appeasement policy blew on her face.
When she came to power in 2011 ending 34 years of Left rule, beleaguered Bengal had expected the moon. Mamata had also, among other things, promised to turn Kolkata into London with the Hooghly river “as the theme on the lines of the Thames”. While that is remembered as an old joke, Mamata has failed to keep the other promises she made while taking on the Left like returning Singur land to the farmers, reducing unemployment and attracting industry to the state.
Instead, she has followed the CPI(M) policy of encouraging immigrants from Bangladesh to cross over and add to the vote bank. Some of those who came in are expelled extremists dreaming of uprooting the Sheikh Hasina government. They found safe haven on this side of Bengal as Mamata planned a hospital only for Muslims, monthly honorarium for imams, separate engineering exams for minorities and a massive rally in Kolkata in support of the mastermind of the 1971 Bangladesh genocide. Even as right-thinking Muslims in Bengal balked at her inanities, West Bengal got the sobriquet of a terror state.
Now with the NIA digging out uncomfortable truths about her party men’s probable collusion with jihadists and her expelled party MP Kunal Ghosh singing like a canary on the other big soup she has landed herself in, namely the Saradha scam, Mamata needs to offer her people a grand delusion. As 2014 ends as yet another year of dashed dreams for Bengal, who better to sing Happy New Year than the King Khan himself!