A function to felicitate film personalities from the State organised by the West Bengal government struck a discordant note here on Tuesday when renowned filmmaker Mrinal Sen, a recipient of the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, was given a miss.
Much to the embarrassment of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the organisers of the event, the omission was publicly pointed out by the critically acclaimed actor and this year’s Dadasaheb Phalke Award recipient, Soumitra Chatterejee, who was felicitated on the occasion for his lifelong contribution to cinema.
While applauding the State government’s initiative to recognise the works of eminent personalities from the world of cinema, in its maiden venture, Mr. Chatterjee said: “I do have some misgivings because I believe had Mr. Sen, who has been amongst us all his life, also been here today, I would have been happier.”
Mr. Chatterjee’s comment was followed by a brief pause when he was seen speaking to Ms. Banerjee and others on the stage. Mr. Chatterjee then remarked that the nonagenarian filmmaker was suffering from ill health and moved on to other matters.
However, Mr. Sen’s poor health could not have been a reason for the State government not considering him for the honour, as they were conferred upon others in absentia including music director Bappi Lahiri, who could not be present because he was travelling abroad.
While Mr. Sen’s political views are widely believed to have been the reason for his omission, the inclusion of four Trinamool Congress legislators – MPs Tapas Pal and Shatabdi Roy and MLAs Debashree Roy and Chiranjeet Chakraborty – could not be missed.
When announcing that the awards will be given, Ms. Banerjee at a recent press conference had taken pains to point out that her government did not believe in playing political favourites when recognising artists.
Her apparent attempts at driving home the point by awarding Mr. Chatterjee, known to be close to the Left, seemed to have back-fired considering Mr. Sen’s omission.
Apart from Mr. Chatterjee, the lifelong contribution of yesteryears actresses Supriya Devi and Sabitri Chatterjee were also recognised at the function.