Kolkata: Badsha Maitra is a common face on television or even on big screens. And that is precisely for his acting skills more than anything else. At the same time, his political inclination is an open secret which he also never brushed under the carpet to score brownie points in the tinsel town. The actor, who took a firm stand on his political preference several moons ago, feels that one doesn’t always have to be on the winning side. Maitra speaks his heart out about politics, career et al in a free-wheeling interview when The Lateralz caught up with him. Excerpts…
The Lateralz: In the run-up to 2021 Assembly Elections, there may be another paradigm shift after 2011 if BJP takes over from TMC. Does Left have any chance to score?
Badsha Maitra: Being a left-sympathiser, I want to clear the air on one thing that elections is not everything me. I don’t believe that CPIM or Leftists would always have to win. The time Leftists were dethroned in Bengal, I said ‘I would love to see what the Communist party does if it sits in the opposition. I will have a chance to see that.’ I am among those who never broke down, fell apart and never lost hope. Personally speaking, my personal life, career, what I do aren’t related to whether CPIM is or isn’t in power.
TL: Given the current scenario across the world, where are we heading to?
BM: In India, or maybe in the entire world, the rise of rightist forces is evident. But the places where rightist-forces are growing, people are losing out on better lives. The parameters of the term ‘better life’ are happiness, freedom of expression, health, education and inclusive growth. If we look at these parameters, we see that everything or everyone is falling back — taking from a first world giant like America to India the scenario is the same.
In the broader aspect, what the leftist-economists are thinking regarding growth and economy should become an ideal model which keeps more and more people happy, and not confined to a few. So my idea of better living is for the good of more and more people. To achieve that, Leftism is the only way forward.
TL: While pledging support for the Leftists you had to bear a lot in your professional career; your views on this…
BM: No one forced me or I was never bound to do this as I don’t belong to any political party. I have 100 per cent freedom in what I do, how much I do and not, which meeting to attend which not to. None dictates me whether I will go to any of the meetings or not. I practise this and there shouldn’t be any confusion.
In other words, any political leadership that can be of any level doesn’t control me; I am an individual. Personal relationship, love and affection, mutual respect grows one by one as we go to various places together. There is always a continuous discussion about it. But the compulsion that a party worker has, I don’t have.
Yes, due to my Left inclination, I faced a lot in the industry and still I am facing which is very true. But I don’t find anything abnormal about this. I would quote a scene here from Satyajit Ray’s film Ganashatru where Soumitra (Chatterjee) da says ‘you call yourself a progressive, but won’t take the risk cannot happen’ while handing over an article that was against religious belief. The editor was naturally wary that the article could have had bigger repercussions with a completely different line of thinking.
So, I think the majority of people won’t like you if you choose to walk against the wave. Similarly, I do enjoy huge number of people’s admiration, including few in the opposition ranks too. Few try to avoid me out of apprehension just because I believe in some other ideology. I don’t mind that. I never tried to paint any image of myself outside an actor.
TL: Influence of politics in the Bengali entertainment industry…
BM: Nowadays, there is a huge influence of politics in the film industry, but there are still many actors and producers, though not many, who were always by my side just for one reason that they believed I can carry any role, so they prefer working with me and we have mutual respect. As an actor, I share a good rapport with everyone in the industry.
TL: If you are offered to contest an election, are you ready for that?
BM: I have got many indications and even had conversations regarding this, but personally I don’t have any interest in contesting election now. To contest an election, one should know the rules and regulations of the communist party, in particular.
The discipline of a party worker is different — their sacrifices in life, their disciplines, etc. I don’t think I have any of these mental aspects as I am totally from the entertainment industry and I believe that is my only identity as of now.
TL: Are you open to direct films?
BM: Many people ask me why I don’t direct, but my answer is direction is a full-time job; a director should have a different thought process. As my first love is acting, so I don’t have that thought process of a director till now. The director needs to think about every minute detail about the process. Similarly, if any day I get mentally prepared for politics then I may think of it but as of now, I am an out-and-out actor. Besides this, I love adventure, wildlife photography. These things are much important to me. Shooting apart, I mostly stay out of town to nurture my passion.
TL: In Bengal context, Bidhan Roy, Jyoti Basu, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Mamata Banerjee — if you are asked to evaluate the four chief ministers of West Bengal, what would be your take?
BM: I won’t do this at this point in time as it is all about perforated politics which runs in West Bengal. According to me, my political philosophy is out of reach in this matter. Each one of them has his/her own importance and position, but yes if I have to pick one for the chief minister’s slot, I will pick a communist, there’s no doubt about it.
TL: Leftists are not much into corruption compared to the rest. Why?
BM: ‘They are honest’ can be the only answer. There may have been some unscrupulous individuals, but they are poles apart as compared to others. The striking thing about the majority of Leftists is that despite having brilliant academic careers, they chose to sacrifice those and took up politics full-time. In earlier days, when they stepped into politics, they didn’t know they will rule the state for 34 long years.
Many of them left their home comforts, many stayed un-married, gave up their lavish lives and chose to follow the trend that the communist party follows. So, it’s nothing abnormal for them in being honest thereafter too. Both the BJP government at the Centre and Mamata Banerjee in Bengal— share a poor relationship with the Leftists, but still, they were not proven guilty with 10 years passing by. Almost 56 commissions were set up against them (as I read in the media) but failed to prove charges on most of the occasions.
TL: Is there any reason why communist structures like Cuba, Vietnam (and even our Indian state Kerala) have handled Coronavirus pandemic better than others?
BM: The countries which have mishandled coronavirus pandemic are mainly capitalist countries. They were not serious initially and later it went out of control. On the other hand, countries like Vietnam, Cuba not being amongst the first-world countries, thought a lot about common people as they don’t practise capitalist culture. From the very first day, they were on their toes and were thinking about how to provide better security to a large number of people and their health, much before coronavirus had threatened life.
In the case of Kerala too, it was a sheer scientific way of thinking that separated them from the rest of the country. From the onset, they tried to test maximum people by setting up testing kiosks at roadsides. If you notice, Kerala doesn’t have big private medical facilities, mostly government medical facilities. The primary health infrastructure in Kerala is highly appreciable.
Also, they didn’t set up any committee (laughs) to determine the cause of deaths during the pandemic. Kerala provided facilities in quarantine centres too. Starting from internet service to tablets and carom boards — the state made all facilities at the quarantine centres. Giving food and shelter are not the only things that can keep people happy and away from mental depression. Kerala didn’t have to advertise their efforts or instill fear among people by panicking, they managed it with a human approach. Eventually, the entire world admitted they knew how to handle it.
TL: One of your industry colleagues, recently asked migrant workers, ‘Jamai Ador Korte hobe naki’? What’s your reaction to this?
BM: She is a senior actress, and I reserve my comment on this issue. I will just say ‘migrant workers’ is not the correct terminology. India is a vast country where anyone can do anything, anywhere inside the geographical boundaries by obeying the law. Central and state governments should have shouldered the responsibility of getting them home. After having gone through some harrowing experiences for 40-45 days, the workers deserved better treatment on return to their respective home states.