RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s visit to Mithun Chakraborty’s Mumbai house earlier in February cannot be dismissed as a mere courtesy call. Isn’t it more than a ‘coincidence’ that the actor, who was shooting in Lucknow was back in Mumbai on Tuesday and the RSS strongman happened to be in Mumbai too, after his Bihar visit?
The visit lasted for around one hour and 45 minutes and was described by sources as a breakfast meet. A person like Bhagwat has his visits and itineraries planned well in advance and these are not agendas that can be modified at whims and fancies.
The actor, too, told a channel later that he had a spiritual connect with the saffron big man and when asked about the forthcoming West Bengal elections, Mithunda, as he is fondly known, laughed a bit as he told the correspondent, “Mujhe jo kehna tha mainey keh diya, aap ko jo samajhna hai aap samajh lo”.
It may be recalled that the three-time national award-winning actor had also paid a visit to the RSS headquarters in Nagpur in 2019.
Mithun Chakraborty may have been a nominated Trinamool MP from Rajya Sabha, but his political affiliations have all been apolitical, if one could say so. He has made more friends both in filmdom and in ‘rajneeti’, than foes.
It may be recalled that in his heyday, he had rallied in support of the writer Salim when the latter launched his company Aftab Films. Mithun was per se the mainstay for Salim in several films, to ensure that his ventures were distributed because by then, Gouranga Chakraborty alias Rana Rez alias Mithun Chakraborty was a mega star of the eighties and he could ensure the saleability of any film. He had once said it was difficult for him to get job, being a Bengali, hence the moniker Rana Rez!
Bollywood has always been cruel to ‘outsiders’ and that is why the cult film ‘Disco Dancer’, which ran for 25 weeks at a stretch and is still a rage in Russia, never even got a nomination, leave alone a popular film award. But this could not dampen his spirit. Mithun went on to win three national awards and after four decades, he continues to act in critically acclaimed films like Tashkent Files.
From being branded as a ‘dark-skinned’ actor, he evolved to be known as the dusky, sexy Bengali babu! But Bollywood continued to be rude to him, dubbing him the poor man’s Amitabh. However, none of this could deter the Bengali babu who continued to go from strength to strength.
In several interviews, he has said that after losing his brother, he grew closer to his family but then, had to leave Kolkata because of his political affiliations.
His journey from Jorabagan in north Kolkata to 2021 has been an epic one. After a dream debut which earned him a national award, he landed in Mumbai, seeking to claim his place under the sun in the film industry. But the trouble was, people were not ready to accept a dark-complexioned hero, choosing to remain in the dark about this dark horse in the waiting.
The actor has often spoken of a friend who got him a membership at Matunga Gymkhana, enabling him to take care of his bare necessities for quite some time.
Having lived through such trying times, which good friends helped him see through, Mithun has always been someone who stands by people. He has campaigned for the veteran CPM leader Subhash Chakraborty and also campaigned for Pranab Mukherjee when the former President fought from Jangipur. He has been the most ‘available’ star campaigner for one and all.
He continues to enjoy enormous clout across Bengal and is the original ‘Dada’, even as his enigmatic aura remains intact.
Equally beloved by the urban and rural populace, the have-nots look up to him as a real-life hero who has scripted his success story with sheer hard work. He’s their zero-to-hero man. They draw hope from his success and see him as the great survivor. For both rural and urban Bengal, Mithun is synonymous with hope and confidence. He can strike a chord with all of Bengal with the same elan and ease.
Not only does he continue to be a box-office draw to this day but he has been an exemplary citizen too. He has been the highest individual taxpayer between 1986 and 1991, in recognition of which he was made the ambassador of the ‘Voluntary Disclosure of Income’ scheme for five years. It is said that it was his ‘zidd’ to achieve this feat to prove the fact that one of India’s poorest people could become one her richest, through hard work.
His yeoman service in the field of thalassaemia eradication in Bengal is another feather in his cap.
To come back to the Bharatiya Janata Party, it is actually running out of time. It may be recalled that Union Home Minister and BJP national chief Amit Shah had dared Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee that the BJP would field a ‘bhoomiputra’ CM candidate and with Sourav Ganguly falling ill and having been ‘ruled out’, the saffron camp is frantically in search of a saleable face, which could cut across the terrain of Bengal. And if the Bhagwat-Mithun ‘talks’ fructify, it may be a win-win situation for the BJP in Bengal.
With that, Mithun’s life story would come full circle too, just like in the movies.
The writer is Senior Associate Editor, Free Press, Indore.