It’s time to talk about Shatabdi Roy, TMC MP and once actress. She was in the news recently, not for this amazing sense of color coordination, but for angrily exclaiming that migrants returning to Bengal due to covid shutdowns shouldn’t be expecting VIP treatment, which to Bengalis of a certain age, is referred to as “jamai ador”, the premium treatment reserved for the son in law, in that he gets dibs on the fish piece with least needles, the fleshiest part of the mango and the Proline T-shirt of the same color that Ravi Shastri wears.
As a politician she has been in the news several times over the past few years: for openly declaring that as a MP her first priority would be people who voted for her, and not those who didn’t, and that her value as a MP was that she appeared for free in events, and that was a value proposition for her constituents, cause they got to see a superstar in real life without paying for the privilege.
These are remarkably honest statements and why I believe she is an amazing politician, touching as she does, with precision and economy of expression, why celebrities are MPs under Didi regime and the attitude of this most “liberal” government to those who don’t agree with them.
For those who don’t know, Shatabdi Roy was the reigning queen of Tollygunje (Bengali film industry minus Satyajit Ray) once upon a time, locked in battle for supremacy with Debasree Roy (known to rest of India as Satyavati in Mahabharata). If Debasree Roy did Kolkatar Rosogolla in Rakte Lekha, Shatabdi Roy did the identically choreographed O Dadu Samle Cholo (Grandpa, watch where you are going) in Lal Pan Bibi (which would be a great name for a Jyoti Basu biopic with the theme song O Dadu Samle Cholo ) cementing the epic rivalry between the two.
To be honest, their markets were different, if Debasree Roy was the urban diva, spoiled and privileged, playing piano while covered in gold, as around her adorable little boys ran around in baba suits (the sign of high living in Jyoti Basu Bengal), Shatabdi Roy was the demure middle class lady in salwar kameez and cotton saris silently pining for Victor Banerjee (in the days when he was a heartthrob of the intellectual Bongololona from JU Ingliss, and not what he has become now, a brand ambassador for hospitals where you go when your heart throbs) in the song “Tomari cholar pothe”, mandatorily sung last day of class in high school, to signify unrequited “prem”. Together with Chiranjeet (also a TMC politician) and referred to in Anandalok ( local Bengali film magazine) as Banglar Stallone in the same way Stallone was called the Italian Stallion, she ruled the mofussil, the place in Bengal that’s not Calcutta or Darjeeling, and when men wistfully looked out of the window while being squeezed in to Budgebudge local, stuck between armpit sweat and vendors selling muri logenze, it was said that Shatabdi Express was all they had in mind.
Of course Shatabdi Roy came in for criticism for her latest statement, but I criticize those who criticize her, surely her supreme achievements in the cultural realm, her domination of the mind space of Bengali men who are now uncles, should count for something in terms of defining her legacy, so what if she makes an insensitive statement once in a while.