Tollygunge big fight
By Bengali Tollywood News Network, Sun 29/Nov/2009

Koel Mullick lights a matchstick, Swastika hits back
After Rituparna Sengupta, Koel Mullick, the daughter of veteran actor Ranjit Mullick is in the race to the top position in mainstream Bengali cinema, almost by default. But unlike her soft-spoken and perfect gentleman father Ranjit Mullick, she is said to have a major attitude problem. Koel is in the centre of a controversy in Tollygunge triggered off by a politically inappropriate statement she made in a recent interview to an English daily. She went on record to state in lucid terms that Tollywood actresses use the casting couch to get roles in films. She has not named any of her peers but in so doing, she has forgotten that she is a Tollywood actress herself.

Swastika Mukherjee is the daughter of television and film actor Santu Mukherjee who is as talented as Ranjit Mullick but not as successful and famous. Swastika entered Bengali cinema after a brief sojourn into television and is doing leading roles in big banners opposite Prosenjeet and Jeet. Taking umbrage at Koel’s sweeping comments against the entire tribe of actresses in Tollygunge, Swastika attacked this damaging statement in a Bengali daily. Instead of damage control, the article has snowballed into a heated controversy. Swastika asked whether the names of established actresses like Indrani Haldar, Rituparna Sengupta, Gargi Roy Choudhury and others who, according to Koel’s comment, are included in this list.

Tollygunge stars, actors and would-be actors now seem divided between the two actresses, unwittingly creating two ‘camps’ - one that backs Koel Mullick and the other that backs Swastika. Neatly poised between these polarised groups, are fence sitters led by none other than Prosenjeet, who, as Secretary of Artists’ Forum, has reportedly not yet responded to a complaint against Koel lodged jointly by Swastika Mukherjee and Rachana Banerjee. Declining any official comment, Prosenjeet feels the Forum has no truck in what appears to be a personal squabble between two stars. “It ceases to remain personal once an official complaint has been lodged in writing to the Forum,” opines N.K. Salil, famous for his screenplay and dialogues in mainstream cinema. “The Artistes’ Forum ought to have taken action as soon as the letter reached it. It is an important issue that involves the entire industry,” he adds.

Filmmaker Pijush Saha backs Swastika and admires her honesty. “If Koel has really made such comments and Swastika has leashed out against them, then Koel is responsible for whatever has happened. You must expect to be hit back if you throw a stone at someone. If others in the industry followed Swastika’s example, then the mass adulation of stars would get back its former position.” Most within the industry feel that Swastika’s counter-attack on Koel’s comments is justified and logical. Some feel that Swastika should have refrained from mentioning names. There are a few who believe that bringing an industry-related vendetta out in the open is undesirable and both actresses are squarely responsible for placing the status and position of the industry at stake.Taking Koel’s barbs questioning the moral practices of Tollywood actresses as an implied jibe at their relationships with top heroes in the industry, Jeet says, “the final decision, the casting and crew for any film is jointly taken by the producer and the director, considering the demands of the character within the script. As hero, all I can do is to suggest names. If anyone feels that I have been suggesting Swastika’s name to every director, may I kindly point out that I have recommended Koel’s name too for Bandhan. I suggested the names of Sagnik and Sandhita for Champion. So, the bottom line is that everything in casting is a mutual decision between the producer-director on the one hand and the hero on the other. I was stunned when I read Koel’s comments. I back Swastika, Rachana and others who support their stand completely. If someone lights a fire and thinks she can get away without being hit back by its flames, she is mistaken.”

“I cannot blame Swastika. We have families of our own. We command some respect among the masses. Koel’s irresponsible comments that definitely point fingers at actresses and the casting couch can harm all of us. The saddest part of this whole issue is that Koel fails to realise that if you point a finger at others, the other fingers will point back at you,” says an embittered Rachana, a wife and mother in personal life.

Most within the industry feel that Swastika is justified in hitting back. Some feel she should not have mentioned names. Some believe that bringing an industry-related vendetta out in the open is undesirable and both actresses are squarely responsible for placing the status and position of the industry at stake.

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