Cobras, barking dogs, and little else: Mithun Chakraborty’s day out with the media

Basically he stands for nothing, believes BJP and Naxal movement have the same ideology, and likes to compare himself to a lot of animals.

ByMeghnad S
Cobras, barking dogs, and little else: Mithun Chakraborty’s day out with the media
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Mithun Chakraborty has made a splash in Bengal after he joined the Bharatiya Janata Party at a rally in Kolkata on March 7. But the splash became bigger thanks to two dialogues he uttered during the rally while prime minister Narendra Modi was also present on the stage.

For the uninitiated, here’s what he said.

First, he said, “Ami joldora o noi, belebora o noi. Ami ekta cobra, Ami Jaat Gokhro, ek chhobol-ei chhobi.” I am not a harmless water snake or grass snake. I’m a cobra. If I sting you, you will become a photograph.

If you’re confused by the “photograph” reference, it means a cobra sting kills people so they become a framed photograph on a wall...dead.

Next, he said, “Marbo ekhane, lash porbe shamshaney.” I will hit you here, but your dead body will fall in a cemetery.

Now, this is a dialogue from his Bengali movies. Crowd-pleasing, yes, but when uttered during an election campaign, it’s mildly problematic, to put it politely.

Shortly after the rally, Mithun went on an interview spree with different TV channels where he tried to explain why he said what he said.

In this high-octane Assembly election season, Mithun is being seen as a star campaigner for the BJP in Bengal. Speculation is rife on whether he’ll contest the upcoming election. Some are even wondering if he’ll be the BJP’s chief minister candidate.

There is definitely some curiosity about what Mithun Chakraborty stands for, especially since he has jumped around politically throughout his career spanning four decades. He switched from being a part of the Naxalite movement to being a Communist Party of India (Marxist) sympathiser to joining the Rajya Sabha on a Trinamool Congress ticket and, finally, to his latest jump to the BJP.

These questions were posed to him by different anchors on Zee News, Republic Bangla, CNN-News18, and ABP News. But before we get into his responses to their hard-hitting and aap-aam-kaise-khaate hai type lowball questions, allow me to introduce you to what passes off as wordplay on our lovely TV news channels.

Here’s a rundown of what happened.

Mithun ‘Cobra’borty

“They’re trying to create an unnecessary controversy,” Mithun told Sudhir Chaudhary of Zee News when asked about the dialogue. “When they [the opposition] use it, it’s okay. It’s a famous dialogue, they use it randomly all the time.”

According to Mithun, he was just trying to explain what the other BJP leaders were saying. In his own style.

“I didn’t want to repeat what the other leaders said, about the development of Bengal etc,” he said. “So, I wanted to say in short what they wanted to convey. I wanted to say, ‘Either you stand and be correct, otherwise your political career will become a photo frame.’”

Sudhirji kindly gave him an olive branch after this, because Mithun was clearly struggling. “So you’re saying you were misquoted,” he asked.

“Yes. I was,” Mithun responded.

Later, Sudhirji asked him to deliver another dialogue for the “crores of people” watching his show, since his cobra utterance was such a hit.

Mithun da decided to go a bit...random. “I won’t hurt anyone intentionally. I said things when I was young but not anymore,” he responded.

Again, Sudhirji used his god-level interpretation skills to help dada out. “So, you mean you’re not a cobra by nature?”

“That’s it! That’s it!” said Mithun. He was obviously pleased that Sudhirji is a mind-reader.

Arnab Goswami picked up where Sudhir left off, deciding to interview Mithun in Bangla on the recently launched Republic Bangla. Arnab said that he was highly amused when he heard Mithun’s dialogue. “I was clapping during your speech in the studio,” he told him joyfully. Arnab even went on to repeat the dialogue again for Mithun’s amusement.

And he was very amused.

Then Arnab asked Mithun da, “Please repeat the dialogue for us.”

But Mithun had plans of his own. He, somewhat randomly yet again, brought up the other dialogue he used during the rally. He repeated the "I’ll hit you and you’ll end up in a cemetery” dialogue and said, “My dialogue has been immortal. What I mean to say is, I do not do compromise politics. I won’t say if I do this, then give us votes. I wanted to say that I won’t be a traitor to my country. I don’t do rajneeti [politics], I do manushniti.”

Not entirely sure what manushniti means, but I’m guessing it’s something like humanity-niti? Who knows what goes on in Mithun’s mind?

On ABP News, Vikas Bhadauria gamely probed further. “You said you’re not a water snake, but a cobra,” he said. “What do you mean?”

“I don’t do compromise politics,” Mithun replied. “I’m going to say straight, vote for BJP. Even the PM told me when I met him, this sarkaar is everyone’s sarkaar. What I meant is now the time has come, be careful. Bengal’s public has understood. Like that, they’re going to dus [sting] you.”

I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I’m still trying to figure out what he meant by all this. And that was pretty much the case with every answer he gave.

Political contortionist

If you’re assuming the conversations were strictly about Mithun’s cobra avatar, you’d be wrong.

While suggesting that Mithun was misquoted, Sudhir Chaudhary said: “People are saying you have started a toxic campaign right at the beginning. When people see this interview, they will understand what you were trying to say.”

“Even they [the opposition] understand. But they want to twist it,” Mithun said.

At this point, Sudhirji gave him some unsolicited advice: “Dada, you have come into politics, now you’re a politician. In 24 hours, you must have understood it’s a totally different ballgame.”

Okay, so we need to unpack this a little.

First up, Mithun Chakraborty is no novice when it comes to politics. As a young man, before he became an actor, Mithun was actively a part of the Naxalite movement. Later, he was said to be close to top CPI(M) leaders. Then, in 2014, he joined the TMC and got a seat in the Rajya Sabha. During his stint, he asked zero questions, participated in zero debates, and attended only 10 percent of the proceedings.

Source: PRS Legislative Research, MP Track

Source: PRS Legislative Research, MP Track

He finally resigned in 2016 after his name was associated with the Saradha chit fund scam.

So, yes, Sudhir’s attempt to portray Mithun Chakraborty as an innocent-actor-turned-sudden-politician is not exactly correct. Mithun da seemed to catch on and reminded him, “Look, I didn’t ever think I’d become a politician. People say he was a Naxalite first, then was in CPI(M), then TMC, and now BJP...”

“Yes, my next question was about that,” Sudhir interrupted. “How did your ideology become so different?”

Mithun said, “None of these have a different ideology. All of them want to help the poor...Everyone wants to do the same, only the flag changes. I am a big fan of Jyoti Basu even today. Then Mamata Banerjee offered Rajya Sabha on these terms only.”

Sudhirji didn’t delve deeper into this very important aspect. Instead, he veered towards a lowball question: “What happened when you met PM Modi?” He even told Mithun that the title of his show was Jab Mithun Met Modi. We’re not even going to bother including those answers.

Vikas Bhadauria tried his best on ABP News too, asking why Mithun switched to BJP.

“I never do politics. I have always seen who is doing well and gone along with them,” said Mithun. “When I was 18, I had a dream that I will fight for the poor one day. Why did I pick the BJP? Because it’s an attempt to help the poor. At least they’re trying to do that.”

He revealed a bit more during his interview with CNN-News18: “BJP is a party that is at least trying to do something for the poor. You may say it’s just politics, but they’re trying and I’m there with them.”

Mithun also told CNN-News18 that he was never a member of a communist party. “But I was a supporter of Jyoti Basu,” he said. “I have stood by people from different parties. I left TMC because it was my call. It was my mistake. My decision was a mistake. I thought something but I thought it may be so. But then I thought it may not be so.”

The last line was exactly as it sounds: confusing, vacuous, and telling viewers nothing.

But across interviews, the gist of his political contortions was that he believes that all parties fighting the election in Bengal have the same ideology – which is helping the poor – so how does it matter which party he’s in? In dada’s eyes, even Naxalism is same to same, it seems.

‘I can’t break protocol’

Out of the four interviewers, only one actually asked Mithun what he stands for, what he would do if elected, what issues the BJP is raising, and his opinion on basic issues like the farm laws and the citizenship law protests. This was Vikas Bhadauria on ABP News. And the only response Mithun da seemed to have was, “I can’t break party protocol.”

At one point during the interview, Bhadauria asked, “So, should we say now that you’re a star campaigner for the BJP?”

Mithun responded vehemently. “No, I’m not! I’m not a star.”

“What I mean is a star campaigner,” Bhadauria clarified. “A list of 40 names will be given to the Election Commission which would have ‘star campaigners’, so their rally expenses would not be included in the candidate’s permitted expenses.”

Dada seemed to process this information and then reject it. “Change, change,” he said, “I’m a non-star campaigner. I’m a barking dog on the side. Why do you even bother about me? Just ignore me and move on.”

He wasn’t trying to be funny, but seriously. He said this “I am a barking dog” line in other interviews too, when asked about why he joined the BJP.

Bhadauria didn’t give up, though. He asked, “What do you want to change in Bengal?”

“Everything!” Mithun said enthusiastically. “I want to change everything! Bengal in a mess. So everything!”

“So, you mean the previous governments did nothing for the state?”

“No, no,” Mithun said. “Why talk about the past? I’m not saying that. But look to the future.”

Further probing happened. “What is your dream Bengal like?”

Mithun responded in one line, “I want to bring back the glory of Bengal.”

Bhadauria decided to take a different approach. “Central government is not dealing with unemployment, price rise is happening, petrol prices are increasing,” he said. “What is your response?”

“I am not a leader, so I cannot answer this,” said Mithun. “Have you ever seen me do gossip? About other leaders? No. I won’t go beyond party protocol.”

“Since you’ve entered politics, people want to know your views on these issues,” Bhadauria pointed out.

“When and where I’m required to speak, I will speak. I can’t talk about everything here. I can’t say anything about this,” Mithun replied, looking visibly annoyed at this line of questioning.

To Bhadauria's credit, he didn’t let go and tried another approach. “What do you think about the CAA-NRC and farm protests? Immigration is also a big issue in Bengal.”

Mithun again gave a non-response. “Talk about Bengal, can’t talk about other states. I haven’t looked at the details. I have no opinion.”

As one final push, Bhadauria asked him a simple question: “What do you think about BJP giving tickets to people with criminal charges and corruption charges? Do you agree with that?”

“I’m a flying crow who has come to sit on a branch,” Mithun said. “You are asking me about the party decisions and whether they are right or wrong. Sorry, sir, I can’t answer. Let’s end this here.”

And he ended the interview abruptly.

This entire episode of Mithun’s day out with the media brings back some memories. If you’ve closely followed elections over the past few years, you’d remember Kiran Bedi, then the BJP’s chief minister candidate for Delhi, giving an interview to Ravish Kumar. Bedi gave extremely bizarre answers to Kumar’s questions, answering nothing of significance.

Based on these interviews alone, Mithun is going the same way. Hopefully he’ll have more media appearances and more answers as the campaign goes forward. After all, the nation wants to know what’s inside Mithun da’s mind, other than filmy dialogues involving cobras and crows.

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