Muted in grandeur, Pujas won’t give themes a miss

Satyajit Ray's Apu Trilogy to figure in this year's Durga Puja theme as a tribute to the director

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Kolkata: At a time when all the festivals and celebrations are going through uncertain times due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Durga Puja organisers and Maa’s followers are heaving a sigh of relief that at least they have been granted permission to hold the puja, though bereft of all fanfare.

When most of the organisers are in dilemma about how to make celebrations better with a drastic cut in budget, three big-banner Puja committees in South Kolkata have come up with their Puja theme for this year.

Puja committee members of Badamtala Ashar Sangha, 66 Pally and Kalighat Nepal Bhattacharya Street club said, maintaining all protocols, they are recreating Satyajit Ray’s ‘Apu Trilogy’ as their theme this year. All three clubs have named their theme as ‘Bhooter Raja Dilo Bor’ (King of ghosts gives boon). All the three committees, instead of competing against each other, are uniting to pay tribute to the maestro, whose birth centenary is being celebrated this year.

The entire concept is being looked after by Mridul Pathak, director of IFSD. Badamtala Ashar Sangha will depict ‘Pather Panchali’ (Song of the Roads), 66 Pally will depict ‘Aparajito’ (Victorious) and Kalighat Nepal Bhattacharya Street Club will throw light on ‘Apur Sangshar’ (Family of Apu). The best part is that pandal hoppers will not have to even step out of their cars to witness the pandal or the idol.

The committee members have named it as ‘Drive-in’ pujas. A committee member of Badamtala Ashar Sangha said that they held a virtual meeting last week with the other two clubs over the placement of the idols in such a way that revellers will be able to maintain social distancing while visiting them.

“The theme maker of our puja is Snehashish Maity. Apart from paying tribute to the veteran director Satyajit Ray, all three clubs have decided to even curtail the budget due to the ongoing pandemic situation. Kalighat Nepal Bhattacharya Street Club focused on Apur Sangshar as it requires minimum funds to realise the theme. They did not even hire any theme maker.

The club members will work together to make it happen. “Moreover, all of us have decided to work together not just to curtail our cost but also to give a message of unity to people in these trying days,” said a member from Badamtala Ashar Sangha.

In keeping with the difficult times and following all safety protocols many home Pujas too are undergoing a sea change from the way they celebrate the auspicious occasion. Shobhabazar Rajbari has decided to change their age-old style of Durga idol. It has been learnt from the organziers of Rajbari that all the idols of Laxmi, Saraswati, Ganesha and Karthik will be placed individually but under the same backdrop.

“This year, our puja will see some changes. The first change will be in the idol. Though under one backdrop, the children will be placed separately from the Durga,” said a Rajbari source.

Organisers also added that they will play digital ‘Dhaak’ and ‘Shenai’ as they won’t allow any outsider inside the premises.

“Money will be sent to dhaakis but they won’t be allowed inside as they stay in other districts. We have decided to play digital dhaak this year. We have issued passes for our immediate and extended family members so that there is no entry by outsiders,” added a member of the organising team.

A member from the same family said that every year they make 25 special sweets to offer to the goddess but this year even the number of sweets and bhog will be reduced.

Speaking on the change in the immersion process, he said that since they immerse the idols on their own and don’t hire porters, it will be easier for them this year, as the idols are separate ones.

On the other hand, one Puja committee in Kolkata has come up with a unique plan to help devotees take the blessings of Maa Durga.

95 Palli Jodhpur Park Committee has come up with a unique plan to take the goddess to the people. Sounds unusual? The committee is planning to make a tableau with a miniature idol or a mini pandal of sorts and carry it around the area to make people catch a glimpses of the goddess. Though the organisers haven’t divulged details about the plan, they may make arrangements to collect pushpanjali from devotees once during the day and offer it to the deity in the main pandal.

Meanwhile, Youth Association of Mohammad Ali Park in 2018 had Padmaavat-inspired mandap along with the goddess decking up in Rajasthani-styled sari and last year made a replica of the Murugan Temple of Kerala.

Ashok Ojha, one of the Md Ali Park Puja committee members, said, “This is our 52nd year and the conditions are not at all conducive for any fanfare. We have decided to have shabiki pujo ( traditional puja) this year with ek chala thakur (one single frame) idol which will not be higher than 12-14ft. The pandal will also be a normal one. If we can pull off the puja incident free of any unpleasant situation we would consider ourselves lucky.”

With such devastation and panic around the Bhawanipur 75 Palli Puja committee members too have decided to buck the trend and bring some cheer to the visitors at the pandal. Committee member Subir Das said, “With so much negativity around, we plan to surprise people with a whiff of positivity, which would leave a sweet memory in the minds of people. We haven’t formally named any theme yet, but the essence would be the same.”

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