While Sansad was set up by Uttam Kumar in 1962 to help poor technicians and barely had any political affiliation, the latter was close to the Left parties. Soumitra aligned with the Sangha, which, according to Tolly insiders, eventually led to a rift between him and Uttam Kumar. The two later made up, and Chatterjee remained an ardent admirer of the matinee idol.
While he always maintained a distance from politics, Chatterjee was occasionally seen at CPM rallies in the ’90s. He never endorsed the party publicly, but didn’t hide his liking for the CPM-led front either. But he never contested the elections.
It was a chance encounter with Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee that brought him close to politics, the actor had later said. The two were part of Satyajit Ray’s funeral procession in 1992 that ended in a mayhem at the Keoratala crematorium. During the short but eventful journey, Chatterjee discovered they both loved poetry, cinema and Tagore, both were proficient writers and their political views were not very divergent.
Being marked a ruling party supporter ostensibly made him unpopular when the Left rule ended in 2011. Unlike other celebrities and actors, he didn’t hurry to shrug off the tag but expressed reservations about certain moves made by the Mamata Banerjee government. Matters came to a head when he was not invited to the statesponsored Kolkata International Film Festival in 2012. Another notable omission from the list was Mrinal Sen. Days before the festival, Chatterjee was part of a protest against the state government. Both Chatterjee and Sen were dropped from the film festival committee as well. While the two were later invited, Chatterjee refused to join the inauguration at Netaji Indoor Stadium, calling it “crass and senseless”. He instead performed on stage that evening and said he would never attend a festival that was inaugurated in a stadium, and was not consistent with the spirit of cinema.
However, Chatterjee didn’t stick to the stand. In 2018, he attended the film festival inauguration at Netaji Indoor in the presence of Bollywood stars, including Amitabh Bachchan. Though he never saw eye to eye with the Trinamool, Chatterjee softened his anti-incumbent stance and maintained a respectable distance from politics.
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