Variety, the spice of Bengal celebs' campaign style (Election Special)
From chic to street smart, the contrasting campaigning styles of debutant star candidates not only upped the glam quotient and cast a spell on the Bengal electorate in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls but also gave their more sombre and experienced opponents a penny for their thoughts.
Though campaigning came quite naturally to the milieu of actors, singers, sportspersons and a magician in the fray - courtesy their visibility and existing fan following - the biggest hurdle they had to cross was to make the voters believe in them.
The magic mantra was crystal clear - do what you do best to woo the electorate - sing, play, strut and talk!
A few minutes of soccer with children and youngsters livened up the daily routine of the amicable former Indian soccer captain and Trinamool nominee Bhaichung Bhutia, who canvassed across his hilly constituency Darjeeling dressed casually in kurtas and jeans.
Bhutia's dimpled smile and charisma had an instant connect with his female fans, who took to Twitter to post pictures and express their enthusiasm.
Magician P.C. Sorcar Junior, fielded by the BJP from Barasat, on the other hand, consciously stayed away from his bag of illusions and tricks - even though the BJP rolled out magic-raths or chariots with local magicians for his roadshows.
Magic is only for the stage, the perennially smiling Sorcar, decked up in kurtas, mostly saffron-hued, accessorised with stoles embroidered with the BJP's lotus symbol, would say as he met people and sought votes.
Giving a personal touch, Sorcar distributed printed cards with his name and contact details during his road shows and walkathons. Being approachable was clearly on his mind.
Trinamool's candidate, actress Moon Moon Sen, joining the fray from Bankura, chose to project a rather docile and simple image in cotton saris - a far cry from the bikini-clad on-screen romps in the 1980s that brought men to their knees.
Shaking hands with the tribal girls of Bankura, blessing them as they jostled to touch her feet, Moon Moon - daughter of legendary Bengali celluloid queen Suchitra Sen and married into Tripura's erstwhile royal family - proved she could balance both worlds with panache.
The locals linking her to the uber glamorous Sen senior only added to the appeal. With actress-daughters Raima and Riya in tow, her roadshows pulled crowds even in the heat and dust.
At the other end, Disco king Bappi Lahiri, fighting from Sreerampur on the Bharatiya Janata Party ticket, was the croon captain of the poll game, playing quite the Pied Piper to the young and old alike.
Conspicuous in his chunky gold chains and sunglasses, the portly hitmaker not only belted out chart toppers like "De De Pyar De" in his inimitable style but also tweaked and parodied his hits to suit the electioneering, including one themed on his constituency.
In comparison, actor Dev, who had his schedule packed with shooting and canvassing, had a more rousing welcome from youth in his constituency Ghatal.
Seen chatting up youth, Trinamool nominee Dev made it a point to stress on inclusion of youngsters in politics.
They lined up in the rural areas to get his autograph, while the jeans and T-shirt clad Dev even went the distance to have a cup of tea at his opponent's residence. Dev, like Moon Moon, refrained from political attacks.
Despite the frenetic pace of campaigning, which involved a lot of travelling bang in the middle of summer, the star candidates always looked spruced up and ready to interact with the electorate.
Beauty expert Keya Seth, known to groom West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, advised celebs foraying into politics to change their style statements and pay attention to their body language.
"Politicians are public representatives. They should work on their body language and word application. They should be aware of their dressing sense as well. Though they need to travel a lot these days for campaigning, still they should look fresh and full of energy," Seth told IANS.
"Some of them have changed their style statement, as they become aware of their new role. If you look back, you can find some Indian politicians had a fixed style statement and mannerisms, like former prime ministers Indira Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Some of the contemporary politicians also do follow admirable style statements," she said.
Come counting day May 16, we will know which celeb-politicians did make a lasting impact.
(Sahana Ghosh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 13-05-2014)