The director of Subhas Chandra Bose’s biopic on Monday issued a clarification after Twitter users claimed that a portrait of the freedom fighter, unveiled by President Ram Nath Kovind at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, was actually that of actor Prosenjit Chatterjee, who played Bose in the 2019 movie.
Srijit Mukherjee, the director of Gumnaami, tweeted a picture of Bose, which he said was the basis of the painting at Rashtrapati Bhavan made by Padma Shri-winning artist Paresh Maity. “For any similarity of Prosenjit’s [actor Prosenjit Chatterjee’s] look to this photo, the credit goes to Somnath Kundu [the make-up artist for the movie],” he tweeted.
Meanwhile, Chatterjee himself tweeted on Monday evening congratulating Maity for what he referred to as a “wonderful piece of art”. “As an Actor, I’m elated that people thought, that the painting resembles my character in Gumnami (sic),” he tweeted.
Earlier in the day, the alleged mix-up created a huge row on Twitter. “Such is the state of affairs in this country,” political anthropologist Adil Hossain tweeted. “President of India unveils the official portrait of, yes believe me, of actor Prasenjit Chatterjee [Bumbada] and not Netaji at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Bumbada acted as Netaji in Srijit Mukherjee directed film Gumnaami. Hail the casting.”
“This is unbelievably hilarious,” another Twitter user named Joy Das wrote. “The portrait that President of India unveiled, it is of Actor Prosenjit who played role of Netaji [look at eyes]. That’s like unveiling Portrait of Ajay Devgan as Bhagat Singh.”
Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra also mocked Kovind for the alleged gaffe. She has now deleted her tweet. “After donating Rs 5 lakhs to the Ram temple the president honours Netaji by unveiling a portrait of Prasenjit, the actor who played him in biopic,” she had writtem. “God Save India (because this government certainly can’t).”
The Bharatiya Janata Party, meanwhile, claimed that Bose’s family provided his picture to the artist Maity, NDTV reported. “The photo does not resemble Prosenjit at all,” unidentified party officials told the news channel. “It is an unnecessary controversy.”
The government also said that the whole debate was “fake and based on poor research”, according to India Today.
BJP’s Information Technology cell chief Amit Malviya hit out at those who said the portrait was of the actor. “If the neo-Bengal experts are done making a fool of themselves, outraging over the portrait of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, unveiled by the President of India, let me remind them that all their misplaced activism won’t be able to save Mamata Banerjee,” he said.
Fact-checking website Alt News also found that the Rashtrapati Bhavan did not use the wrong image. “Alt News cropped the portrait from the full image and reverse-searched it on Yandex,” the website said. “This led us to a photograph of Bose similar to the portrait tweeted by BJP leader Chandra Kumar Bose in 2019. He is the grand-nephew of Subhas Chandra Bose.”
Kovind had unveiled Bose’s portrait on Saturday to mark the freedom fighter’s 125th birth anniversary. On the same day, a controversy erupted in West Bengal as Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi took part in an event to honour Bose. Banerjee had refused to speak at the event, after saying she felt insulted by “Jai Shri Ram” slogans that were chanted there.