Meet Feluda at Mumbai pandal

Sadaf Modak

Mumbai, Oct. 20: In Indian cinema's centenary year, Feluda and Shah Rukh Khan will foray into Mumbai's Durga Puja pandals, and Hema Malini vie with a young Apu for attention.

Films featuring the goddess will be the theme at the city's oldest puja, organised by the Bombay Durga Bari Samiti in south Mumbai. But it will not be just Bollywood's Devdas and Parineeta grabbing eyeballs; Pather Panchali and Joy Baba Felunath too will get an outing.

If star-spotting is your thing, you wouldn't want to miss Shah Rukh's one-hour performance on Navami at Navi Mumbai's Sarvajanik Vashi Durga Puja. Or Hema Malini's dance show at the North Bombay Sarbojanin, organised by tinsel town's Mukherjee clan where Kajol and Rani will be serving bhog as usual.

One added attraction: this year, the Mukherjees' puja will be held at a five-star hotel-turned-banquet venue off Juhu beach.

Asit Ghosh, chief organiser at the Sarvajanik Vashi, said though film stars are invited every Puja, this year will see something "extra big".

"Shah Rukh is an icon. Besides, his Kolkata Knight Riders (whom many Mumbai Bengalis support) won the IPL this year," Ghosh reasoned.

The budget for the puja, which has a 28-foot idol and a pandal resembling Belur Math, is Rs 5 crore. How much will they shell out for SRK's performance? Ghosh isn't telling.

Other stars who will be performing at the pandal on different days are Sonu Nigam, Shreya Ghoshal and Sunidhi Chauhan.

The Durga Bari Samiti has drawn up a list of ideas that the deity symbolises, each to be depicted through a still from a Hindi or Bengali movie, accompanied by explanatory text. Two examples:

Durga Puja is all about rising above social differences. It signifies an acceptance of everyone regardless of background and position in society ' Devdas.

Ma Durga represents strength, a fierceness of spirit, a feminine power that brings even the vilest to their knees ' Kahaani.

Utsav, Amar Prem, Parineeta, Paroma and Devipaksha are some of the other films chosen.

"We have never done a Bollywood theme before. This is Mumbai's oldest puja and is a very traditional one, which doesn't go with Bollywood per se," admitted Indrani Malkani, spokesperson for the organisers.

"But this year, we have decided to pay homage to Indian cinema in its 100th year. The puja will still be traditional, with a separate gallery set up in a hall for the cinema theme."

Slumdog link

The Bengal Club at Shivaji Park will have its biggest star working behind the scenes: Abhishek Redkar, art director for the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire, will replicate Rabindranath Tagore's house in Santiniketan for the pandal.

"Artisans from Kumartuli in Calcutta have been working on the 25-foot idol for over two months," said spokesperson Amit Choudhury.

The Mukherjees' puja is shifting to Tulip Star Hotel, a onetime five-star that is now used only for banquets.

A sea-facing banquet hall will be the food court and the poolside will host performances by Kailash Kher, music director Pritam and Hema. The organisers said the traditional venue was becoming too cramped for the large number of visitors.

The "regulars" at the pandal include Barfi director Anurag Basu and Wake Up Sid director Ayan Mukerji, who had brought along friend Ranbir Kapoor on one of the Puja days last year.

The puja is organised by a trust founded by the late film producer Sashadhar Mukherjee in 1948.

"We see an increasing number of devotees each year. So, a larger venue has been chosen this year," said Deb Mukherjee, Sashadhar's son and former actor who is now the trust's secretary.