Tollywood hero to poster boy for misogyny: What happened to Tapas Pal?
Tapas Pal, who finds himself at the centre of a furore for threatening to rape the wives and daughters of his CPM opponents was not always, it would seem, a frothing at the mouth orator
Tapas Pal, the actor turned Trinamool politician, was not always a poster boy for misogyny. He was once the toast of Tollywood, a well-liked, soft-spoken actor with many supporters.
"I am shocked and stunned. This is not the Tapas Pal I knew for so long. He was a sweet boy and we had worked together in some films. We had good relations and he was gentle. I used to like him. Does one change like this after getting into politics? I don't know how can this happen,"," said eminent director Aparna Sen in comments to the media.
Pal is in trouble for telling an audience of TMC party members to use rape as a means to punish CPM party members. "Earlier, you guys have bullied me on various occasions. If you insult the mothers and daughters of Trinamool workers. Then I won't spare you. I will let loose my boys in your homes and they will commit rape. I will teach each of you a lesson", he declared, sounding like a diabolical filmy villain in a 'fiery' speech made during the Lok Sabha campaign at the Choumaha village in Krishnanagar.
Soon after, another tape emerged where Pal urged his supporters to slit the throats of opponents.
But there was a time when Pal was less Gabbar Singh and more Amol Palekar.
An Economic Times profile of Pal says, "He was average but honest about what he did, and he filled a void for sometime in Tollywood, which was desperately in search of a good male lead actor. It was perhaps this soft honest bit about Tapas Pal that endeared him to audiences, and Mamata Banerjee whose proverbial Achilles' Heel is her insatiable craving for real-time contact with film celebrities - fielded him from Alipore for the 2001 West Bengal assembly elections".
Even as a Lok Sabha MP, Pal was no fire-spitting misogynist, and never made any derogatory comments about women, quite unlike many other members of the house like for instance a Sharad Pawar who in the middle of a heated debate about the new rape law, blatantly defended stalking as 'romance' and 'fun'.
The Indian Express notes that Pal "sat through the 15th Lok Sabha without asking a single question." He did participate in six discussions, where he spoke on one occasion about the problem of human trafficking in his constituency Krishnanagar in August 2010: “Children, young girls and housewives are lured for going out to work as domestic helps, but in reality, they are sucked into… flesh trading. It is really a big social problem"
Pal himself offers no real explanation for his behaviour. In his 'apology' letter to the party leadership he says,
"Some remarks made by me in the heat and dust of the election campaign have caused dismay and consternation. I apologise unreservedly for them. Whatever the provocation -- and there was an attempt at provocation -- those comments should never have been made..."
"I have no excuses to offer. It was a gross error of judgement and deeply insensitive. It should not have happened. And I assure you it will not happen again. Once more, a humble apology."
The Economic Times posits a Jekyll and Hyde theory - what it calls a case of "dissociative identity disorder".
But as Firstpost editor Sandip Roy notes in this opinion piece, the answer is embedded in the politics of the TMC itself and the way Mamata "has treated rape not as crime but as part of a political conspiracy to defame her government. Her party leaders have played follow-the-leader."
With Tapas Pal, it was more of a case of please-the-leader, he writes:
Pal, one of Tollywood’s earliest converts to Trinamool has had apparently been on the outs with Didi for appearing at an event with Saradha-stung MP Kunal Ghosh. Before the 2014 elections there were rumours he would not get a ticket. The BJP had been hopeful about picking up his Krishnanagar seat. Some are seeing his extra-strong braggadocio as a way to curry favour with Didi. He didn’t just talk about rape. He bragged about carrying a revolver to finish off Trinamool’s enemies. “Rangbaji Tapas Pal korechhe,” he boasted. (Tapas Pal too has been a toughie). Rape is just part of a larger threat of violence for Pal. Fighting words he no doubt hoped would warm Didi's heart?
Perhaps it is politics that turned this Bengali Jekyll into a Trinamool Hyde.
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