Portrait of Netaji or Bengali actor? Row breaks out on President’s tweet

While Twitter users including TMC leaders lampooned the President for allegedly sharing a portrait of actor Prosenjit who had played Netaji in a biopic, the freedom fighter’s grandson dismissed the claims; fact-checking website says portrait based on original photo of freedom fighter

The portrait of Netaji unveiled by the President to commemorate his 125th birth anniversary | Photo: Twitter

The 125th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose seems to have whipped up a flurry of controversies. After a miffed West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee accused the BJP of “insulting” her with chants of Jai Shri Ram during her speech at the birth anniversary celebrations of Netaji at Kolkata’s Victoria Memorial, a portrait of the freedom fighter shared by President Ram Nath Kovind has now sparked a Twitter row.

As soon as Kovind shared a picture of Netaji on his Twitter handle on Monday to mark the leader’s 125th birth anniversary, Twitterattis claimed that the photo on which the portrait was based on was that of Bengali actor Prosenjit Chatterjee, who had played Netaji in the 2019 biopic Gumnami.

While BJP sources said that the portrait, painted by Paresh Maity, a Padma awardee, was based on an actual photograph given to the artist by Netaji’s family, the rumours were put to rest after the freedom fighter’s grand-nephew Chandra Kumar Bose, also a BJP member confirmed the same.


“Portrait unveiled by the Hon’ble President of India-Shri Ram Nath Kovind ji @rashtrapatibhvn is based on #Netaji’s original photograph. It’s an artists impression of #Netaji,” he tweeted.

Before Bose’s clarification, several Trinamool Congress leaders took to Twitter to post about the ‘misplaced’ portrait, but deleted their tweets later.

“After donating ₹5 lakh to the Ram temple, the President honours Netaji by unveiling a portrait of Prasenjit, the actor who played him in biopic God Save India (because this government certainly can’t),” tweeted TMC MP Mohua Moitra.

After TMC leaders like Moitra had to eat their own words, it was the BJP turn to get back.
“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…” tweeted BJP’s social media head Amit Malviya.

According to fact-checking website Alt News, the portrait is based on the original photograph of Netaji. It said it cropped the image of the portrait unveiled at the Rashtrapati Bhavan and did a reverse-search using Yandex. The result was a portrait of Bose that looked similar to the one tweeted by Chandra Kumar Bose in 2019.

It said there were many similarities between the Rashtrapati Bhavan’s portrait and the one released by Chandra Kumar Bose, like, for instance, the way the cap is tilted and the lips are curved, besides the bags around his eyes and the coat’s crease.

The only good thing that emerged out of the spat was the recognition given to makeup artist Somnath Kundu, whose impeccable makeup in Prosenjit-starrer film led to the confusion.

“The following is the picture on the basis of which the painting at Rashtrapati Bhawan was painted by Paresh Maity. For any similarity of Prosenjit’s look to this photo, the credit goes to Somnath Kundu. #Gumnaami @prosenjitbumba,” tweeted filmmaker Srijit Mukherjee.

“His name is Somnath Kundu. He has been doing exemplary work under ridiculously limited resources in films like Dhananjoy, Zulfiqar, Ek Je Chhilo Raja, Vinci Da & Agantuk. He should have got at least two National awards by now. He is unknown because he is frm the wrong ‘wood’. twitter.com/sayantansunnyg…” he added.

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