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Hue And Cry Over Netaji Bose’s Photograph Unveiled By President Kovind At Rashtrapati Bhavan

On 25 January 2021, Twitter witnessed a surge in conversations about Netaji Bose’s photograph, making it to one of the trending topics on the social media platform. This is two days after India’s President Ram Nath Kovind unveiled a portrait of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose at Rashtrapati Bhavan to commemorate his 125th birth anniversary. 

Twitter users including a number of verified handles claimed that the photograph President Kovind unveiled, was actually that of actor Prosenjit Chatterjee, who played Netaji in the 2019 movie Gumnaami

Actors, journalists, and politicians also shared this claim. 

Screenshot of Richa Chadha's claim that President Kovind unveiled the actor's photo
Screenshot of Richa Chadha’s claim that President Kovind unveiled the actor’s photo

Archived versions of these claims can be viewed here, here, here, here, and here

Earlier on Monday, the mix up on Bose’s photograph caused quite a stir on Twitter. “What a spurious debate!,” tweeted journalist Siddharth Zarabi. “And utterly shameful comments that drag in Rashtrapati Bhawan.” 

Another Twitter user’s post read, “This is unbelievably hilarious. 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.”

“What’s next? Ben Kingsley’s pic as Gandhi’s & Roshan Seth’s as Nehru? Such disdain for Netaji has never been seen before. How can anyone be so uninformed?,” read user Gaurav Pandhi’s tweet. Now deleted. 

Mahua Moitra, Trinamool Congress MP, also mocked President Kovind for the alleged error. “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 tweeted. “God Save India (because this government certainly can’t).” She has now deleted her tweet.

While, CNN’s contributing editor Aditya Raj Kaul called it a “needless controversy.” 

Other Side Of The Story  

On the same day, Srijit Mukherjee, the director of Gumnaami, tweeted the photograph of Bose which he said was the basis of the painting at Rashtrapati Bhavan made by Paresh Maity. “For any similarity of Prosenjit’s look to this photo, the credit goes to Somnath Kundu,” he tweeted. Kundu was the make-up artist for the movie. 

Also on Monday, Chatterjee himself congratulated Maity for the “wonderful piece of art.” “As an Actor, I’m elated that people thought, that the painting resembles my character in Gumnami,dir. by @srijitspeaketh and prosthetics by Somnath,” he tweeted.

Here’s Chaterjee talking to SVF about Gumnaami and his transition into Bose’s character. 

BJP leader Chandra Kumar Bose offered clarification on Netaji’s photograph. “This is the original photograph of #NetajiSubhasChandraBose, based on which renowned artist Shri #PareshMaity has drawn the portrait which was unveiled at Rashtrapati Bhavan on 23 Jan 2021, by Hon’ble President of India-Shri Ram Nath Kovind ji,” he tweeted. 

Political journalist at The Hindu Nistula Hebbar also clarified, “The original photo of Netaji on which artist Paresh Maity based the portrait unveiled at Rashtrapati Bhawan was sourced from Jayanti Bose Rakshit, Netaji’s grand neice.”

The government termed the debate “fake and based on poor research,” as per India Today. 

BJP’s Information Technology cell chief Amit Malviya also responded to those who claimed 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 tweeted.

A few of those who tweeted the initial claim later posted clarifications on the same. 

Supreme Court lawyer and National Spokesperson for INC, Jaiveer Shergill, also tweeted a correction.  

Lesson learnt: A few checks and background research before hastily posting on social media platforms could save spurious debates and unnecessary shaming. 

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