It was indeed a different kind of Puja this year, held amidst the pandemic with great care and caution. With smaller idols, open pandals and restricted visitors, Puja organisers had to celebrate Bengal’s biggest festival with minimum rituals and zero glamour to defeat the Coronasura. Though it was a bit disappointing for them, they are hopeful that things will be much better in 2021 and Durga Puja will get bigger and better next year. “The way we’ve started planning, our budget will be more than double next year. There will be a bigger pandal, idol and lights,” said Abhinava Dey from Beliaghata 33 Palli Adhibashi Brindo. The organisers will start working on sponsorships from March itself.
According to these organisers, the biggest gift of 2020 was the Puja going digital. Due to the present situation, every club — big and small — used the social media platforms to reach out to the audiences. “Next year, we have to allocate a part of our budget for digital streaming along with other expenses. We are happy that our Puja is getting bigger this way,” said Shubhra Das from Bhawanipore 71 Palli.
Preparations start early
The clubs have already started talking to various artists. “Every year, the Puja parikrama and competitions are over by Shashthi and awards are declared on Saptami. On Dashami, we visit a few select pandals. Then depending on the budget, we decide which artist to approach next. The club members have already started that discussion,” informed Pradyumna Mukherjee from 66 palli.
By January, the clubs lock the theme and from May or June clubs start working on sponsorships. Abhishek Bhattacharjee from Behala Natun Sangha said that the first step of organising a Puja is to choose an artist. “Getting an artist is like getting the best player for the team. Just the way football clubs run after big players, we also try to hire the best artist around. If we succeed, half the battle is won,” Abhishek said.
Several offers for artists
Rintu Das, who became a household name after conceptualising the migrant worker Durga Puja at Barisha Club this year has already got more than 10 offers. He said, “For artists like us, this is the time for a vacation and I will enjoy the next seven days in leisure. I will decide something after Lakshmi Puja.” Celebrated artist Bhabatosh Sutar, who decorated Suruchi Sangha and Naktala Udayan this year, has also got several offers but has decided to take some time off before making any decision.