The flavour of Kolkata

The flavour of Kolkata
The city is known for its old alleys. One such is shot by Atanu Pal.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

2019: A year of thrillers in Bangla cinema

One genre that never goes out of favour with Bengali audience is thriller. And standing now, 2019 looks like a bonanza for the audience with a possible release of five thrillers made by two big names, one young and successful director and two promising filmmakers. Here you go.

Ink
A long cherished script of Pratim D Gupta who treated the audience with a delectable Maacher Jhol in 2017. The script of Ink was selected in the coveted Sundance Screenwriters Lab in 2014. Starring Pratim’s favourites Ritwick and Paoli, it’s about a superstar and a reporter with a mundane job (played by Paoli and Ritwick respectively). Pratim shot major parts of the film even before his unusual love story Ahare Mon released this year. The credentials of the script will be a major reason for me to look forward to Ink.

Vinci Da
Srijit Mukherji has recently finished shooting his new thriller centred around a make-up artist and a serial killer and looks set for a Nawbobawrsho date (April). The director is back to the genre which brought him fame and recognition with two films. Baishe Srabon, his second film starring Prosenjit and Parambrata, catapulted him to the big league and Chotushkone, which had some experimental treatment and an ensemble of Aparna Sen, Chiranjeet, Parambrata and Gautam Ghose, gave him two national awards, a first for him, besides box office success. Vinci Da boasts of a powerful cast- Rudraneel Ghosh and Ritwick Chakaraborty in the lead, Sohini Sarkar and Anirban Bhattacharya playing a cop.

Rawkto Rahoshyo
After making Pendulum and this year's critically acclaimed food fantasy Rainbow Jelly, Soukarya Ghosal just finished shooting his next, reported to be a medical thriller, in one demanding schedule. Starring Koel, Chandan Roy Sanyal, Rwitobroto Mukherjee and Basabdatta Chatterjee (of Asha Jaoar Majhe by Aditya Bikram Sengupta), it has Koel playing a headstrong and brutally honest RJ.

Khela Jawkhon
The name and cast of this dark thriller by Arindam Sil, whose expertise in the genre is well established, was announced last week.The eclectic cast has Sayani Gupta (You saw this Bengali actress from Kolkata in Fan), Abir, Adil Hussain, Jayant Kripalni, Indrashish Roy and June Maliah among others. Interestingly, Arijit Biswas, the co-writer of one of this year’s most acclaimed films Andhadhun (a thriller with a dark comedy streak), Badlapur and Agent Vinod, is writing the script in collaboration with the director. To be shot in Odisha, which is less explored in Bangla cinema, and Kalimpong, it goes on floors coming February.

Parcel
Finally, Indrashis Acharya, noticed for his debut directorial Bilu Rakkhosh  in 2017 and Pupa this year, both liked by discerning audience, has turned his attention to this thriller starring Rituparna which seems to be about facing the dark past of a character. Indrashis is known for his treatment of the intricacies of the human mind. So the film, a new genre for the talented new director, will be worth looking forward to.


#Thriller #BengaliCinema #BengaliCinema2019 #VinciDa #SrijitMukherji #ArindamSil #SundanceLab


If you want to keep tabs on Bangla cinema, you may join my Facebook group We the Audience, known for quality content, audience reviews and discussions of Bangla and Hindi cinema, here.


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Friday, December 14, 2018

The humble street sweet shop in Sealdah

In an abandoned entrance of an old building, just ahead of Loreto Day School, Sealdah, a middle-aged man dressed in white dhoti-punjabi and tilak on forehead sets up a stall early morning selling sweets. He sells still stocks last, which is early or mid-afternoon. The sweets are from Krishnanagar, which sounded new to my ears (though the said town is famous for certain sweets) as I am familiar with street shops procuring sweets coming from Chandannagar and Howrah. I have also heard of sweets from Katwa (of Bardhaman district) selling on the city streets. So, in this shop, you shall get to sample the famous 'Sorpuriya' of Krishnanagar as part of a decent range on offer (given the small space).

I have been noticing the shop, named 'Amrit Keli', for many years now as I have been going to Loreto to fetch or drop my daughter(s). The name is another unique aspect of it as street shops are nameless. The sweets look tempting and are testimony to the amazing range of street food Kolkata offers in desserts which has no match in India.


I finally tasted the fare today. Firstly a kheer-covered syrupy sweet (My second favourite category). The thick, kheer-enveloped sweet was so tender, it broke and fell off my finger. The sweetness was moderate, just as I like it. Next was a large lyangcha. It's not often that you get a good quality of this fried sweet on the street. I still went for it as the one I had before was impressive. The lyangcha tasted good! It didn't feel maida (refined flour) much as is the case often.


I got chhanar payesh (Kheer made with tiny chhena balls) packed for my post-lunch dessert in office. It was thickly creamy and good in taste! My personal preference would be a bit less sweet though.


The prices are much reasonable given the quality. My bill was Rs 47.

This calls for more visits to check out the other goodies.


#Sweets #Sorpuriya #StreetFood


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Saturday, September 29, 2018

A beefy lunch at Shim Shim

I first read about this new kid on the block in a social media post by food blogger friend Indrajit Lahiri as the only known place serving beef momo in the city. Beef momo! That's interesting, I thought. To me, momo equals steamed pork momo. So another kind of it with red meat should be good.

An opportunity came up to have it and many more beefy delights when Indrajit arranged for a meet-up with friend and well-known food blogger Yummraj (with his rani) and another friend and noted food blogger Sabyasachi Raychaudhuri over lunch last Saturday. I knew Sabyasachida through social media and met him for the first time. And man, what a fabulous beef fest it was over endless food talk!

It's a moderate-sized, tastefully decorated restaurant on Tibetan theme with contrasting brick-coloured and white walls with functional, iron chairs and wall-side sofa seating. It serves Tibetan and Chinese Cuisine with a bit of Mongolian and Nepali thrown in. The staff is young and soft-spoken.


We started off with Beef Kothay (Momo with a roasted bottom). Juicy and delicately spicy mincemeat inside a soft skin got it a thumbs up!

Beef Kothay

Yummraj ordered the Oxtail Clear Soup after he curiously found it on the menu. But it didn't impress us. The only disappointment in our memorable lunch.

Oxtail Clear Soup

Up next was the Beef Thukpa. The flavourful broth with strips of beef, noodles and veggies set the palate right. In fact one of the reasons why we didn't like the Oxtail soup was that it tasted like the thukpa. The last starter was Beef Phalay which is like a kachori stuffed with mincemeat. Crunchy outside, moist inside, it  scored with us effortlessly.

Beef Phalay

Moving on to main course, we ordered Chilli Beef and Mongolian Beef to go with steamed Gobindobhog rice. The Chilli Beef was cooked to perfection. It was dry with the heat of a generous amount of slit chilli and the goodness of spices. There were various shapes of beef. Before you have it, squeeze a bit of lime on it and it will be irresistible!

Chilli Beef 

We loved the Mongolian beef too which was low on hotness. The hint of sweetness made it stand out.

Mongolian Beef

An interesting thing came up in our food talk. The habit of people to mean 'Hot' by the word 'Spicy'. As it is, 'Spicy' means it will give the feel of being well-cooked with spices and may not actually be hot at all. In fact, a lightly-cooked dish can also be spicy (Shukto, the Bengali appetizer, is one).

We finished the main course with the scrumptious Beef Kofta. The crunchy exterior loaded with juicy mince beef inside won us over! It can be a damn good starter as well.

Beef Kofta

We were feeling full and content and rounded it off with Crispy Pancake with Banana and Nutella. The look was inviting and Nutella oozed out of it as I held a piece. A fitting end of a thoroughly pleasing meal!

Crispy Pancake with Banana and Nutella

The prices are pocket-friendly. Our bill came to around Rs 2200 after eating to our heart's content and repeating a few dishes. A great afternoon spent over delectable food and good company.

I have to come back, especially if I have a beef craving.


#Beef #BeefDishes #Tibetan #KolkataFood


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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Chaats of ISKCON #1


Due to hygiene issues I cannot have phuchka on the street as per clinical advice. I haven't had it for long despite a weakness for it. So after I spotted it being served in the ISKCON temple premises at Albert Road, a much unlikely place for it, after we shifted our office to Camac Street, I went for the phuchka one evening as I was feeling like a snack break from work. 

The phuchkas were finger-licking good and the tamarind water was perfectly strong! They were more or less uniformly sized, crisp, with adequate filling and the tamarind water with chopped coriander leaves was served in a full glass. So, you pour the water in the phuchka just as you like it before putting it inside the mouth. The filling had boiled potato, boiled chickpea, boiled moong mixed with spices. The man at the counter asks how hot the customer would like it- normal (moderate) or very hot. He uses chilli powder/ green chilli/ both accordingly in the filling. Thankfully, like it happens in central Kolkata and with phuchka-sellers having mostly non-Bengali customers, the tamarind water did not have a strong taste of cumin powder. It was pure tamarind water like they serve it in north Kolkata and actually a better version of that. Also, considering tamarind water is the most sought after ingredient of phuchka and customers often ask for a free refill after their serving, a glassful of this just for you is tempting! 

The phuchkas are made in-house and are better than roadside ones which are not of uniform size, are sometimes overfried and invariably fried in cheap cooking medium which gets burnt in the process. These phuchkas untick all these points. At Rs 38 for eight pieces, it is definitely at a premium than its roadside cousin but worth it because of the hygiene, overall quality and taste.

There are iron benches and tables to have your food in a serene setting on Albert Road, with the Victoria Square park opposite it.




I am definitely going back for the dahi phuchka, papdi chaat and dahi vada. Watch this space for the series to continue.


#Phuchka #KolkataFood #StreetFood #IndianStreetFood


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Sunday, August 19, 2018

Kolkata Clicks #1

It's World Photography Day today and Kolkata Curry is celebrating it through a curated photo post as part of a new photo series with select clicks of the city by the shutterbugs.

The first one is a street click by international award-winning photographer Soumya Shankar Ghosal who is a self-proclaimed street photographer and has championed street photography in the city through his Facebook group Streets of Calcutta. I have seen few viewing the streets like Soumya does. He has an eye for the extraordinary in the mundane street life.



The next is a click from the folk festival 'Gajan Utsab' by passionate Kolkata explorer Arpita Chanda. As she says, Gajan is one of the oldest festivals of Kolkata and it is much older than Durga Puja. 


Victoria Memorial is synonymous with Kolkata. Everybody loves to shoot it. And then some shoot it like a dream. Here is one such by Arindam Patra.


Now, one more from the life on street. A capture of a moment of joy in the dreary life of private bus drivers, by Rupam Sen.


Signing off with a dreamy capture of an afternoon in a new township of Kolkata by Dushyant Chhetri.




#WorldPhotographyDay #WorldPhotographyDay2018 #PhotoSeries #KolkataPhotos


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Monday, August 13, 2018

A police library with a difference

Today being National Librarian’s Day, I wish to talk about a new library that charmed me.

I came to know of it from a Facebook post of Kolkata Police. Known as Kolkata Police Museum on Google Maps, its full name is Kolkata Police Museum, Library and Cafeteria. It’s located at 112 Ripon Street (on the left approaching Wellington).

I visited it with three friends who got interested hearing of it (two of them read the Facebook post too). The museum is small and spread over two floors. Its main attraction is arms seized by police from various periods of history dating back to pre-independence era.


Photograph by Arnab Banerjee

It shows the evolution of the police uniform since the colonial times. The winners of various awards/ honours of police are listed. It states that Natha Singh was the first Indian to win a traffic roll of honour and he won honours in two consecutive years, 1938 and 1939. A section familiarizes with various badges of the ranks of police which is an important civil information.


The history of the house is interesting too. The second prince (Mejokumar) of the erstwhile Bhawal Estate, who is popularly known as 'Sanyasi Raja' (The monk king), thanks to the popular Bengali movie of the same name made on him, fought the famous Bhawal Monk case from this house. It is regarded as one of the most extraordinary cases ever fought in Indian judicial history which took place in 1933-1936. As it happened, a monk came to the estate and claimed himself to be the Mejokumar who was known to have died eleven years back, and demanded his share of the estate.

Available documents show that it was the residence of Calcutta High Court Barrister RS Tweedle in 1874. After changing hands it landed with lawyer SN Matilal (in 1912) whose daughter Sarajubala Devi was married to the first prince of the Bhawal estate. It went to be part of the estate thereafter.

The house was decided to be demolished given its pathetic condition at a point of time. Kolkata Police took it as a challenge to restore it, and I must say they have done an exemplary job! Post the painstaking restoration, it was declared a 'Restored Heritage Building of the City' by INTACH. 

Coming to the library. It took me by surprise by the kinds of books in its collection as it completely beats the perception of a police library. I later realised it was by design, thanks to the Commissioner of Police Mr Rajiv Kumar, as it has been envisioned as a centre for police-citizen connect. The CP is so attached to it that it is said to be his second home and he is often seen there. The surprise element is that it has a wide collection of books for all the members of a family, from the junior to the seniormost. The fiction section is amazingly robust with admirable collection of classic literature, juvenile literature and classic thrillers.  The non-fiction range is pretty good too, including study books in various disciplines like finance and management. There are many Bengali titles too, both in fiction and non-fiction. Noticed the now popular book on fascinating cases of Kolkata Police written by senior police officer Supratim Sarkar, titled Goendapith Lalbazar (The English translation named ‘Murder in the City’ is available too). Before it became a book, the stories were being published in the Rohoshyo Robbar series on Kolkata Police Facebook page and they gradually whipped up a huge following.  

The library has over ten thousand books.

At the end of our tour of the library, what blew my mind was the extensive collection of comic books in English to hook the youngest readers. Imagine a police library keeping a huge collection of Tintin and Asterix, Marvel and DC!!

As Sub-Inspector S Sharma, the friendly gentleman who acquainted us through the library, told us, it is open seven days a week, 11 am to 7 pm. However, the best time is weekend as visitors are much less. They encourage one to come with the whole family and spend a good number of hours there. To help the purpose, there’s a cool cafe, interestingly named Off Duty Delights, which serves (non-alcoholic) beverages and a good range of snacks. We liked the iced tea. For the overall feel, one of the friends compared it to the British Council Library.


Iced tea

The membership fee is Rs 800 per annum plus Rs 100 as a one-time cost of membership card. You can take books or DVD or both and keep upto two books for a maximum of four weeks.


#NationalLibrariansDay #Library #Museum #Heritage #History


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Friday, August 10, 2018

Itsy-bitsy story #3

“I don’t miss mom’s finger-licking rajma masala in tiffin.”

“Got a good cook?”

“Dad makes it as good. He learnt from mom when she was ill.”



#MicroFiction #140CharacterStory #ShortShortStory #MicroStory #FlashFiction #Twitterature

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Itsy-bitsy story #2

“You are back! How was it?”

“Work-wise, good! The project was interesting, the team was fun, the office is cool and there were loads to learn. But the food put me off.!”

“I warned you, it’s not a city where good food is easy to find.”

“I remembered it. Everything from Chinese to biryani, breakfast to lunch was a mess! Strangely those suit their palate! Had to survive on soup and sandwich.”

“But you must thank your luck for that.”

“Why?”

“You are wearing your favourite fitted shirt after three years thanks to this one month.”

#MicroFiction #ShortShortStory #MicroStory #FlashFiction