The flavour of Kolkata

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

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 Bhawal Estate aka 'Sanyasi Raja' (The monk king), thanks to the popular Bengali movie of the same name made on him, fought the famous Bhawal Monk case (One of the most extraordinary cases 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 restoration, it was declared a 'Restored Heritage Building of the City' by INTACH. 

Coming to the library. The kinds of books in its collection took me by surprise 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. There is a large number of titles in fiction and non-fiction in English and Bengali, study books (like management). And…..hold your breath…they have a mind-boggling collection of comic books in English to pull the children. Imagine a police library keeping a huge collection of Tintin, Asterix, Marvel, DC and more!!

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 to visit is weekend as it is much less crowded then. 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.

Ided tea

The membership fee is Rs 800 per annum plus Rs 100 as a one-time cost of 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.”


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

#MicroFiction #ShortShortStory #MicroStory #FlashFiction

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Kolkata in art

I came across these beautiful painted pictures of my city of love on Facebook and couldn't resist sharing them with you after the artist happily permitted. They are done by painter Dibyendu Ukil, based in Chinsurah ,who has studied the art in Government College of Art & Craft, Kolkata (popularly known as Art College).

All the pictures are of north Kolkata and the detailing deftly brings out the quintessential life in that part of the city and its fascinating British era architecture, which is one of the reasons why I am charmed by Kolkata forever.

About the pictures, their finesse reminds me of master artist Subrata Gangopadhyay whose impeccable, lifelike painting works I've grown up with seeing in Anandamela (children's magazine).

The old world charm exuded by the pictures is very much a reality. It is a delight to many travellers across the globe.

#Painting #Kolkata #Architecture #Heritage #KolkataArchitecture #KolkataHeritage #LifeInKolkata

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Saturday, July 28, 2018

Itsy-bitsy story #1

"You don't know her for long. What makes you think of her so much? She's not pretty or attractive, right?"

"Right. But she is unlike anyone I've met so far."


"She can laugh at herself."

#MicroFiction #ShortShortStory #MicroStory #FlashFiction

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The ISKCON Rathayatra 2018

This was my first encounter with the Rathayatra conducted by ISKCON in the city as my new office is close to its temple on Albert Road. When I reached the temple at around 3.40 pm, the Rathayatra had just set off. The route was: Albert Road - Hungerford Street - Sarat Bose Road - Hazra Road - Hazra Crossing - Ashutosh Mukherjee Road - Jawaharlal Nehru Road (Chowringhee) - Brigade Parade Ground. The pandal at Brigade Parade Ground will remain seven days. After that there will be a return of the procession to Albert Road called Ulta Rathayatra ('Ulta' means return) on a different route via Esplanade on 22nd July.

Albert Road-Hungerford Street

There are three 'ratha's (chariot)- One each for lord Jagannatha, his brother Balaram (alias Balabhadra/ Baldev) and sister Subhadra. A huge procession takes place around these three and it is witnessed by thousands of devotees and general public.

Albert Road-Hungerford Street

Albert Road-Hungerford Street
(The above pictures are sourced from a colleague)

I am confessing herein that, to me, the best part of a puja is its prasad. I came to know from a colleague of this group called Baldev Group (Dedicated to lord Baldev) which was to distribute prasad bhog (rice-based prasad) on the occasion. I, accompanied by a support staff, set out again from the office for the prasad. The distribution would be from a spot on Sarat Bose Road. The ratha (chariot) procession was moving down that road then with huge crowd witnessing it from the side and scores of devotees joining others in pulling the ropes of the ratha. A lot of young photography enthusiasts climbed the road dividers for a vantage point.

One of the three rathas

I figured out the venue in the middle of a thick crowd. Volunteers of the group were distributing sherbats to the people gathered. Devotees from the group had cooked several units of chappan bhog (Literally an assortment of 56 items from starter to dessert) to offer the deities before distributing as prasad. I saw the units placed on table tops being carried to the deity and brought back.

Chhappan Bhog on way to be offered to the ratha of Lord Balabhadra (Balaram)

The distribution started soon after, while the procession was still on, from the Pabrai's ice cream parlour. And it was exciting! One could pick up any one bowl/ plate/ pot and take it away. I was choosy as we had to pick up a proper bhog for sharing it among colleagues back in the office. My colleague picked up a pot of khichdi topped with fried vegetables and it had my smiling approval. I was looking for a good finishing dish and spotted a bowl of kheer and wasted no time to pick it up. We left immediately and it soon started pouring. 

I was happy for this experience despite the long walk to the prasad venue at Sarat Bose Road and back to the office in the drizzle. Everyone in the office was happy to share the delicious bhog.

#ISKCON #Rathayatra #RathayatraKolkata #Rathayatra2018 #RathayatraKolkata2018

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Pratim D Gupta talks 'Ahare Mon'

Last August, he served us a delectable Maacher Jhol. Set in Paris and Kolkata, the film gave us a hitherto unthought of Ritwick as an internationally acclaimed Masterchef in a sensitive mother-son tale. It won both critical and popular acclaim.

This time around, he has trained his focus on pairs of minds of various ages and how they vibe with each other. Simply speaking, an out-of-the-box take on love and companionship, so nicely and aptly named Ahare Mon. It boasts of an eclectic ensemble cast of Anjan Dutt, Mamata Shankar, Ritwik Chakraborty, Parno Mitra, Paoli Dam, Adil Hussain and debutante Chitrangada Chakraborty.

In this short interview, Pratim D Gupta talks on various aspects of his new film in his usual candid manner. Ahare Mon releases on 22nd June 2018.

Pratim D Gupta with Mamata Shankar on the sets of Ahare Mon

Kolkata Curry: If we call Paanch Adhyay vanilla romance, Ahare Mon seems to be a layered, out-of-the-box take on on the subject. Was there a common thread in conceiving all the four stories? How did the stories fall in place?

Pratim: I had two of the stories with me for a very long time. The airport immigration officer story which I had first thought of at least 12-13 years back. And the story of the two thieves too was something I have wanted to see on screen for at least a decade. There are two friends of mine in Mumbai - Harneet and Kartik - and I would discuss with them the Michael Tendulkar-Suzie Q love story. But at that stage both were one line premises. The two other stories emerged last year when I thought of clubbing these short stories together into one feature film. The common thread is love, of course, but it's also about loneliness and companionship and the eternal wait for love.

KC: Given an opportunity in the past, you had a wish to shoot Adil's story with Mithun. They have different appeals and screen presence. What made you select Adil apart from the fact that he is a gifted actor and you admire his work? Did you have to rewrite the track for him?

Pratim: When I thought of that story, I had Mithunda's face in mind. That was a dozen years back. When I finally sat down last year to write out the screenplay, I knew Mithun da would most likely not be available to play the role of Purnendu Pahari. So I didn't have any actor in mind when I finally scripted that story. I tried a couple of actors from the Bengali film industry first and waited for each of them for weeks to confirm their dates. But they just couldn't shuffle their calendar, despite their best efforts. Adil was like an SOS call although he wasn't aware how panicked we all were. Within a day of me sending him the script, he got back saying, "I've just read a couple of pages and I want to do this".

KC: I love both the songs- Monta Ahare and Ahare Mon. Written, composed and sung beautifully, they are urbane and very contemporary in sound. But why did you limit the songs to just two in a romantic tale?

Pratim: It's more of a drama. Not romance in the sense of a Yash Chopra or Karan Johar film. The truth remains that songs hold up the screenplay. So, although I love music and participate heavily in the creation of songs and background scores of my films, I try to keep songs to the minimum.

KC: The Anjan-Mamata pair is coming back  after Jani Dyakha Hawbe (2011). Did you cast them keeping in mind, among other things, their recent and past on-screen chemistry (in Kharij and Grihajuddha)?

Pratim: Can I tell you the truth? I haven't seen Kharij. And I couldn't complete Jani Dyakha Hawbe. Sorry, Birsa! Grihajuddha I have seen but to be honest, no film or moment from earlier films played any role in scripting the Barun Babu - Charulata Debi portion or while directing Anjan Dutt and Mamata Shankar in Ahare Mon. This is a whole new pitch and believe me they have simply knocked it out of the park. Their hotel scene will remain special.

#AhareMon  #BanglaCinema  #BanglaCinema2018  #Cinema

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A freewheeling chat with Srijit Mukherji

He has studied Economics in Presidency College and Jawaharlal Nehru University. He has several years of directorial experience in Bangla cinema behind him. He takes an academic interest in tracking box office figures of his films as well as his peers' and deeply analysing audience response to his films. He has complete knowledge of the work of promising new directors and the response to their films. His contemporaries Shiboprosad Mukherjee and Raj Chakraborty have film production houses to their credit for quite some time. He has worked in Hindi cinema where most of the noted directors have their production house. I had often wondered why he was not starting his production house and taking his creative and economic acumen to the next level.

It was heartening to note a few months back that Srijit Mukherji finally started his production house, thoughtfully named Match Cut Productions, and announced its first production Chowringhee which is a co-production with SVF.

Srijit opens up on his newborn in this Kolkata Curry exclusive interview for the first time (considering all media).

Kolkata Curry: You don't need to look for producers for making your kind of films. It could be similar for web series. What was the thought behind setting up Match Cut Productions?

Srijit Mukherji: There are lots of stories which appeal to me or are close to my heart which already have a storyteller in place. So to be a part of these stories, to facilitate the storytelling process and to bring them to the world, Match Cut was formed. Also, since making films in Bengal taught me a lot of things even outside direction, like production, scheduling, budgeting and marketing, thought Match Cut could be a way to put them to use. The economist in me, I guess, was at play!

KC: What does Match Cut Productions aspire to bring to the table for the industry?

Srijit: New stories, new faces, new voices, unmade projects by known voices, indies which appeal to me, new technicians.

KC: What are your thoughts and plans of working with new directors under your banner? Or handholding independent directors whose films/ content you find promising? You are seen appreciating young talents like Manas Mukul Pal, Indrashis Acharya and Soukarya Ghosal. You presented Pradipta Bhattacharya's national award- winning Bakita Byaktigawto back in 2013. Do you plan to collaborate with some of these names under Match Cut?

Srijit: Absolutely! Much before Rainbow Jelly, I singlehandedly rallied behind the prodigiously talented Shoukarya's Pendulum which blew me away. Even when Manas' Shawhoj Pather Goppo was taken down after an initial run, I protested on social media and used whatever leverage I have, along with Shiboprasad, Shrikant Mohta and Pankaj Ladia to get it back to the halls. I am already collaborating with Paavel on a project, another fantastic talent whose Babar Naam Gandhiji I offered to present. Then there are brilliant new voices like Indrashish Acharya and Sayantan Ghoshal with whom talks are on about possible collaborations. Have been in dialogue with screenwriters like Padmanabha Dasgupta, Debapratim Dasgupta, Dipangshu Acharya and Saurav Palodhi. Match Cut will look at actively producing or promoting content written, directed or both, by these names above, because I firmly believe they hold the key to making the content heavy Bengal film industry even richer.

KC: So far I'm aware, except the Kakababu series and Shibar Phire Asha, which you chose not to pursue after a point of time, you are not known to have expressed interest in adapting Bengali fiction for films. Why did you zero in on Chowringhee as your first co-production while it has had an acclaimed adaptation in Bengali cinema?

Srijit: Before Kabir Suman's Tomake Chai came and changed everything about life from taking pride in one's mother tongue to grumbling, criticizing, condemning but unconditionally loving one's own city, Chowringhee was that novel which did all of that and more to me, at a tender age. In fact one of the earliest memories of a book cover for me is the iconic stamp laden one which hasn't changed over the years. Or the earliest memory of a book ending was the glow sign of Shahjahan. I have never made a film which hasn't come from inside, from an urge, from a deep love, from some piece of nostalgia. So there, the template or formula or pattern or device is absolutely non-existent for me. Chowringhee technically might be a literary adaptation, but for me, is an unforgettable story, an indelible experience which fashioned my mind in early years. Much like Julius Caesar which found its way to Kidderpore in Zulfiqar or like Aban Thakur's Rajkahini found its voice in Rajkahini/ Begum Jaan.

#MatchCutProductions #SrijitMukherji #BanglaCinema

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