The flavour of Kolkata

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

Friday, December 29, 2006

A youth film

Finally Kolkata has its own urban film for the youth, about the youth and by the youth. The movie Aamra produced by young entrepreneur Nitesh Sharma (Banner: Bangla Talkies) and directed by young US-based debutant Mainak Bhaumik hit the multiplexes on December 22. The sole single-screener to show it is Priya. There was a campus show (Posibly for the first time for a new Bengali movie) in Xavotsav (The annual fest of St. Xaviers) just around the release. It is about six characters from diverse backgrounds and their take on love and sex. In fact it is also officially the first sex comedy in Bengali.

Read my review of the film in my film blog Show Business. The link:

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Organised retail scene will be hot in the city

Organised retail, now represented in the city by Big Bazaar and small players like Arambagh's Food Mart and C3, is set to witness a big change coming year. Subhiksha, the Chennai-based and Mumbai-strong retail chain is going to blast the marketplace with no less than 90 stores by April 2007.

There will be a Subhiksha store in virtually every neighbourhood. And their strategy will be to saturate the city as soon as possible. Organised retail is showing impressive growth in the city with the rich and the upwardly mobile increasingly depending on it. It's a boon for the working couples who are hard pressed about time to shop.

Big Bazaar started changing the shopping scenario a few years back with it's first hypermarket in the city ar VIP Rd. Today it is a 6-store-strong chain, soon going to open two more stores in Kankurgachhi and Sinthi. The chain has two hypermarkets branded Big Bazaar at VIP Rd and Metropolis mall at Hiland Park and four standalone grocery and packaged consumer goods stores branded Food Bazaar at Camac Street Pantaloons, Alipore, Gariahat and Mani Karn, the upcoming housing project on EM Bypass at Beliaghata.

Subhiksha will be different in format too. Unlike Big Bazaar whose USP is great bargains it's a hardcore discount chain offering 9-10% on an average on packaged goods, where the most you get at Big Bazaar on an average is 2%.

Arambagh's Food Mart is the biggest chain in terms of scale. It has 18 stores as of now. But as an organised player they are way behind Big Bazaar. At best an Arambagh's Food Mart can be called a low-profile neighbourhood department store. They are small and clumsy, low on the comfort factor, offering small maneuvering space to consumers when the footfall is high. As an insight, one finds edible oil packs on the floor, while the chain's own brand of grocery goods (Rice, dal, spices) are kept on the racks. In Big Bazaar and C3 the edible oil packs are arranged neatly on dedicated racks.

Subhiksha looks like a blessing for the average consumers who will be spoilt for choice and whose shopping habits will be transformed. Soon shopping will beocome fun and leisure for middle class housewives.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A triumph of people

The 48-hour bandh on Dec 21-22 was called off from the brink (Wednesday afternoon). And it's clearly a triumph of the people who revolted.

The Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo Mamata Banerjee got an indication of the revolt of the people since yesterday morning as media joined people's resolve to give TMC a piece of their mind by even walking to work if need be during the bandh days. The Telegraph carried a front-page campaign with a huge heading- DEFY BANDH. The story was based on a survey done on Tuesday where 66% Kolkatans said they'd surely go to work on bandh days. A serious finding for any political party indeed.

The bandh didn't have any worthy issue as such. The anchor issue was the land acquisition in Singur where the Tata Motors small car plant is coming up. On this very issue TMC had called their December 1 bandh. Another issue, that of the mysterious burn death of Tapasi Mallick, a teenager at Singur, on last Monday, was tagged along. TMC suspected it was a 'rape and murder' either by police personnel deployed at the car factory site or with their support. Otherwise such an incident is unbelieveable at a place where section 144 is in force. They immedietly demanded a CBI probe. They've made this demand in a couple of cases in the past. But this time CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharya really surprised them by accepting the demand immedietly by initiatng a CBI enquiry. Hence since the second issue lost sheen, the anchor issue couldn't hold itself on the face of public wrath. And anyways, an issue like this death, however condemnable it may be, doesn't merit to be a bandh issue.

Also all chambers of commerce joined hands to protest. It came out that if bandh again becomes a culture, and doesn't remain an exception as it should be, many potential investors may take a relook at their investment plans for Kolkata and Bengal.

People defied the bandh call by SUCI on December 5 by going to work in big numbers. SUCI's last few bandh calls were success but this one was a tight slap on it's face. The same fate awaited TMC. Good for them they stepped out of the line.

Hope it will make the political parties of this state do a rethink on their protest agenda which often starts with bandh.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Didi, the incorrigible

While Dada (Saurav Ganguly) is doing us pround, there is this 'Didi' who is leaving no stones unturned to make us lose our face to fellow Indians.

Mamata Banerjee, the fiery Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo (Lovingly called Didi by her followers and patrons and jokingly by many others), has been on fast for more than 14 days at Esplanade to halt and roll back the land acquisition in Singur by the state govt. for the Tata Motors small car plant. This fast is the issue that is disturbing sensitive people in Kolkata some way or the other everyday.

Repeated requests from CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharya to end her fast and bring her to the table for talk, the President, the WB Governor, VP Singh, TMC's new friend Congress and even her party members have failed to budge her. She is stubborn that a dialogue with the state government can be started only when the land acquisition is stopped.

Clearly Mamata is desparate to save her face as her Battle Singur is coming to a close as the government is on track after acquisition and fencing of the land and prepared to hand it over to Tata Motors in this month. She thought after a prolonged programme at Singur her public hunger strike in Kolkata backed by sustained disruptive programme by TMC would do the trick. Unfortunately it didn't. She and her party are now reportedly breaking heads to work out how to end the hunger strike on a respectable note. Her health has deteriorated visibly by now but she is still refusing even a medical check-up. She has sent back twice the team of doctors sent by state government for a check-up and possible hospitalization to the hunger-strike venue.

TMC has already called a bandh (Strike) on the above issue on December 1. Just a while back news started pouring in at my office that TMC has called another 48-hour bandh on coming Thursday and Friday. Come to think of it, before October 2006 TMC was a party who prided itself saying they call bandhs only on weekends so as to cause minimum suffering to people. Then came the October 9 bandh on a Monday, followed by the December 1 bandh on a Friday.

I am sure every sensible Kolkatan will condemn this bandh, which clearly has been called out of sheer frustration, and will be just too willing to go to work just they did on the December 5 bandh called by SUCI (Re:String of Bandhs, my earlier post) on the same issue. Right now we are pure hateful at the word 'Bandh' as the current month has already experienced three strikes (TMC's, SUCI's and the Dec 14 industrial strike lead by CPM's labour wing CITU and 55 other outfits).

Height of insensitivity from all who are contemplating the bandh. Will Mamata not realise that because of her mindless negative politics she is silently losing the sympathy wave created by a lot of hard work during her fight for Singur?

When the going gets tough......Dada gets going

His comeback looked the toughest of all, as apart from form, some 'non-cricketing factors' played a role.

But like a true fighter Saurav Ganguly fought his own battle on domestic fields and took all odds head on. Result was the much desired recall.

Nevertheless such a story can only sound pleasant when one honours the coveted opportunity by delivering on field. Dada did just that in the first India-South Africa test in Johanesberg and how!

A resolute 51 not out, 101-ball knock with only a handful of hits to the fence and a dream sixer from a pull off Ntini ensured India's yet another top order mess ends in a face-saving total in the first innings. Followed it an inspired bowling and fielding attack that we were unfamiliar with, leading to a shameful, shocking surrender by South Africans with a two-digit total.

Well, the second innings didn't look that rosy but he never looked uneasy. The delivery that got him suddenly got lower thanks to the uneven bounce of the pitch. Dada was out trying to hit the bowler big, and not by a delivery that fooled him.

As we Indians in the country and overseas have started celebrating today's historic 123-run triumph by India, needless to say it adds a silver lining to the grand comeback of Saurav besides bringing back the confidence in Team India that they have it in them to become a test cricket superpower again just as it was under Dada's leadership.

Friday, December 08, 2006

What a rocking comeback, Dada !!

This is what you call ' Back with a B-A-N-G'. We, the admirers of Saurav Ganguly, the most successful Indian cricket captain of all times, kept our fingers crossed and expected an innings that can be called 'a decent start' in the preparatory four-day match between India and South Africa at Potchefstroom.

But......but... Dada gave us much more. A resolute, patient 141-ball, 83-run knock full of his trademark flamboyance with no less that 13 boundaries. His innings in partnership with Irfan Pathan's whisked us out of a grand top-order mess yet again.

What's behind all this? Wanna know from someone from his city? Well, after he got the unceremonious boot from the national test team by Chief Selector Kiran More and co. early this year, he got into this introspection- Am I finished? Do I have it in me to serve Indian cricket for a few more years? He never got a negative answer from his inner self. And that's when he formed this rock-solid determination to get a recall to team by sheer merit of his bat, complimented by bowling and an amazing level of fitness by his own standards. He achieved all that before he left for South Africa.

His physical training this time had unusual elements like parachute training and yes, believe it or not, kick-boxing. We've seen him training all these months on television. The silent determination from this unusually calm person was a mismatch with his aggressive, brave, never-say-die image embedded in our mind. But that was a man possessed.

I was aghast to know how the team treated this real hero back at the pavillion after his dismissal yesterday. Our 'celebrity coach' was away with the players to have an 'urgent' net session (To escape from a shameful situation, Mr Chappell?). Reportedly there was barely anybody to greet him in the dressing room. Has cricket ceased to be a gentleman's game this side of the world? The absence of warmth, the willingness to give the credit where it is due, turning back on the face of a rocking achievement suggest just that. Shame, Team India, shame !!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

String of bandhs

Another bandh (Strike) today, called by the small political outfit SUCI. This is the second one in last 5 days. It seems all the non-ruling parties are desperate to make their presence felt on the issue of setting up of the Tata Motors plant in Singur by making good use of the weapon (Strike) which should be the last resort for a protest.

But it seems the city is in no mood to let another weekday go idle. After last Friday's bandh called by Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress, the city looks normal today. On my way to office (I couldn't risk going out last Friday) today I saw public buses and auto-rickshaws plying and shops open. Learnt that the market in Baguiati is open too.

Frankly speaking, bandh, as a way to protest has been done to death in Kolkata and hence it has lost relevance. Unless it is called by a big political party or front people don't want to lose a valuable weekday.