The flavour of Kolkata

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

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A middle-class solution

In an age when multiplex is the fashionable place to catch up a movie and among single screen theatres choices are painfully few, and most of the middle-class households watch a new movie at home either on pirated VCD or on cable (which runs a pirated VCD only), there seems to be a revolution brewing. Moser Baer, a well-known homegrown co. of removable storage media (CDs, CD-RW, DVD etc), has silently forayed into home-video with their jaw-dropping pricing in this year. Their VCDs of Indian films come at Rs 28 and DVDs at Rs 34, and they are claiming high quality standards and top-class packaging.

What makes these 'impossible' prices happen? Well, as they are saying, their proprietorty patented technology that besides producing world-class production standard, brings down the cost significantly. And they are passing on the entire benefit to the consumers by charging rock-bottom prices.

While the rent of a VCD is Rs 10, it makes great sense to rather buy it out paying just Rs 28 and watch it and show it to friends and guests at home over and over again. Not only the original VCD will score over the rented pirated VCD, it will also free us from the guilt of committing a crime (Of supporting piracy). Now everybody can build his/ her movie collection at home without thinking of cost.

To back up the pricing strategy the company is getting aggressive on distribution front, eyeing stationery shops and other unconventional outlets apart from video/ music stores and supermarkets. They are starting their exclusive stores- owned and licensed- as well that will sell the entire Moser Baer product range. The first one in Kolkata is at OP House at Ultadanga crossing.

The USP of their library of titles is a strong presence of regional movies. The company recently launched 75 Bengali movie titles in a glittering event in the city. They included Swapno by Haranath Chakraborty and Aamra by Mainak Bhaumik which came on home video for the first time. Superstar Prosenjit did the honours (Picture above shows Prosenjit unveiling the collection. (Picture source)

Upmarket solutions in products and services is definitely lucrative. But when comes a middle-class solution like the Moser Baer range of VCDs and DVDS, the business potential is huge, simply because consumers are measured in millions. The perfect example is Reliance Mobile- what they've done to mobile telephony in what short a period, simply because they targeted the entire middle class! Little wonder, the ambitious Moser Baer plans to sell a popular title in millions of units and not in lacs which is the present reality.

For a thorough look at their collection and ordering online, visit their site

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Life in a shuttle 1

It is one Kolkata's favourite alternative transports, mainly for those coming and going to the fringes, especially an officegoer's favourite on way home. It gives one the joy, comfort and utility of travelling in a taxi at just a fractional fare or a car without owning one. And it is an unofficial means of travel.

It is shuttle car/ taxi, popularly known as shuttle. In short, a taxi running full, not on meter but on a fixed charge per passenger or a private car doing the same. There are professional shuttle cars too, whose business is running shuttle service on 'fixed routes'.

It thrives especially in the routes not taken up by regular transport options. And it can be a blessing for those who would otherwise had to take a break journey.

The route to the airport from central Kolkata is a 'hot' shuttle route. Car drivers going to airport to pick up a client's person make some extra income by taking some passengers and dropping them at various places till its destination. The operating rate is Rs 15 from Beckbagan (AJC Bose Rd island between Minto Park and Kalamandir) to airport, but you may be lucky if you happen to catch an 'amateur' car going to airport, who might charge you just Rs 10. All because its just some extra money for him, so no need to be insistent on 'operating rate'.

One is luckier when the driver of a modern/ snazzy car, like an Indica or Qualis or Chevrolet going to airport calls for passengers.

Other hot shuttle points (other than Beckbagan) known to me is Karunamoyee of Salt Lake and Beleghata junction on EM Bypass.

Shuttle is an important part of working life of many living on the fringes of Kolkata. More about it follows.

Evolving with time

Single screen theatres in Kolkata are fighting for survival for years. Apart from threats like video piracy and satellite channels that make the viewers spoilt for choice, the newest threat is stiff competition from multiplex. The multiple-screen monsters have been gobbling up viewers of single-screeners ever since their debut. Among other smart business moves, the plexes have chosen areas where single screeners are not present.

But on the face of the competition a few standalone theatres have really evolved with time to take on the competition. Among them is Jaya located at Lake Town. It is a not a single-screener though. It did start with one screen in the 60s showing Uttam-Supriya starrer Jiban Mrityu and riding on the success added another screen at the adjacent plot post 70s. It helped that there was no other theatre in the close vicinity. It was just like anther single screener till some years back. But the way it has upgraded its facilities in recent years to become the neighbourhood multiplex is amazing.

Jaya now has Dolby DTS sound, airconditioning and most interestingly a plex-style box office. The staff at the glass-front box office are uniformed. Each one has a mike in front, books ticket electronically and prints it out. There is a monitor on each side showing current movies, show-timings, availability of seats and ticket prices. With the advantage of two halls it does multiplex-style smart movie programming showing as many as four films a day- a mix of Hindi and select Bengali films. Where it really counts is the surprisingly modest ticket prices- Mondays to Fridays it charges Rs 40 for stall and Rs 80 for dress circle, on Saturdays and Sundays DC goes up to Rs 100 and on Sunday stall becomes Rs 50, riding on the demand of weekend crowd. It calls itself a cineplex, and rightly so!

The locality has a large North Indian population whose outflow to the plexes have been effectively halted by Jaya's timely makeover. As one stands in front of the box office he finds the queue at par with any plex in look.

Hope Jaya keeps evolving. Wish it all the very best.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Bangla Telefilm Club's fourth screening

As scheduled BTC held its fourth screening on 12 August, Sunday. Max Mueller Bhawan witnessed more celebrities than ever in a BTC screening.

Among film and television directors were- Aparna Sen, Gautam Ghosh, Anjan Dutt, Malay Bhattacharya, Raja Dasgupta, Subroto Sen, Mainak Bhowmick (Of Aamra fame), Parambrata Chatterjee, Anindya Ghosh, Avijit Guha and Birsa Dasgupta.

Among actors were- Nitya Ganguly, Debleena Dutt, Aparajita Ghosh Das, Kanchan Mallik, Rudranil Ghosh, Moumita Gupta, Bidipta Chakraborty, Saswati Guha Thakurta and Chaitali Dasgupta.

The telefilm- Ekti Romharshak Dakatir Gappo (A Tara Muzik telefilm) a classy work by young Birsa Dasgupta (Also known as the son of filmmaker Raja Dasgupta).
1. The gorgeous Aparna sen.
2. Aparna talking to the audience about Birsa.
3. Arin Paul, the brain behind BTC.
4. Birsa Dasgupta and Chaitali Dasgupta (Actor and renowned television personality).

Rabindrasangeet in a cool avatar

The Bong Connection has sparked discussions for its own take on Rabindrasangeet among other things. The film features a Rabindrasangeet- Pagla hawar badal dine- in a very unusual, tachno form. What is obvious is the song, just like the film, was designed to appeal to the youth who don't anymore find Rabindrasangeet 'cool'. As expected, many self-confessed Rabindrasangeet lovers have rubbished the new-age treatment.

What is not obvious was the young producer's ambition- Can't we find Rabindrasangeet playing at the discos? They play Punjabi songs frequently, why not Bengali songs including Randrasangeet?

Has the tall aim been reached? Apparently yes. As I just now sneaked into the Orkut community named after the film, Shaoni, a community member reveals that as she was in Tantra in the first week of August, the song was being played, with the crowd 'dancing and singing the song loud'.

Kudos to Neel (the music director) for giving a new life and dimension to our very own Rabindrasangeet and Joy (the producer) for materializing an ambition that will have many cheering to it!

Kolkata factoids 1

INOX, the multiplex chain that introduced Kolkata to multiplexes in September 2003, has a 50-60 % average occupancy rate in the city. This is the highest among the chain in the country, as Vikas Syal, the Regional General Manager has shared with The Telegraph's today's issue.

No wonder this. Kolkata has always surprised the organised retail industry with its retail outlets clocking the highest sales in the entire chain in the country, sometimes in the first year itself- be it Music World or Pantaloons or Westside. Its but natural that the same effect will be carried to organised film exhibition arena as well.

To salute this incredible response INOX is set to open a four-screener at City Centre 2 in New Town, Rajarhat, a five-screener at Diamond City North mall on Jessore Rd by 2008. The 89 Cinemas chain, which it took over, will open a four-screener (its second in the city) at Panditiya Rd in the same time frame.

Finally they did it!!

Yesterday was the one of the most memorable days in life of all the people in Bengal and other parts of India and the world for whom two colours matter most- dark green and maroon. Yes, I'm talking about all the fans and supporters of Mohun Bagan, one of the giants among football clubs in the city. It was a 'Big match' yesterday as Mohun Bagan clashed with their arch-rival East Bengal, the other giant.

It's incredible that no less than seven goals were scored in the rain-soaked game in the stipulated time, and Mohun Bagan emerged the winners at 4-3. Never in the past has Mohun Bagan scored as many goals against East Bengal, the highest being 3. Had it not been for a silly miss, MB would equal EB's record of 5 goals against MB in the black day for the latter- the '75 IFA Shield final. The four goals must have acted as a balm for Mohun Bagan supporters in living with that deep wound.