The flavour of Kolkata

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

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A dash of improvisation

The food stall at the Triangular Park bus stop (at the footpath at the park side), located close to Bake Club doesn't demand a second glance except for a few differences with its peers like that it serves the curries in white glass bowl and has chicken curry on the menu.

But its USP is more than what meets the eye. While it serves the regular lunch menu- roti, alur dum, ghughni, tarka, egg tarka apart from chicken curry, it has improvised on some of these items to have come up with egg alur dum (omlette mixed with alur dum, egg tarka style) and egg ghughni. These items are available at a little premium ( a regular half tarka (half a bowl in quantity)/ alur dum costs Rs 5 while their egg varieties cost Rs 9 each). It also serves chicken tarka: tarka with large chicken pieces.

The price is competitive but. The tarka comes at Rs 10 and chicken curry (with two large pieces) at Rs 20.

A man in his fifties, in half-sleeve shirt and barmudas, ever busy at the lunch hour, heats the already cooked ghughni/ tarka/ alur dum and adds freshly diced tomato, onion, ginger, chili and coriander leaves for taste. The roti comes from a different location carried by a boy in a few dozens in regular interval. The steaming food is served to the hungry customers predominated by executives waiting on the benches laid on the footpath. He more or less remembers the tastes & preferences of regular customers (Eg. someone does not want tomato and chili in his ghughni/ tarka). At times when he doesn't exactly remember the ingredients not preferred, he asks "Apnar jeno ki hobena?" (What all do you not want in your food, Sir?). His only colleague of similar age, in shirt and lungi, quickly beats the rotis between the palms to get rid of the wee bit of loose atta and serves the food on steel saucer with cut onion and green chili. The rotis just fly off the container.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Rituparno and Mir

The encouraging no. of responses on the 'Ghosh & Co.' post a little earlier (helped by my Rituparno Ghosh community on Orkut) got me do two things (apart from writing a comment to the 'Ghosh & Co.' post in the first place purely on assumption): a. Watch the repeat telecast of the Mir episode on Sunday 23 November at 5 pm (original telecast on 16 November) and b. Write this post.

Well, it seems the picture above was taken after the now-controversial episode was shot. At least Mir's apparently 'rehearsed' smile says that. And Ritu's smile is a happy winner's, after (verbally) bashing Mir to pulp just before. Just kidding!

The moot point is about the last 21 minutes of the show when Ritu's take on Mir's mimicry reached an uneasy point both for Mir, his admirers and others watching the show on telly. The core of it was Ritu's characteristically yet unusually strong argument to critique Mir's mimicry of effeminate people like Ritu (yes, officially, coming from Rituparno). The point Ritu drove home over and over again was that he was unaffected by Mir's take on him, due to his stature, a greater popularity and recognition than Mir and confidence. But the same may have really hurt many other effeminate people who might pretty well feel Mir was mocking them as well by taking Ritu as a subject.

Mir was so taken aback, as visible in the uncharacteristic surrender, that he shot an open letter in protest of his 'insult' in the show. The letter was reportedly carried in The Times of India the day after the show.

I personally felt that Ritu went a little off the hook probably for the first time ever in his talk shows as the matter was too close to his heart for comfort. Maybe the matter could be handled in a better way had he been able to be a little more objective.

On the other hand, this experience, insulting for Mir indeed as it happened before the audience of an already popular show, might nevertheless set Mir thinking when his anger settles down, and ask himself: doesn't he overstep (he did admit in the show that he does it 'sometimes') in general in mimicking people like Rituparno and Bappi Lahiri by the frequency of the act on his morning show on Radio Mirchi and other television shows he hosts/ has hosted and by the kind of other platforms he chooses (he routinely does it in the award functions he hosts)? I remember once during the last World Cup football he mimicked Bappi Lahiri by comparing his size with a football. Is that in good taste, Mir, or in good spirit, as you claim it to be? Can you ever interview Bappi Lahiri with a clear conscience?

The talk can't end here. There can be many takes. Come...pour your heart over this matter that can really create a storm in the tea cup- a Bengali favourite.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Arin Pal, the founder-member of Bangla Telefilm Club, is a busy man these days. Having started his first feature film as a director (after being the Chief Assistant Director in No Poblem, mentioned long back on this blog) middle of this year, he's already neck-deep into post-production of his next 10:10 (in Bengali, pictures above), a wacky comic thriller, which is releasing first, on 28 November. The movie made news big time as German supermodel Claudia Ciesla came to Kolkata a few months back to shoot for the film, keeping the city media busy for a few days.

Here's Arin in a freewheeling chit chat with Kolkata Curry.

Kolkata Curry (KC): So 10:10 is an officially 'different' film as "It is not a lift from a south Indian film...." as the website ( says it?

Arin: Ha ha ha... True... Its different...

KC: Your first film 'Sabdhan Pancha Aschhe' (Yet unfinished) was also a comedy like 10:10. Do you have a flair for comedies or they are just happening?

Arin: They are just happening... Though its fun making comedies...

KC: What kind of a comedy is 10:10?

Arin: You can call it a non-sense comedy or a sattire even...

KC: How much is today's Kolkata integral to the story?

Arin: Very much... 10:10's story is very contemporary and socially relevant. But, its potrayed in a different way.

KC: You have an ensemble cast that includes a German supermodel (Claudia Ciesla). How did the casting happen, especially of Claudia?

Arin: The character was of an international journalist and it so happened that my producers knew about Claudia as she had done a film named Karma: Crime, Passion & Re-incanation in India. They suggested her to me. I got in touch with her. Sent her the story and script and she agreed after going through.

KC: Despite the fact that it isn't actually a small or even a medium-budget film, you haven't taken any star in lead cast. Didn't you feel the need for a star on board to pull the audience as it is your debut film?

Arin: No... Not at all... I think its the story and the script which is important... Stars give you an extra punch... But, I'm happy with all I worked...

KC: What would you like to say about the music? How exactly did you want it to be? Is music integral to the film?

Arin: Music... Drono has done a very good job... It's the way I wanted it to be... Yes, its an integral part...

KC: Is the item song blending well with the story?

Arin: May be... May be not... U see and decide...

KC: Bengali filmmakers haven't still woken up to the idea of making a website for promoting a film. How do you think the website will help the film? I must say it is pretty cool and the creative is pretty refreshing.

Arin: Thanks... Making a website helps the film reach out more to its audience... Also it hepls in marketing, publicity and PR...

KC: Lastly, best wishes from Kolkata Curry for 10:10 and tell us a few words about your next film (Mixed Mosla).

Arin: Thanks...... Planning in Jan'09... Produced by Morpheus Media Ventures Pvt. Ltd. Its another comedy coming up. Trust me... a mind-blowing script it has by Padmanabha Dasgupta. The story is mine. Keeping fingers crossed. CHEERS!!!

Monday, November 17, 2008 a saree

Something common to Bengali women's talk is how a girl is looking in a saree. The girl in question is generally not seen in a saree. The range covers the next door girl to a corporate lady to a model/ film actress.

I remember a female friend commenting on Karishma after watching her in the 'Puchho jara puchho' song in Raja Hindustani: " She can dance well in a saree". So she had an edge over her peers, you see.

Priyanka Chopra in a saree in the 'Desi girl' song in her latest release (picture above) 'Dostana' looks, well....., R-A-V-I-S-H-I-N-G. Hope many of you agree. And she surely passes the Bengali test of looking good in a saree with distinction.

A delegate dinner with a difference

The 14th Kolkata Film Festival is on its last day today. As usual it has seen a couple of delegate dinners thrown in by distinguished businessmen of the city to acquire the prestige of the distinction of making it to the host list cleared by the festival authority.

The dinner hosted by Arijit Dutta of Priya Entertainments (best known as the owner of Priya Cinema, the iconic film theatre of South Kolkata) on 12 November was with some difference. For one, it was hosted not in a five star hotel, but in Priya Cinema itself, in its specious lobbies. He is too proud of Priya to host it anywhere else it seems. And then, the menu did make a noteworthy difference.

Everybody was welcomed at the gate by a warm 'Namaskar' by the Priya Entertainments team, sometimes joined by the Chairperson Purnima Dutta. The second floor, where the balcony is located, was converted to a bar-cum-dance floor with a DJ in action. A lavish Bengali spread was laid on the first floor (where the stalls are located). The menu, served by Ayojon Caterers of Bhowanipore, goes like this- Luchi (from a live counter), begun bhaja, chholar dal, alur dum, dhokar dalna, chhanar kalia, plain rice, bhetki paturi, baked chicken, kasha mangsho, chhanar payesh and hot pantua. Everybody was spoilt for choice, including the pleasantly surprised foreign delegates. The presence of media and trade was thick besides celebrities like Nandita Das (flanked by painter father Jatin Das), Jeet and directors Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury and Subrata Sen.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ghosh & Co.

Rituparno is back after years of his immensely popular candid chat show on Bengali television- Ebong Rituparno on ETV Bangla. This time on the new Bengali entertainment channel Star Jalsha in the avatar of wittily named 'Ghosh & Co' at 9 pm every Sunday.

The diference this time is firstly in the setting. Ritu loves a relaxed, 'Bengali adda-type' ambience set in a cosy drawing room with coffee and snacks for his chat show. This time to make it look more real, the title video shows him spending time with himself, preparing for the 'adda' and then receiving his guest(s) for the day at the door. During the conversation (he doesn't call them interviews, and the way they are structured, they are actually not so) tea/ coffee and snacks are served to the guests by domestic help, all recreated in a studio.

The other distinct difference is in his choice of guests. This time the guests are varied, not all of them exectly known for speaking well, and for some of them one really wonders what on earth made Ritu call them for the show. These guests include Bappi Lahiri (with below par oratory skill in any of the three languagues he generally speaks in- Bengali (his mother tongue), English and Hindi), Reshmi Ghosh and Sayantani Ghosh. Bappi loves to punctuate his talk with his songs, and in the one-hour show he must have sung few lines of about a dozen of his hit songs. However the selection of most of the guests does contribute to the show. The list includes Aparna Sen-Kalyan Roy (Aparna looking more gorgeous in her new short haircut), Shobha De-Dilip De, Mousumi Chatterjee and Babul Supriyo of those featured so far and Pritam (music composer in Hindi cinema), Nachiketa, Shreya Ghoshal and Mir among those coming up.

As ususal sitting through Ritu's chat show is a rich experience. He has awesome conversation skill. The way he makes his guests feel absolutely relaxed in order to get candid in the talk is worth special mention. Ritu's guests open up themselves, speak their mind, thanks to Ritu's inimitable style.

Looking forward to a long run of Ghosh & Co.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ananda spreads wings

When reading and buying Bengali books is no more perceived a popular practice among Bengalis these days, and opening a bookstore selling story books doesn't sound like a sound business idea, a leading publishing house is gradually expanding its chain of retail outlets in the city and districts.

Ananda Publishers, not only the leading Bengali publishing house in Bengal, but also a thought leader for decades in publishing, is taking careful steps as it is expanding its chain. The sixth outlet in the chain (after three in Kolkata and one each in Siliguri and Santiniketan) was opened at Chandannagar, strategically placed at the crossing of Station Road and Bagbazar last week, on the eve of Jagatdhatri Puja, the biggest religious festival of the suburban town. Inaugurated by noted author Shankar, this 125 sq. ft. store stocks all the 2400 Ananda titles.

I, like many of my age have grown up on Ananda Publishers books that I've bought and borrowed from friends. Among many trends they set in the publishing industry are a) how raising the bar in production value of a book can add to its reading experience and thus can impact sales in a significant way and b) the art of a blurb on a book cover in letting the reader have a quick peek into the subject.

Ananda has always taken the marketing of books with a degree of seriousness unmatched by its peers. Wish its retail journey all the very best.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A different Puja

Big FM, Kolkata's second largest radio station, brought some difference to the paradigm of organising Puja this year. Beside stationing their activities to potential and popular Puja pandals, they actually brought the 'Puja' to places where the nearest Puja is not so near.

A van with a float of goddess Durga and complete with all her sons Laxmi-Ganesh-Kartik-Saraswati, aptly named 'Dugga Gari', came to one day on each of all four days of Puja to a few localities who were game for such an experiment. Behala Parnasree had this incredible experience on Sasthi, Beliaghata Future of Bengal on Saptami, Sukanta Nagar Youth Centre for Culture & Sports on Ashtami and a Garia locality on Nabami & Dashami. The puja was done following the rituals and people offered 'Anjali'. The evenings were made colourful by Big FM RJs and crew who played games and did some fun interaction, apart from performance by Samayan, who won the talent hunt 'Sing with Sonu' last June to perform with Sonu Nigam in his concert in the city that followed soon.

The float was customarily immersed on Dashami and the crowed (including a healthy participation of girls and women) cheered and danced all the way to the ghat. This is proof how they connected with this Puja with a difference.

Overall, an experience to cherish a lifetime and something to say to 'Aaschhe bochhor abar hobe' (to come back next year).

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The humble amla reinvented

Amla was always available in dried, salted and spiced form among vendors in local trains from Kolkata. One of the leading brands was Vivekananda Ayurvedic Home. Quite a few years ago it started being available with the vendors raw, thinly sliced, in tiny poly pouches. They were avialble at a new, throwaway price point- just Re 1. Many people knew the health benefits of eating amla raw but never got themselves to buy and slice it. They got a readymade solution and lapped it up.

Then someone thought of 'product differentiation' seriously and came up with a preparation of sliced raw amla mixed with coriandar chutney, available at no premium- just Re 1 (In local train vending charging a premium is difficult. The competition is in giving consumers more value at the same price). The taste improved vastly and it sold very well. It possibly created a new market because so many passengers avoided raw amla as the taste did not suit them and went for the traditional dry amla. It inspired a trend among fellow vendors very soon as they followed suit.

Amla since then has come across another avatar- raw and spiced.

Just today as I was at Bidhannagar station to board a local train to Barrackpore to visit my parents, I came across another new avatar with a vendor- raw amla mixed with coriandar and ginger. Yes, at the same price. The taste was a little different from the coriandar avatar.

While all this is very good as the health benefits remain intact or increases with additions like coriandar/ ginger, it definitely is the passenger's gain, health-wise. Hence the experimentation is welcome.

A beauty

Watching Gargi Roy Chowdhuri judging 'I Laugh You'- a comedy talent hunt among actors competing in pairs on Star Jalsa makes me heave a sigh. Such an intelligent beauty is still being ignored by small screen. Her last appearance, I belive was years back in Abhijit Guha-Sudeshna Roy's 'Shudhu Tumi' opposite Prasenjit and besides Koel. It was a sensible attempt at mainstream Bengali cinema but couldn't pass the box office test.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

A value-for-money fry joint

On any evening opposite the footpath of Triangular Park bus stop, next to City Style (facing Rashbehari) one can't ignore the aroma. The crowd, covering collegegoers to young executives to the middle-aged, is seen wolfing down the hot delicacies and packing for home.

Fry Corner, the small joint serving fish fry, chicken cutlet (fried chicken), fish pakora, chicken pakora, fish roll, fish chop among others has a strong following among locals and outsiders equally. The prices are easy on pocket and the taste makes you asking for more. A fish fry comes at Rs 15 and a chicken cutlet at Rs 20. If the mention of prices makes one wink thinking quality please be informed that the fish fry comes with a generous filling of fish (and it is representative of all the items) covered by a crunchy, yummy crust. The mustard that is served with the stuff is really strong and add to the gastronomic experience. For the vegetarians it has recently started paneer cutlet (again a generous size just at Rs 10). A must try for every foodie.