The flavour of Kolkata

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

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The music of Shaheb Bibi Golaam

The 26th August release directed by film critic-turned-director Pratim D Gupta is pegged as a musical thriller. Music plays a big role and helps tell the story is what Pratim has let out. The songs have been releasing on social media one by one, starting with Mon bhalo nei by Anupam who has also scored the film and written the lyrics. Here is my take on the music album on the new label Amara Muzik (which has also released the music of Bastushaap and Praktan).

The sound is very urban and western with a techno feel- something very fresh from Anupam in my experience. The orchestration has generous use of keyboard, guitar and drums.

Mon bhalo nei is a romantic number sung in Anupam’s inimitable style. If you know his writing, you shall note his signature right from the beginning- Kothay chhile saat shawkale/ Tomaay khujchhe kawler jawl. The song didn’t make a mark on me the first time but slowly grew on me. Anupam’s satin smooth voice brings out the melancholy in the right degree. The orchestration is pacy, giving the song a fresh feel as a sad romantic number.

Tomar ki naam is an unadulterated romantic track sung by Shreya. The deep-rooted emotion in her voice hardly fails to charm and it has done complete justice to this number. The track has some captivating drum beats.

Ghorir kantar moto has the enamoring voice of Tanya Sen. It echoes the monotony, loneliness and frustration of the character on whom it is picturised. There is an impressive verve and an unmistakable urbanity in Tanya’s voice and I think she merits being heard more on playback. The orchestration gets edgy keeping with the mood.

Tomar shawhorey is a musical coup achieved where Anjan Dutt has sung for another composer (Anupam) for the first time. The lyric and singing of this song of optimism remind of vintage Anjan in the nineties. It ends with zippy drum beats.

The album also features two instrumental pieces- Jimmy’s theme and Jaya’s theme- composed, arranged and programmed by noted musician Neel Adhikari. The former is simple and pacy and suits the character. Anjan Dutt plays Jimmy, one of the three protagonists (denoting Shaheb) in the film and Swastika plays Jaya (Biwi)- another of the trio.

The album is priced Rs 100 and available in music stores.

#ShahebBibiGolaamMusic #SBG #ShahebBibiGolaam #AnupamRay #AnjanDutt #ShreyaGhosal #BanglaCinema

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Friday, August 19, 2016

A classy oriental food experience at Tak Heng

I first read about this new kid on the block in Chinese cuisine on Poorna’s blog. She had visited it with friends and wrote a review. Later, I read about it in Times of India and a few other places. Like many, I knew it made good food and had a tie-up with the popular and modest eatery from old Chinatown of Kolkata- Tung Nam. So the perception was that all the popular dishes of Tung Nam and more were being served in a better ambiance in south Kolkata (near Southern Avenue).

I was later clarified by Prithvish Chakravarti, the owner of Tak Heng, on Facebook. He was on my friend list for some time and I was chatting with him about the place one evening. He informed that Tak Heng had no association with Tung Nam. It never had. It only so happened that he had requested his good friend Michael who hails from the family that runs Tung Nam to operate the kitchen of Tak Heng in the initial days and train the kitchen staff, which Michael did. As a result, some of the best dishes of Tung Nam is available here as part of a menu which serves a wide range of Oriental food.

He also informed that in Tak Heng, no MSG and not much of additives and colours were used as well, unlike most Chinese eateries in the city. So, the taste of food in Tak Heng was not sharp, rather subtle. I am much interested in Chinese food where MSG (Monosodium Glutamate, popularly known as ajino moto) is not used as there is a lot of negative reports about its harmful effects. It is what makes you thirsty after a hearty Chinese meal if not used in moderation. Many will argue that MSG enhances the flavour of food and getting rid of it makes it less palatable, but that’s actually a myth.

That chat ended with an invitation to Tak Heng. So, sometime back, I I turned up one evening with blogger friend Indrajit Lahiri. It is located on Raja Basanta Roy Road, near Thyagaraj Hall. I found it by walking down Lake View Road from the end of Jugal’s sweet shop on Rasbehari Avenue and taking the last left hand turn before Vivekananda Park

Blogger Indrajit Lahiri in front of Tak Heng

We were welcomed by Prithvish who is an entrepreneur and into manufacturing machines and a foodie by passion. It’s the common interest of food that he shares with his wife that resulted in Tak Heng last year.

Like it is a trend in south Kolkata, a part of the ground floor of a house has been converted into the restaurant. The erstwhile leaving room is now the dining area which seats about twenty six persons. The décor is minimalistic with Chinese motifs and the seating is casual.

Our sojourn kicked off with chimney soup. Now, this is a rare delicacy in the Chinese foodscape of the city. I had known only one restaurant serving it- Eau Chew. It’s a flavourful clear soup that can have a variety of chicken/fish/ seafood and vegetables served in a large Mongolian hotpot. Ours was Chef’s Special Chimney Soup containing prawn, crab, squid, fish, mushroom, veggies and chicken as well. The natural flavours of all the ingredients blended beautifully to create a sublime broth that brought a rare pep before a meal. A sure recommendation for those who love seafood and appreciate natural flavours. This comes in a portion for four persons at Rs 900 plus taxes. Paying the steep price won’t be a regret. 

Chef’s Special Chimney Soup

Next came Oriental Mango Salad. And I was bowled over by this tangy delight with a dash of sweetness, made with cubes of mango, cabbage leaf and coriander leaf bathed in a transparent broth. This was just what the palate longs for in a hot and humid weather and a perfect starter for a hearty, relaxed meal.

Oriental Mango Salad

The Fried Chiken Wonton was not bad but couldn’t do much for me thanks to the relish of the mango salad. When it comes to wonton, I am all for steamed varieties and pan fried/ fried versions have never impressed me. This crispy dish had a thin filling of chicken and I thought it would have been a more enjoyable with a thicker filling.

Fried Chiken Wonton

The King Crab in Chilli Oyster Sauce came next and the size of the crab was large enough to draw attention. A rare find in Kolkata eateries, Prithvish revealed that he owes the credit of sourcing such large crabs to his supplier who mainly services export orders. The crab had already been broken to facilitate our going ahead with it. The flesh was tender and delicious in a thin, spicy gravy full with vegetables. Easily the dish of the evening and wins a recommendation. The picture shows a standard portion that comes at Rs 650 plus taxes.

 King Crab in Chilli Oyster Sauce 

Prithvish told us that all the sauces- served on the table and used in the cooking- are made in-house. They also keep the saltiness (which also comes from soy sauce in Chinese cooking) on the lower side in their dishes. These two combined is one of the reasons behind the signature old school Chinese taste of Tak Heng which feels quite different from the Chinese eateries in the city, including the old and the new Chinatown.

Sweet Vineagar (left) and Nam Jim, a Thai dipping sauce (Right)

Tak Heng serves whole fish apart from the familiar fish dishes and one such landed at our table. It was fish in a special sauce- a whole beckti in a thin, tangy sauce served with rice and broccoli. Tak Heng uses only beckti and Prthvish believes the basa fish, common to most of the restaurants now, doesn’t even compare with beckti on the taste front.

The fish is served with some rice and broccoli. It was fresh and tasteful, but the tang paired with a dash of sweetness overpowering the spicing was the reason it didn’t appeal to my palate as much as I expected it to. It was not tart but. My humble suggestion for the chef was to tone down the sourness and enhance the spiciness. That said, a customer can feel free to customize it to his/her palate by placing a request at the time of placing order.

The main course was Burnt Ginger Fried Rice and Singagpore Meifoon (chicken). On the side was Chicken Mushroom Babycorn and Prawn in Hot Garlic Sauce. The slight smoky flavour of the chicken fried rice complimented the side dishes. Frankly speaking, after the fabulous crab, these two didn’t impress, though I must say they were decent. I liked the chicken preparation. At the cost of repeating myself on this blog let me say that that I love mushroom and I find Kolkata not offering enough choices for mushroom-lovers. Juicy, boneless chicken, mushroom and babycorn cooked in a thin, light-coloured gravy brought out a subtle flavour which won over my palate. The ideal dish if you would like something not spicy (for a change) yet flavourful on the side. It earns a recommendation! I realize the number of recommendations is looking higher than usual but this place merits it.

Burnt Ginger Fried Rice

 Singagpore Meifoon (chicken)

Chicken Mushroom Babycorn

The Prawn in Hot Garlic Sauce, with jumbo prawns in a thick, spicy gravy, to be fair, was not bad, but I didn’t feel any subtle difference. I was probably too full for that. It is made of authentic Cantonese hamei sauce and much less spicy than its Tung Nam version.

Prawn in Hot Garlic Sauce

We sincerely wished to skip the dessert as we couldn’t take anything else, but Prithvish earnestly requested us to try the dessert and asked us to guess what it was made of. I am not good at guessing food ingredients, but Indrajit, who has studied hotel management, gave up too. Pritvish revealed that it was called Sankaya- a Thai custard pudding made of pumpkin, jaggery, coconut and duck egg. I don’t like pumpkin, but couldn’t help finishing it, it was so delicious! It paired well with the scoop of vanilla ice cream served with it. Can’t help, this deserves a recommendation too.


The chef (Left) and Prithvish Chakravarti

The prices are premium (Pocket pinch Rs 900 for two) but I was told that all the portions suffice two persons. It is full on weekends leading to a queue outside, so reservation would be wise.

Address: P524 Raja Basanta Roy Road, near Thyagaraj Hall and Southern Avenue
Phone: 033 40647400/ 40608400

#TakHeng #ChineseCuisine #OrientalFood #KolkataChineseFood #TungNam

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Sunday, August 07, 2016

Review: Khawto

Language- Bengali
Cast- Prosenjit, Raima, Paoli, Rahul, Ronodeep Bose, Tridha Choudhury, Mishka Halim and others
Director- Kamaleshwar Mukherjee
Release date- 22nd July 2016

Recent Bengali films, except one or two, have not explored a subject or genre which is a  marked departure from the current stream of urban films. Thanks to Kamaleshwar we have one which deals with a subject in the adult territory.

Adultery has been dealt with in recent past in Charulata 2011. Khawto deals with it too, but with a different approach. While Charulata 2011 explored the female point of view, Khawto throws light on the male angle to it. Precisely speaking, more than adultery itself, the film throws light on the adulterous mindscape, and that sets it apart.

It’s the story of an eminent author called Dhruba Lahiri (Prosenjit) who used to write novels with the pseudonym Nirbed Lahiri. Nirbed had a lustful streak and a way with women. He gave up writing following a disastrous incident twenty years back and left Kolkata. Since then he has been living a life of solitude in a bungalow on a sea beach in a tranquil hamlet called Koelphuli. A young unwed couple on a vacation discovers him by chance and get invited into his bungalow. Nirbed narrates them- Rishav (Ronodeep) and Sohag (Tridha) who happened to be his readers, the story of his life, love and lust which he has been penning in his autobiography all this while, through the evening and the next day over good food cooked by himself. He revealed his secret affair with Antara (Paoli), one of his charmed readers, who he fell in love with at the first sight in a party where she came with her husband who was a close friend of Srijita, Nirbed’s wife (Raima). After an initial sexual encounter with Antara initiated by Nirbed, he seeks sexual favours in return of a job he organizes for Alokesh (Rahul), Antara’s husband when he needed it the most. The story traces the outcome of their affair for the two families.

Khawto delves into the physicality of love like no other Bengali film has done in recent years. Nirbed is shown to be a man who loves both his wife and his Antara, who becomes his muse. In his own words, he makes love like an explorer and that’s a way of life for him, nothing to feel guilty about. He cares two hoots about societal conventions and norms. Antara is attracted to him too after the initial dilemma. Writing and making such a film needs guts and Kamaleshwar gets the due credit for that. The lovemaking scenes look better and real thanks to the uninhibitedness shown by the actors (Prosenjit-Paoli and Ronodeep-Tridha). There is visually pleasing bare male body in Bangla cinema, finally.

This will go down as one of Prosenjit’s best performances. He is splendid as the suave Nirbed Lahiri- young or old. His attraction as a young womanizing author is effortless yet fatal and he hasn’t probably looked more strikingly appealing in any other movie in recent times. His screen presence as both young and old owes significantly the way his look was deisgned. The designer has created a stylish look for Nirbed by giving the young age a lot of gilets and the old age a wardrobe of relaxed westernwear.

Paoli is brilliant too as Antara who despite being good in academics and coming from a respectable background, fell for and married Alokesh who is a simple man looking for small joys in life. Yet, after she met Nirbed, they got on like a house on fire. Paoli’s classic face, sonorous voice and acting acumen make her the kind of woman who could sweep her favourite author off his feet.  

Raima is nice as Srijita. She has got little scope to act before the end of her track though. But she was brilliant at the end after she caught her husband cheating on her, especially the confrontation scene. 

Ronodeep and Tridha are well cast as the gen Y couple who believe in living life to the brim. Ronodeep is a good actor as we have seen especially in Dutta vs Dutta and he aptly brings out the vibes of the fun-loving Rishav who enjoys the sexual freedom with his girl. The other side of his personality that comes at the end is also competently portrayed. Tridha looks cool in trendy clothes and she is good as Sohag given the limited scope.

Mishka Halim as Srijita and Alokesh’s college friend (who is now essaying the role of Gouri Devi in the Bengali television series Mahanayak) impresses in a small role. She acts as the voice of conscience which is not easy to portray. Anirban Bhattacharya provides comic relief in the bit role.

One point about Rahul- Does every director have to give him a bunch of witty and funny one-liners? He is getting stereotyped with this trait. This is high time he makes a note of it and avoids repeating it. He is otherwise convincing as Alokesh.

Soumik Halder’s camera and visual design lends the film the classy and sophisticated look that it needed. The abundant use of red-tinted frames and the shots of blood trickling on the written sheets in the narrative paired with the pulsating background music by the young Binit Ranjan Moitra help build the desired mood.

The editing by Rabi Ranjan Moitra is good. The flashback and the present blend seamlessly. I only thought the chain-smoking of Nirbed in the party scene could have been better edited.

Anupam scores the music but it’s just two songs of which Bhir thele which is written, composed and sung by him is pleasing to the ears. It has been used in bits and pieces in the film after the full version.

The only area where the film falters is thrill. Despite being touted as an ‘Erotic thriller’ it lags in this department. There is wasted scope of building it in a few scenes, for example, when Antara is brought to Nirbed’s office by Srijita for seeking his help in finding Alokesh a job. This comes after the first sexual encounter of Nirbed and Antara, so it had the potential of tension-building and a moment of unease between the two before the purpose was revealed.

The film is not flawless, though. How can Nirbed, who lives in style and cooks world cuisine, be concerned about affording a three-star accommodation for a day? The scene where Alokesh shockingly discovers his wife in a passionate moment with Nirbed is not convincing too. The visual effect of the last scene is amateurish and ill-conceived and the climax could have been written better. The way it happens puts Rishav at high risk for suspicion despite the suicide note in place. However, the gliches don’t stick out like a sore thumb.

Picture are sourced from the Facebook pages of Shree Venkatesh Films (the production house) and Prosenjit.

#Khawto #BanglaCinema #Prosenjit #Paoli #BengaliCinema

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