The flavour of Kolkata

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

Monday, October 30, 2017

Pujo Diaries 2017

Here's a trail of Pujo (as Durga Puja or Puja is commonly known) which was celebrated in September 2017 in Kolkata.

This pandal (marquee) in Telengabagan which is a popular puja of north Kolkata. Theme puja (Pandal and idols of goddess Durga and her four children are designed following a theme) rules these days pushing the traditional puja to sidelines. The theme of this puja was child labour.

The interior of the Telengabagan puja (below).

The themed idol of goddess and her children in the Telengabagan puja. This reflects the current trend of idols of goddess Durga and her children.

A unique Durga idol with nine hands on one side, in Shnurir Bagan puja, north Kolkata.

Kobirajbagan Sarbojonin puja with the ship-themed pandal.

A classical Durga idol. A rarity in big pujas now.

A peek into the suburbs now. The book-fair-themed pandal of Shitala Mandir Samaj, Barrackpore, in north suburbs of Kolkata.

A tribal village has been recreated in a Barrackpore puja.

A jamindar's mansion has been recreated as the pandal in a popular puja in Barrackpore.

Live human models in the above-mentioned pujo.They stayed still for hours on end.

A swan-themed pandal in a puja in Ichhapur (north suburbs).

The idol of the above-mentioned puja. There's a certain playfulness in the design.

The classical war goddess avatar of Durga which is a personal favourite. It's a rare kind of idol these days. This one is at College Sqaure puja which has been blissfully defying the trend.....thankfully.

The houses in the locality are sometimes included in the pandal design  of a theme puja. This one is at the Nalin Sarkar Street puja (north Kolkata)

An art installation on the theme of an asylum in the Nalin Sarkar Street puja.

Kumari Puja on Ashtami day is another ritual which is followed in the Ramakrishna Mission centres. A young girl is selected for worship. This one is at Ramakrishna Vivekananda Mission of Barrackpore (which, though shares the same ideology, is a breakaway of the famous institution).

The roads get dressed up, too. This is Hatibagan Sarbojonin puja (north Kolkata).

I like the creativity of Hatibagan Sarbojonin and this year was no exception. The theme was 'Birds'. The design with cages and small wooden birds all around with their chirp as background music created a world of its own.

Chandelier is a tradition of puja pandals. Various pujas flaunt big, majestic chandeliers.

The Kashi Bose Lane puja (north Kolkata) was on the theme of evolution of music. The transistor radio and tape deck took back to the old times.

A small instance of the puja craze would be this. A small part of the queue for the Santosh Mitra Square puja (central Kolkata) past midnight.

Sindur Khela- the send-off ritual of the goddess on the last day- Dashami.

After the round of smearing the goddess with sindur (vermilion) is done with, it's time to do the same to each other among women (originally meant for married women).

The vermilion brings out a rare kind of feminine beauty .

'Sindur Khela' is equally popular among young and unmarried women now for its fashion quotient. Media photographers get them to pose for their 'Dashami' work.

Finally, Bhasan/ Bishorjon or biding the goddess adieu. Its immersion of the idol in the river.

Though a painful moment, bishorjon is obesrved with much fanfare. And free-flowing 'bhasan dance' to the beats of dhaak is a popular subculture.

I was lucky to witness this classical form of bishorjon. The idol is balanced on the edge of two boats and several rounds are done before the boats move away from one another.

#Puja #Pujo #DirgaPuja #DurgaPuja2017 #DurgaPujaKolkata #DurgaPujaKolkata2017

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Friday, October 06, 2017

Film review: Projapoti Biskut

Language- Bengali
Cast- Aditya Sengupta (debut), Ishaa Saha (debut), Aparajita Auddy, Shantilal Mukhopadhyay, Sonali Gupta, Rajat Ganguly, Kheya Chattopadhyay and others.
Director- Anindya Chattopadhyay
Release date- 22nd September 2017

What makes the premise of Projapoti Biskut interesting is Anindya’s choice of subject. A love story of two incompatible persons in an arranged marriage is fresh and brave too as it’s hard to evoke interest of audience familiar with love stories ending in marriage. This brought an amount of curiosity about his second film after the successful coming-of-age flick Open Tee Bioscope in January 2015.

It tells the story of Antor, a gawky, plain-looking, reserved young man who is the younger son of a bonedi household of old south Kolkata (Bhowanipore). Shaon, with whom he is married for more than two years is from a humble middle class family from Howrah with not-so-educated parents. The much-needed bonding is missing from their life and at a point of time under influence of family they start thinking that a child will set everything right. How their relationship evolves from this point is what the film is about.

Anindya Chattopadhyay has made a simple film weaving in a generous amount of Bangaliyana that we are sorely missing in today's Bangla cinema. The ‘Kartik phela’ (Dropping an idol of lord Kartik at the door of a home with a couple yet to have a child) is a forgotten practice these days and this film has entwined it with the storyline beautifully. The film explores a relationship without relying on a narrative style. The two families connected by marriage are chalk and cheese and this contrast has been established through various traits and situations. The characters are etched well, so is the crisis of a childless couple and the respective medical treatment. Love doesn't bloom between the introvert and indecisive husband who had had a failed relationship before marriage and the forlorn wife who feels claustrophobic in her new home. Shaon’s character is especially well-written, bringing out the two phases- firstly when she is a loner in Antor’s house, then when she decides to stay in her parents’ house and starts following her heart- equally well. She tells her husband that she was a shajano bou (puppet wife) in his family where she even lost her own name Sraboni and became Shaon at the behest of her mother-in-law who calls the shots in the family as she hadn’t found the former name classy. Antor’s character, I have felt, is straight-jacketed to some extent and his inner space, his longing for love was left rather unexplored. In fact, the unsaid mutual craving for each other hasn't really come through. The gem of a song Tomake bujhina priyo brilliantly sung by Chandrani fell somewhat out of place for this. Anindya has created nice moments of the other interpersonal relationships, like Shaon and her father-in-law indulging in Bengali TV soaps secretly and conversations between Shaon and Antor's niece. The film also has a generous sprinkle of Anindya’s  trademark humour and the one-liners elicit chuckle.

Source: A song from the film on YouTube

All the actors, including those in bit roles, are well cast and that has helped the director tremendously. It was very wise of director-turned-producer Shiboprosad Mukhopadhyay to insist on new faces in the lead as because of that we, the audience, found the protagonists so believable. Sonali Gupta was spot on for the role of the elitist, Rabindrasangeet-devoted mother of Antor physically as well as behaviourally. Newcomer Kheya Chattopadhyay is impressive as Shaon’s friend- the free-spirited Parijaat who was her only window of life. Rajatava (Antor’s boss) has been deservingly trusted with some killer comic punches. Aparajita and Shantilal (Shaon’s parents) bring out the nuances of a couple of a lower middle class family from that side of Hooghly. Arghyakamal Mitra, Shibashis Bandopadhyay and Abhijit Guha do justice to their bit roles (The first two were pleasant surprise). The child actor playing Antor’s niece was good too and due credit goes to Anindya as it’s not easy to make children believable on screen.

Debutante Ishaa Saha shines the brightest for bringing out Shaon/Sraboni through flawless expressions in all the shades. She is a revelation in the second half.

Source: A song from the film on YouTube

Aditya Sengupta, who has acting in his genes (from mother's side), excels as the indecisive and introvert Antor in his debut act but his promise is constrained by his characterization. Given the right roles, Ishaa will go far. Aditya aspires to be a director not actor and has studied abroad for it.

Source: A song from the film on YouTube

Music is a strength of this film and all the songs, from the humorous title track to Projapoti mon that plays with the end credits are written, composed (by Shantanu Moitra, Prosen, Anindya and Anupam) and sung well. A special mention must go to Ahare mon (Written, composed and sung by Anupam) which is undoubtedly part of Anupam's best work and of course to Prosen and Ritam Sen (lyricist) for the sublime romantic track Tomake bujhina priyo which is in a league of its own.

Parts of the first half dragged as Rajatava’s comic punches and Antor’s diabetic father's secret trips to the local sweet shop kept coming back. A director needs these fillers more when the story is not progressing. Also Shantilal’s comic track turned a little predictable with time. It’s in the second half when the projapoti gets wings as Shaon and Antor follow their hearts and experiment with life.

To sum up, a simple and unusual love story which is unmistakably Bengali at heart.

#ProjapotiBiskut #BanglaCinema #BengaliCinema

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