The flavour of Kolkata

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

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Kolkata hidden gems trail- Part 1: Dhiren Cabin

The Kolkata foodscape is incomplete without its age-old cafes (or cabins, as locally known). They are the reason for Bengali’s undying love for fries and cutlets. Though many have faded into oblivion with the passage of time or are struggling to survive in the competition with modern foods and wide availability of street food, there are some who are still going strong. A few of them are widely known, like Mitra Cafe of north Kolkata and Dilkhusha Cabin of central Kolkata, while there are others who are locally popular and are as good or maybe better at least in certain items. They are the hidden gems. Through this new series, I shall share my experience in some of these places.

Tucked into a not-so-busy street in north Kolkata, Dhiren Cabin's nondescript exteriors are likely to be mistaken for just another old, struggling cafe. The road from Sovabazar crossing on CR Avenue towards Ahiritola (Sovabazar St) leads here past just past the Rabindra Sarani crossing. The  interiors are equally humble- two non-AC dining rooms with old-fashioned marble-top tables, small wooden chairs and a few cabins for couples. Don't prejudge its food by the unpretentious and sometimes careless appearance. Like other such cafes, it has a good number of patrons and they come here just for good food and no care for ambiance.  Don’t expect a menu card. The menu is put up on the wall. Take a look at it before ordering or you can always ask the waiter.

One dish that makes it stands out is chicken cutlet. It’s certainly one of the best in the city. The crunch of the bread-crumbed coat is spot on. Inside lies a well-marinated, succulent chicken breast fillet that’s yummy! It costs just Rs 55 which underscores the high value for money that this place offers. The mustard served with the food lacks punch, but the taste of the food makes up for it. When it comes to fried chicken snacks, it can give the KFCs of the world a run for money.

The other thing that I like here is the vegetable chop. It’s a large crumb-fried ball inside which there is mashed potato lining a large mass of beetroot and carrot sauteed with seasoning and a few raisins thrown in. The taste is a bit on the sweeter side which is not exactly what I prefer, but it’s otherwise very good. Actually a winter delicacy, it doesn't taste half as good in other seasons and there too, a good vegetable chop is not easily found.

It’s fish items are popular too but they haven't impressed me as they are made with basa fish. It’s not one of the fishes traditionally used in fish fry (mainly beckti) and lacks taste reasonably.

I wish to come back to it for some other dishes about which I’ve come across good words.

#KolkataHeritageCabinTrail #KolkataFood #BengaliFood #ChickenCutlet

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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Film review: Mayurakshi

Language- Bengali
Director- Atanu Ghosh
Cast- Soumitra Chatterjee, Prosenjit, Sudipta Chakraborty, Indrani Halder, Gargi Roychowdhury
Release date- 29th December 2017

The are some films that show and say less, are introvert by nature, yet leave a lot with the audience as they step out of the theatre. Mayurakshi falls in this rare category.

It's about the five days when Aryanil (Prosenjit) comes down from his busy job in Chicago for his ailing father Sushovan (Soumitra) who is suffering from dementia and age-related nervous disorder. He has a sharp memory of distant past, like his son's younger days but not of the time he spent in the cafe with his son a few hours back. It's also about Aryanil's search of a past chapter of his life which brings him a realisation and an impact to his father's life.

Mayurakshi is a departure from conventional narrative-led style of storytelling of Bangla cinema, which is also new to the body of work of Atanu Ghosh. The director has a yen for exploring various thought-provoking subjects in his films and for the creative courage he has shown in writing the film and executing it uncompromisingly to tell a poignant tale that tugs at the heartstrings, it will add the brightest feather to his cap. 

The characters are etched with care and they have been given the scope they deserve. Atanu has brought alive Sushovan’s mental condition, knowledge about diverse subjects and deep affection for his son in small, confident strokes. Aryanil is a character which impressed me much. He is sensitive and introvert and his two divorces have made him more reticent. Sahana (Indrani) is a character written in a matured way and such no-strings-attached friend who Aryanil can confide in and share secrets with is exceptional in Bangla cinema.

The way Atanu concludes the film underlines the saying that life must go on while dealing with adversities.

The film is perfectly cast and boasts of minimalistic acting by the ensemble cast where Soumitra shines with an amazingly nuanced act that one expects of a legend that he is. He looks so incredibly effortless as Sushovan that it's hard to believe he is acting. Prosenjit was a revelation for me in this film and due credit to Atanu for extracting this measured performance out of the star actor known for his mannerisms. A role that almost robs the actor of his strongest weapon i.e. dialogue delivery that plays to the gallery, he makes great use of silence, finer expressions a lot of which through his beautiful and expressive eyes. Aryanil is brought to life with all his inner strength to cope with life, loneliness, longing for a true companion and love for his father. Both the actors create an admirable yet poignant father-son bonding that is rarely seen on Bengali screen. Their breaking down scenes towards the end are heart-wrenching. These two roles will remain highpoints of their career.

Sudipta derserves mention for her measured and credible act as Mallika, the housekeeper in Sushovan's residence looking after him and Indrani as Sahana leaves a lasting impression. Indrani is a capable and grossly underutilized actress and it was good to see her back after long. The last memorable performance of hers for me was Atanu's earlier film Takhan Teish. 

Gargi's small, one-scene presence was much impressive and again it goes to the credit of the director to have extracted a perdformance that is clean of the familiar, refined diction.   

Soumik's camera, as always, creates the true feel of an old south Kolkata house.There are many close shots of the protagonists, like those where Prosenjit emotes with his eyes or the soul-touching father-son moments (like the one where Aryanil is dabbing powder on Sudhovan) that are etched out beautifully on screen by Soumik. Editing was a pivotal function for such a film that's a fine weave of moments and Sujoy Datta Ray does a fine job of it, never letting it drag. Debajyoti's background score provides the apt support to the storytelling.

#Mayurakshi #BanglaCinema #BengaliCinema 

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Monday, January 01, 2018

Film review: Tumhari Sulu

Language- Hindi
Cast- Vidya Balan, Manav Kaul, Neha Dhupia, Vijay Maurya and others
Director- Suresh Triveni
Release date- 17th November 2017

We don’t make films like them anymore. The Hrishikesh Mukherjees and Basu Chatterjees creations were set in our middle class world and the protagonists were not larger than life. Yet we loved them for their simplicity and for the fact that we could relate to them the most among all we saw on screen.

Tumhari Sulu is a sincere attempt towards making that realistic, meaningful yet entertaining cinema. It’s about Sulochana (Vidya Balan)- a housewife who hasn't achieved much for herself but has an indomitable spirit to win. Sulochana (Sulu to her husband and family) participates in the lemon and spoon race in the annual sports of the housing society and the contests on FM radio channels and win prizes. She, with her husband Ashok (Manav Kaul) and school-going son live a happy life in a modest flat in Virar. She is always compared to her well-educated sisters who are successful in career but refuses to be affected by that. Her aspiration in life is to make the best of the opportunities life throws at her. One day she came across an ad for an interview of an RJ in an FM station where she visited to collect her prize. She ends up as the host of a late night show ‘Tumhari Sulu’. The show becomes a hit but brings some unpredictable turns in Sulu's life. Whether she is able to cope with it forms the rest of the story.


Suresh Triveni has made his debut film with everyday middle class reality, at home or at work, which the audience can well identify with. The characters are real and well-etched irrespective of length, hence easy to relate to. Their conversations, happy moments, aspirations, problems, challenges, frustrations are competently written and crafted. Yet the film is engaging throughout and the setting, whether home or workplace or the commute in between, lends an able support. It is praise-worthy to see how Suresh spins a yarn that is so heartwarming and engaging set in a life that's so familiar and devoid of cinematic frills. It only shows that the writer-director was clear in his mind and had the confidence in what he wanted to convey and precisely how, and his advertising background has been of great help in this. The end looked a little rushed but. The conclusion deserved a little more space.

In performances, Vidya Balan breezes through Sulochana. Apart from her acting acumen, she has the right persona for the protagonist and coupled with the well-defined character and its graph, she’s a treat to watch. She makes Sulochana believable, charming and aspirational (as she lives her own life with the mantra “Main kar sakti hain”). The camaraderie she has with her husband comes alive through her playfulness on the surface and the love and care deep within. Her appearance has blended so beautifully with the middle class homemaker’s character that the thought of her being overweight for a protagonist’s role never crosses the mind.

Manav Kaul’a Ashok was a revelation for me. Ashok is a good soul dominated by his wife and in-laws.  At office, he is a sincere and hard worker stuck in a thankless, modestly-paying job which gets exploitative with a new young boss (Shantanu Ghatak) coming in down the line. It’s not easy to shine in such a role with nothing going for him but he pulls it off brilliantly. He brings alive the loving and caring vibes with his wife believably. This talented theatre actor definitely deserves to be seen more on big screen.


Neha Dhupia plays a level-headed FM station head Maria who takes a risky call in starting a late night show with Sulochona. The expressions on her face when she listens to Vidya or someone else are flawless! She is impressive and is the other revelation. We have seen her wasted in so many inane roles!


Vijay Maurya as the poet and show producer (he is also the additional writer of the script) does a commendable job bringing out the pride of his literary talent and the frustration of catering to client’s demand of ‘integrating’ the brand name in the jingle. He’s the producer of the radio show ‘Tumhari Sulu’ who gets Vidya to bring out the sexy voice of the RJ. All others are aptly cast and have performed as desired, including Abhishek Sharrma as Pranav - Sulu's son. Shantanu Ghatak as the Bengali entrepreneur and Ashok’s new boss was a little surprise. I wonder who has written his Bengali lines which are spot on!

The songs are pleasant and seamlessly blend with the narrative. The rehash of Hawa hawaii is sensibly used (in a party in the FM station), in no mood to match Sridevi in the original. Saurabh Goswami’s cinematography brings out the modest apartment of Sulochona and her workplace in the right tones and contribute to the real world the director desired to create.

#TumhariSulu #VidyaBalan #HindiCinema #HindiCinema2017

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