The flavour of Kolkata

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

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Food Kahini hits the bookstores

"Ritu-da (Rituparno Ghosh) used to call her by the name of a food"

"Shut up!"

Mir was going to spill the beans about the name as food was the theme of the conversation with the guests at the book launch and actor Sudiptaa Chakraborty tried to dissuade him in vain. Well, the pet name that Rituparno gave her in their very first meeting was ‘Gutke kochuri’ (A small version of kochuri or kachauri). Let’s be a bit fair to Sudiptaa and not get into what actually prompted him in giving that name.

It was the evening of the launch of Food Kahini, the food book that turned well-known Kolkata food blogger Indrajit Lahiri into author. And it happened in style. The starry April evening at Peerless Inn had composer-singer-lyricist Anupam Roy, actor Aparajita Auddy and singer Lagnajita Chakraborty apart from Sudiptaa as guests and as the cherry on the cake, Mir was the host. Mir, incidentally, plays the ‘Bhaipo’ (Nephew) in the food-based web series ‘Foodka’ with Indrajit in the titular role of the uncle who is a knowledgeable foodie. It is into its third season (Available on YouTube).

Anupam sharing about his weakness for sweets

Mir had already asked Anupam about his foodie side and shared with us his deep love for sweets. He also asked the famous composer in jest what all he keeps in his fridge since his romantic songs often have names of vegetables (Like dry spring onion). It was followed by Aparajita who confessed her obsession for khichudi (Khichdi). She shared a childhood incident, with an annual occurance, where her parents used to find her sitting on the road, right by an open drain, without a care, just to eat the ‘bhog’ (Prasad) along with many others, served in a local puja. The banter, peppered with Mir's wisecracks, made for a fun time.

Aparajita talks of her obsession for khichudi with her trademark laughter

When it was Lagnajita’s turn at the end, she offered a private story on Anupam’s sweet connection where the venue was her home. Though she kept on insisting that it was harmless, it was enough to embarrass Anupam, albeit in good spirit.

Lagnajita spilling the beans

Coming to the book, it’s every blogger’s secret dream have a book to his/ her name and Indrajit was no exception. Though his blog Moha Mushkil is primarily in English, it has a section of Bengali posts and I’ve often told this friend of mine to write more in Bengali since it’s the language that befits his humorous and free-flowing writing style. Good that Food Kahini is in Bengali and comprises of his writings on various segments of foods that Kolkata is collectively known for all over the world- from the Chinese breakfast of Tiretta Bazar to the famous born-in-Kolkata kati roll to momos. In different chapters, it talks of the food at Chinatown, the brunch at 'Office para' or Dalhousie area- the central business district, the heritage cabins of the city and a foodwalk at Burrabazar which is more known as one of Asia’s largest trading hubs. It has many other attractions in the other chapters and goes beyond Kolkata to other districts of Bengal. Needless to say, it promises to be a fun read.

And Food Kahini is born. Author Indrajit Lahiri is third from right.

#FoodKahini #KolkataFoodGuide

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Sunday, March 31, 2019

A take on 'Kia and Cosmos'

Language: English
Director: Sudipto Roy
Cast: Ritwika Pal, Swastika Mukherjee, Joy Sengupta, Sraman Chatterjee, Zahid Hussain, Mita Chatterjee
Length: 2 hours 6 minutes
Release date: 29th March 2019

Kia and Cosmos is a heart-warming story of a specially abled child's (Kia) quest to find out who killed her cat Cosmos who was pregnant and in the bargain, taking a leap in becoming independent. The story is from Kia's point of view, which makes for an interesting watch, and it's brilliantly crafted by director Sudipto Roy. Aditya Varma's cinematography helps create Kia's world with finesse and elevates the film. Ritwika is astonishingly good as she brings Kia to life. Kudos to the immense potential of this young debutante! Swastika is brilliant as Kia's mother- the vulnerable and loving Dia. Joy Sengupta is very good as her musician father Kabir and so are Sraman Chatterjee and Zahid Hussain (Kia's teacher). Neel Adhikari's music and minimal background score take the storytelling forward. I just thought there was a problem with pacing in places and it could be tighter. Overall, a memorable cinematic experience which explains why this film was an official selection in film festivals in Glasgow, Milan, Barcelona and Madrid.

#KiaAndCosmos #SwastikaMukherjee

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Sunday, March 24, 2019

A take on ‘Mahalaya'

Language: Bengali
Director: Soumik Sen
Cast: Jisshu Sengupta, Subhashis Mukherjee, Prosenjit, Saptarshi Roy, Subhomoy Chatterjee
Length: 1 hour 48 minutes
Release date: 1st February 2019

Mahalaya takes us back to the historical incident etched in Bengali’s cultural history when an iconic radio programme on the day of Mahalaya famous for the chants of Birendra Krishna Bhadra was audaciously replaced by Akashvani with another program with the biggest ever filmstar Uttam Kumar as the star attraction.

Mahalaya had an interesting premise but the execution left a lot to be desired. The first few minutes involving a senior and powerful All India Radio official who catalyses the change of the iconic Mahalaya programme set the tone and texture of the film which rules out finesse. Prosenjit who plays the official Shashi Sinha delivers an exceptionally weak performance thanks to an unconvincing diction of Hindi and over-the-top portrayal full of familiar mannerisms. The same loudness is noticed in a key character Banerjee (Kanchan) and partly in Kolkata station director Stevenson (Jayant Kripalni).

In terms of direction, the narrative ends up as more documentative and less drama as it talks too much through dialogue and shows too less going against a hallmark of good cinema. Apart from some melodramatic bits, what mars the watching experience is unnecessary or careless intrusions of celebrities like Kishore Kumar and Manna Dey and even Rabindranath Tagore who is shown in a scene. I seriously wonder, couldn't the makers find out an artist who
would at least sound like Kishore Kumar?

Thankfully, Subhashish shows his class bringing to life Birendra Krishna Bhadra in a nuanced and understated performance and Jisshu does a somewhat decent job as Uttam Kumar (though more care should have been taken by the director to bring alive the biggest star in Bengali cinema).  Subhomoy Chatterjee as Pankaj Kumar Mullick is a laudable act and Saptarshi Roy as Hemanta Mukherjee is good too. One however wonders if the director has taken a little too much of creative liberty in developing the character of Hemanta making him overconfident and setting a wrong precedence of a guru-shishya relationship (with Pankaj in this context).

#Mahalaya #BanglaCinema #BanglaCinema2019 #BengaliCinema #UttamKumar

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Saturday, January 05, 2019

Film review: Rosogolla

Language: Bengali
Director: Pavel
Cast: Ujaan Ganguly, Abantika Biswas, Bidipta Chakaraborty, Rajatava Dutta, Kharaj Mukherjee, Aparajita Adhya, Chiranjeet, Shantilal Mukherjee, Kaushik Sen
Length: 2 hours 18 minutes
Release date: 21st December 2018

Je somoy niye bhabena, taake niye toh bhabtei hoy" ( If someone is oblivious of the time lost (in creation), I better take him seriously).

A confectioner says this in the film in respect of his potential competitor Nobin Chandra Das who is lost in the pursuit of invention of his dream dessert for years. This is what makes Rosogolla more than a sweet love story where the boy fights all odds to invent his girl’s dessert of desire and it simultaneously becomes an inspiring saga of perseverance of a creator. And that makes it a story that very much needed to be told.

Rosogolla is the real life story of the nineteenth century invention of Bengal's globally famed dessert (Rosogolla) by confectioner Nobin Chandra Das who took up the challenge in his early twenties to make a sweet of his lover's desire, nothing like which anyone had ever seen. He married Khirodmoni, his love, through the course of this and fulfilled her desire amid all kinds of misfortune, insult and unending failures that came their way.

Ujaan Ganguly as Nobin Chandra Das

The charm of the film is that it’s a simple story of Bengali’s favourite dessert that’s simply told. The story is penned well by Pavel and Smaranjit Chakaraborty, a well-known author. Pavel spins his yarn on screen with a main thread in a pleasingly unhurried pace and does not digress with sub-plots and unnecessary characters which is not unusual in a period piece. Though the storytelling approach is modelled on mainstream and lacks nuances in places and in some characters, it is thoroughly watchable. It is adorably garnished with dollops of old world charm of the nineteenth century Kolkata. The trivia of invention of Aam Sandesh and Baikuntho Bhog is also one of the attractions.

Having said that, the chemistry between Nobin and Khirodmoni needed better crafting. Many moments between them could be developed better. Also, the character of Baikuntho (Nobin’s partner) is over-the-top and Amritalal Banik (The patents man) is not well-etched.

Abantika delivers a fine and convincing portrayal of Khirodmoni in her debut. She brings out well the chirpy, tomboyish, yet level-headed girl who is the perfect foil to the unmaterialistic genius Nobin Chandra Das and his strongest pillar of support. Ujaan as Nobin shows promise in some scenes with measured delivery but surprisingly goes over the top in quite a few scenes. The story being centred on his character, the performance called for thoughtful handling and the director shares responsibility for this too. Rajatava as Kalidas Indra (The confectioner who was Nobin’s first employer and subsequent competitor), Kharaj as Mahesh, Nobin’s assistant, Aparajita as the golden-hearted zamindar wife and Bidipta as Nobin’s mother are well cast and play their parts well. Lew Hilt is a pleasant surprise as Paolo, the British gentleman who was a patron of the native culture. It has the historical character of confectioner Bhim Chandra Nag (played well by Tamal Roy Chowdhury) and another confectioner Ganguram also appears in a flash. However, Kaushik Sen doesn’t shine as Amritlal Banik with a stylization that doesn’t quite fall in place and Shantilal, with an awful wig, isn’t impressive as Chandu Babu/ Baikuntho except for the end appearance. Subhashree’s Hindi in the character of Malkhaan jaan, the tawaif  needed more attention.

Abantika Biswas as Khirodmoni

Music is a strength of the film and the earthy score of Kalikaprasad aid the storytelling brilliantly. Khodar Banda breaks out amid virgin rural landscape within a few minutes of the film, giving it a zesty start. Tapur Tupur, brilliantly written, composed and sung by Arnab Dutta is an immensely endearing love ballad. Supriyo Dutta’s camerawork brings out the era nicely. It was obvious that the production design had a woefully limited budget for a period piece and despite best efforts, outdoor shots of Kolkata stuck out unflatteringly which computer graphics couldn’t make good. Though it is not desirable in a period film, I would still like to overlook this blemish as it is a satisfying watch on overall consideration.

At the end, it suffices to say that every Bengali across the world should watch this film as it’s a story of our roots that is worthy of it.

#Rosogolla #BanglaCinema #NobinChandraDas

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