The flavour of Kolkata

The flavour of Kolkata
The bridge, the river and kids' play. Brilliantly captured by Sujay Kumar Das.

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 


If you liked reading the post, you may visit this blog's Facebook page (click on the link) and hit the 'Like' button to stay connected with the future updates on this blog and more on the page.

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.

Source: www.desimartini.com

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.

Source: www.bestquotesphotos.com

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!

 Source: www.bestquotesphotos.com

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


If you liked reading the post, you may visit this blog's Facebook page (click on the link) and hit the 'Like' button to stay connected with the future updates on this blog and more on the page.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The second edition of The World Week of Italian Cuisine at Italian Consulate

It is that time of the year when Italy woos gastronomes across the globe with its cuisine. The World Week of Italian Cuisine is celebrated in the countries where Italy has a consular presence. This year’s is the second edition (the first one was known as The First Week of Italian Cuisine and you may see the post on it on this blog here)

My sincere gratitude to the honourable consululate general Mr Damiano Francovigh for the invitation to the inaugural party at the consulate like last November.

I reached the Italian consulate in Alipore around 7.30 pm and found the Consulate General and his team greeting the guests at the entrance. The team found me out on the guest list and told me to go in. The party was in full swing at the large lawn. The guest list had the creme de la creme of Kolkata.

Seven star hotels were showcasing their special menu in a stall each helmed by their resident Italian chefs. in order of appearance, there were HHI ( Chef Marialuisa Lovari), Swissotel (Chef Enrico Bricarello), Taj Bengal (Chef Giovanni Poretto), Novotel (Chef Andrea Misseri), The Oberoi Grand (Chef Mariagiustina Campagna), Hyatt Regency (Chef Mauro Ferrari) and ITC Sonar (Chef Vittorio Greco).

Here’s what I liked:
I started from the very first stall- HHI. The smoked salmon was good. It was served in normal temperature and had a subtle taste with some creaminess. The Lamb Pepperoni (Thin, round slices) was good too.

Smoked Salmon

The Consulate General addressed the guests at this juncture and said that the week was a celebration of Italian cuisine all over the world to raise awareness about it. He named the hotels and the chefs who were present and informed that the same food would be available in the hotels over the following fortnight.

Italian Consululate General Mr Damiano Francovigh

The drinks counter was serving a fine selection of wines. Since I’m not a wine person, I chose to skip it.

Moved to the Taj Bengal stall and tried the lamb stew. They served it with a pulao. The stew bowled me over! Its taste was richer than a stew yet not spicy. The tender, well-marinated lamb chunks cooked with the vegetables was an ideal dish for the pleasant autumn evening. I have never been attracted to risotto but I liked the vegetable verson and the seafood risotto was lovely (with tiny chunks of seafood and made with stock). Both were being cooked on the spot and served right from the oven.


I met Chef Vittorio Greco at the ITC Sonar stall and told him that I had loved his poached fish last year in the same event (you can read about it in the post on this blog here). He said he remembered me (!) and served me his fish preparation of this year. Personally speaking, it was not bad and was subtly flavoured but that it was cooked with tomato, thus didn't appeal to my palate.

I met food blogger friends Indrajit Lahiri and Debjani Chatterjee Alam. Indrajit showed us his discovery- a fatty pork dish from the ITC Sonar stall. I had a spoon of it and went back to the stall just for it. The baked pork with almost a 50:50 fat to meat ratio in some cuts (and I precisely picked the fatty cut) was a delight and chef Greco’s magic made it the showstopper of the evening for me. The poached fish I talked about was the best dish for me in last year’s edition.

Baked Pork

The chicken liver puree at the Novotel’s stall was a bit bitter to start with, but its rich flavour took over soon. It was one of the new types of dish discovered.

Another puree caught my fancy. None of  the chicken dishes tasted thus far had scored with me (like Chicken Bon Bon with Onion Sauce, Chicken ball with parmesan) but the chicken breast on top of a cauliflower puree at the Hyatt stall was made flavoursome for the delicious puree.


Potato Stuffing Chicken Breast in Cauliflower Puree

I wrapped up the night with the the tiramisu from the Oberoi Grand stall which served only desserts. The tiramisu didn't turn out well. I missed the cheesy flavours. But the dense chocolate cake that I took just before made up for a sweet ending.


#WorldWeekofItalianCuisine #ItalianFood #ItalianCuisine #Pork #Risotto #Lamb


If you liked reading the post, you may visit this blog's Facebook page (click on the link) and hit the 'Like' button to stay connected with the future updates on this blog and more on the page.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Happy Birthday, Ms Honeybee!

Here’s wishing Ms Honeybee many happy returns of the day from the core of my heart! She has been helluva fun and a steady source of weekly entertainment. I am fond of her sharp wit.

Well, Ms Honeybee is officially a weekly cinema gossip column featured on the backpage of Calcutta Times, the daily supplement of the Times of India, on Sundays. It is one wicked pleasure that I am sure many don’t wish to miss in the daily dope of entertainment news. Now, as any reader of the column  knows what is mostly seen in the column is actually insider information of the Bangla cinema industry that is not fit to be published in byline news/ features. So, it’s dope for those seeking interesting trivia and juicy, intimate nuggets of information from the industry. It sometimes breaks news too. Like it has informed of a star kid who would possibly be cast in the lead role in a big period piece helmed by a leading director and scheduled to release next Puja.

So, you get to know about projects before the media brings it to you, the real picture of the box office of big movies, the show of might of a big producer, how warm the vibes of Bengal’s hottest star pair actually are etc apart from the familiar dose of industry romances.

What the readers surely enjoy is the straightforwardness of Ms Honeybee. She doesn't hint at persons but takes names, unlike other gossip columns where the readers keep figuring out, often with struggle, who is what from the hints. There is one exception but, a mighty industry mogul, whom she refers to as ‘He who must not be named’.


I once shocked a friend of mine who runs a leading theatre in Behala with the precise information of which show of a new Bengali release was cancelled in his theatre, gathered from you know where.

Ms Honeybee has been wished by big stars on her special day and you know what? Reading that was as much fun as reading the column. The wishes separates the men from the boys and women from the girls. Ms Honeybee hardly spares anyone, so all have had a taste of her sting. Now, some have taken it in their stride and wished her well, like Birsa, Srijit, Jeet and Rituparna. But some have made it apparent that they have found her sting a bit too much to handle at times by requesting her to check facts before writing or that her gossip was baseless at times. They include Dev, Raj Chakraborty, Nusrat and Mimi. To me, Birsa’s quip takes the cake, which states, “Bob like a beetle, tittle to the tee/ Oh my quirky, zany Honeybee.” Also liked the pun-loving Srijit saying “Honeybee ‘hani karok’ noy, borong mishti. In months to come, I wish to read more interesting trivia from her.”

Before signing off, let me put down which wish made for a ROFL moment for me. It’s Dev’s, who has requested her to check the ‘authenticity’ of the ‘news’ as “Not every gossip is true”.


#MsHoneybee #BanglaCinema #Tollygunge


If you liked reading the post, you may visit this blog's Facebook page (click on the link) and hit the 'Like' button to stay connected with the future updates on this blog and more on the page.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Kolkata pice hotel trail part 1- Hotel Sidheshwari Ashram

Love on a banana leaf!

In the age where we indulge in the choicest Bengali food in fancy Bengali cuisine restaurants, some eateries, tucked into the lanes and alleys of the old Kolkata, have been silently serving lipsmacking traditional food for ages. Known as pice hotels, they serve good old basic meals, minus any frills, to the common man at honest prices in a humble ambience.

According to Arun Deb who runs Tarun Niketan, the popular pice hotel near Rashbehari, which is more than hundred years old, ‘Pice hotel’ means a customer needs to pay for everything other than the steel plate, the salt served on it and the water in stainless steel tumbler. Even a piece of banana leaf, if a customer demands getting the food served on it (as it is done traditionally), has a small price. ‘Paisa’ or ‘Pice’ in English was the smallest currency in the British era when such eateries possibly started. So, it meant, one had to pay in pice for everything in those eateries and thus these places started being known as ‘Pice hotel’.

Without this kind of eateries, one’s search for Bengali food in Kolkata will remain incomplete and if a visitor wants to eat Bengali food in real local style, the destination is a pice hotel, not a fancy Bengali cuisine restaurant. Also, pice hotels are part of the soul of Kolkata. So if you wish to feel it, you may go to one.

I first read about Hotel Sidheshwari Ashram in my Facebook food group Calcutta Foodies Club in an extensive post, then in friends’ blog posts and Instagram posts. So, it was on the wishlist for a long time. Finally it got ticked as I visited this ninety two-year old popular pice hotel on a recent Saturday for lunch with two enthusiastic colleagues. What I felt after the meal is encapsulated in the opening line.

It’s located in Janbazar in central Kolkata. If you walk down SN Banerjee from from KMC/ Elite cinema bus stop towards Sealdah, after a few minutes, you shall see Hotel Aura on the right in a four-point crossing. Turn right and keep an eye on the left. After a few shops, mostly selling spices (it’s a spice market), you shall find its narrow entrance. Go straight to the first floor.


What will welcome you, much to your surprise (if you aren’t familiar to a pice hotel), is the menu board. Yes, prices are written in chalk as per availability of dishes which is dependent on the availability of the main ingredients and their prices on a given day. It means if a particular fish wasn’t available in the market that day, or its price had shot up much, the price of its dish would ke kept blank on the board. So, don’t make the mistake of asking for the menu card. It’s all there on the board only. It’s a place for the common man on the road. Customers sit on benches, not chairs, and share tables with rank strangers. Don’t be surprised if you find a cat staring at your fish from the window and don’t bother either.

I much preferred to sit right there as for me it was not just the food but the ambience to soak in, but on that day we had a lady among us and she wasn’t feeling comfortable sharing the table with a stranger, so we moved to the small AC section (seating ten people) which they have started in recent years for ‘sophisticated’ customers.They charge 20% extra on the bill for dining there, which we found to be fair given the down-to-earth prices.


We ordered fine rice, thick dal (they have basic versions of both at lower prices but don’t go for them), jhuri alubhaja (fried, crunchy potato slivers) and Rui Kawsha (Rohu fish curry in thick gravy) for all. Mocha Chingdi and mango chutney were also ordered which we shared. The food was served on a banana leaf in traditional Bengali style and water was served in ‘bhnaars’ (earthen cup).



The food was finger-licking good! Prices were down-to-earth and some items were surprisingly cheap, like the dal and alu bhaja. The portion sizes were good- the alu bhaja will suffice for two, so will be the Mocha Chingdi. The fish was a ‘peti’ for me (stomach- the most covetable serving of fish) and man, it was a jaw-dropping size (see the picture below). The common order (Rice, dal, alubhaja and the fish dish) cost just Rs 91 each approximately (other than the 20% load for AC section).

The giant portion of fish

After the meal is over, don’t ask for the bill. Head for the cash counter where the waiting staff will recall the dishes ordered and the cashier will put the prices of each in boxes on a sheet of paper on a clipboard, then sum up and tell you the amount. You can tip the service staff right there.

Unlike a pice hotel, it is open in the evening too. And it’s open all days a year.

It's surely a hidden gem and I have to go back there to explore more. Certainly for the mutton curry which fetches many good words.

I hope to visit some more pice hotels on my wishlist soon which will see the 'The Kolkata pice hotel trail' going.


#PiceHotel #BengaliCuisine #BengaliMeal #BengaliFood #BengaliFoodKolkata


If you liked reading the post, you may visit this blog's Facebook page (click on the link) and hit the 'Like' button to stay connected with the future updates on this blog and more on the page.

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


If you liked reading the post, you may visit this blog's Facebook page (click on the link) and hit the 'Like' button to stay connected with the future updates on this blog and more on the page.