The flavour of Kolkata

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

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Kolkata on Mughlai overdrive

Was on Sarat Bose Rd near Deshapriya Park yesterday. Spotted a change that was 'Welcome' in the words of an incorrigible foodie like me. Zeeshan, the famous Mughlai restaurant of Park Circus has opened up a small outlet there. It is a walk-down distance from Deshapriya Park as you walk towards Southern Avenue (On the right). It has a small no. of covers and a take-away counter. There was considerable crowd before the counter showing how the heart of South Kolkata has lapped up the food stop. With winter setting in, and the body ready for a gastronomic journey, Zeeshan's biriyani, bharta, chaap, dopiyaja and other mouthwatering delicacies will surely find a large bunch of loyals.

I consider Zeeshan's biriyani the best in town, and rate it higher than another hot favourite of the city- Shiraz. Long live Zeeshan. I will be looking forward to stepping into the new South Kolkata address.

Talking Mughlai, there has been a lot of actions on its front in recent times. Starting with Arsalan, the second most favourite Mughlai cuisine address in Park Circus expanded with a multicuisine restaurant on Circus Avenue. Mughlai, Arsalan's USP, will of course be the mainstay there. It is cosier, more comfortable, with multicuisine offereings which were not there at the old address. It comes at the same place where a coastal cuisine speciality restaurant used to be.

Then our good old Nizam, the inventor of rolls, reopened after a prolonged closure due to labour trouble. The new, improved avataar offers a 'No beef' menu cooked in pure ghee. The prices are a bit premium, but the name is Nizam, someone who can command so. After all they are not to be equated with just any other kathi roll hotspot. Also consider the cooking medium- its not the cheap vanaspati that offers you taste but plays havoc with your heart. Ghee, of course, is not exactly known to be health-friendly, but it is definitely way better than vanaspati and when taken in moderation is not a health threat at all.

Lastly comes Rehmania, the famous Mughlai food chain. It unveiled its newest address right in 'Office para'- on Central Avenue, opposite Indian Airlines office. The office lunch market is big and too tempting to keep out of. It will offer seating and bet big on takeaway and home delivery (Read office delivery).

Monday, November 27, 2006

Finally...light at the end

The sick single-screen theatres can now breathe a sigh of relief. The govt. has finally realised the ground realities of film exhibition market that clearly show that single-screeners are generally out of favour in the city. This fact is reinstated with a bang whenever an old theatre brings down the shutter. And this happens pretty often these days.

The new rule enables a single-screener to convert to a two-screen theatre which has been newly defined as a multiplex (Earlier the cut-off was three screens). Hence the theatres will be able to- a. Lower the no. of seats and thereby increase profitability, b. Enjoy tax holidays for the first three years of operation.

Many theatres had already expressed interest in converting to two-screeners in order to survive profitably. Among them Hind's plans found mention in papers. It included setting up of a modern cafeteria inside the theatre. Eastern India Motion Pictures' Association (EIMPA), the producers' body, had also lobbied for it quoting a similar example in Rajasthan.

The rethink was prompted by a Zee Telefilms' (New owner of Technicians' Studio) proposal of settilng up a big no. of two-screen multiplexes across West Bengal.

It is indeed good news for the cinema enthusiasts in Kolkata who lament the lack of decent theatres in the town. A good theatre- defined as one having a big screen, good sound, soothing design and lighting, comfortable seating and availability of snacks and soft drinks at the right prices- is really, really small in number. Multiplexes filled up this gap, but they are prohibitively priced. Hence many film lovers choose to stay indoors more than ever. Thanks to this welcome change, many theatres will hopefully go from 'sick' to 'slick', showing two or more movies at any point of time at prices much lower than plexes, thereby wooing back their loyal customers and adding many new.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Two gastronomic experiences

Jadavpur University, Kolkata's showcase centre of excellence in education, has been involved for long to make innovative food products. It often ties up with a business organisation so that its innovations reach the market. It's 'Herbal sweets' project thus gifted us gajorer rosogolla (Carrot rosogolla), tulsi doi (Basil doi) etc. Hindustan Sweets, it's commercial partner markets them in its chain of shops.

Had an wish to taste the former one for long. It happened only today. It doesn't remind you carrot like gajar ka halwa does, but tastes milder and different than regular rosogolla. I wish it went the gajar ka halwa way. The price is set at Rs 4, at a Re 1 premium over regular rosogolla. Came across other innovations listed on a board that are indeed thought-provoking. Sample this: One kind of Sandesh for growing haemoglobin count (Fighting anaemia in other words), another sandesh for improving memory and others for many other ailments.

The second one is not new to me. Chicken wings roast from Arambagh's. Delicious soft flesh held by thin bones is a steal at Rs 6.50 a piece. An Arambagh's special.

The illuminated bridge salutes the master

Yesterday a history was created when Howrah Bridge, the best-known landmark of Kolkata went illuminated. Every big city worth its salt does that. Mumbai has a queen's necklace for ages, Delhi has a well-lit Gateway of India. Kolkata so far had only Victoria Memorial to boast of. But Victoria Memorial has a far less mass apeal than Howrah Bridge and the latter is infinitely better known. Its only know that we have our answer to queens'...

Alas, the brain behind the lighting is no more to experience this which will surely become his best-known creation. Tapas Sen, the master behind numerous stage productions, designed it in collaboration with Philips, the sponsor and executor of the project.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The hunt.....ahead

Every young movie-watcher who freak out on Hindi movie fare must be excitedly waiting for arguably the most awaited sequel of the year- Dhoom 2.

I, too, am keen on checking out D2. But I consciously choose to write on a less faithful upcoming release in Bengali- Saron Dutta's Shikaar. Saron is an young ad filmmaker, also known as the son of veteran actor Swarup Dutta. He made his first film Raat Barota Paanch last year. It was in Puja fare of Bengali movies and did decently at the box office. It got positive review in a paper like The Telegraph which justifiably rips apart most of the mainstream Bengali fare.

Shikaar, so far I know from the reports, is a thriller set on the backdrop of Kolkata and has a romantic track between Koel and Amitava Bhattacharya. It shows a lot of Kolkata and that’s my basic point of interest.

I have this long-unsolved mystery in my mind- Why don't our mainstream filmmakers show such an interesting city except in a few songs? If this city is integrated as a character in the story, a la Yuva, it can enhance the look and feel of the story like nothing else can. If Yuva has got a timeless appeal it’s not for the movie itself which I feel was below par. It’s for the way the city was shot with its popular characteristics.

The makers of Shikaar has intelligently started a teaser campaign to arouse interest in the movie at the face of such monstrous competition like D2 and the December multistarrer Babul. Kolkata is splashed with posters that say “Shikaar saamnei”. Hope Saron scores big with his ‘hunt’. We desperately need many like him immediately to salvage the fortunes of Bengali mainstream cinema.

Good Sense Prevails !!

This is a follow-up to my November 20 post.

The state government is visibly on backfoot on the draft bill on wall graphiti. Just the day after a quick survey by MODE commissioned by The Telegraph (I believe other concerned media houses too joined in) reflected the rage of Kolkatans against this ‘surprisingly’ autocratic bill backed by a sensitive chief minister, the government has amended it with appropriate punitive actions to offenders. People who go against the will of the owner of the wall may now face a fine of a Rs 50000 or six months’ jail term or both. And even the top shots of the local political organisation who don’t physically make the graphiti but are the power behind it can face the music.

I must thank the media houses who promptly got into action. Its them only who could do it this way. And also appreciate the prompt, positive reaction from the government. Now it is difficult to believe this is the same government who drafted the initial bill.

Monday, November 20, 2006

A Prestige Addition

Rbk unveiled it's new store in town early this month. The Rbk Arena Store is at Sarat Bose Rd. One of the billboards in their new campaign about this store proudly proclaims, "The only other store of this kind is somewhere in New York". This is officially their largest store in Asia. As part of it's USP it has an in-house DJ playing the latest in international music.

Kolkata's lifestyle platter is being continuously upgraded to cater to the well-heeled and upwardly mobile. There are recent entrants Subway (Grown to three outlets in less than two years) and KFC besides oldy Domino's and young Cafe Coffee Day, Barista. McDonald's is poised for an winter debut. Then there are new global-standard shopping malls, fine-dining and speciality restaurants and cineplexes wooing this class.

Friday, November 17, 2006

License to deface?

I was really aghast as I read the top story in The Telegraph today. It says West Bengal Prevention of Defacement of Property Act is on its way out and the new act that is expected to be tabled and passed in the winter session of assembly will virtually legalise wall graphiti by political parties. You cannot complain to police. All you can do is 'report' your municipal authority. They are supposed to come and repaint your wall (With taxpayers' money).

The link-http://www.telegraphindia.com/1061117/asp/frontpage/

story_7014264.asp

Is this democracy? It fails me to understand how come a sensible and pro-development CM gun for such an autocratic rule? I understand that with the help of this act during assembly elections earlier this year the election commission (EC) more or less prevented political graphiti on people's walls and it held back the ruling party and all other parties in election campaign and forced them to do innovative nad more expensive ways of campaign. It was a bitter taste in their mouth.


But EC had people's blessings for this bold step. And the ultimate outcome? The ruling party won by a record margin without any help from wall graphiti. Now since it is his time, did our dear CM think of turning the rule upside down and make a mockery of democracy?

I request everyone able to make a comment to speak your heart out on this issue. The only way to even make a decent effort to make the government rethink or at least realise poeple's feelings is making a strong enough noise that is heard.

Please use strong but non-abusive language. If we gather a large no. of protests we can possibly approach a news channel to make a story on it.


Eagrely awaiting comments.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Star Theatre, Chicken-mushroom sandwich

Star Theatre reopened a couple of months back after a revamp by the new private partner of Kolkata Municipal Corporation. To get rid of its high running expenses and lack of bookings, KMC joined hands with Priya Entertainment run by Arijit Dutta who is popularly known as the owner of Priya cinema to most people. Priya Ent. is the managing partner of Star Theatre. Arijit is a seasoned, and I would say intelligent, businessman in show business who really means business. Priya Ent. runs Globe in Kolkata, Gitanjali in Bolpur and Krishti in Katoa. I admire the way he has reinvented Priya to keep up with time.

After the revamp Star has started movie screenings like a regular theatre. Apart from this there will of course be theatre (Drama), book launches, stage shows etc. It will have a trendy cafeteria and function like a new generation entertainment hub with a heritage flavour thanks to the building. It will be a pride of North Kolkata in future, mark my words.

It is currently one of the locations of the ongoing Kolkata Film Festival (KFF). Visited it today to book a ticket of 'Kalpurush' by Buddhadeb Dasgupta which is scheduled tomorrow. A couple of enthusiasts crowded before the movie schedule of KFF. But the ticket counter had no queue. It is not expected that KFF at Star will fetch large crowds, but hats off to Arijit to bring KFF to North Kolkata nevertheless.

Talking of mushroom, one of the rare categories of veg foods I am interested in, just spotted a new mushroom item in Sugar & Spice at its new Jodhpur Park outlet. It is chicken mushroom sandwich. I have always felt mushroom is one thing that can get even die-hard non-vegetarians like me to try veg at times. It hardly tastes like veg to me. I wish the confectionery chains in Kolkata would wake up to the potential of mushroom and make mushroom patty, puff and other items.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

12th Kolkata Film Festival

Unlike last year, this year I feel more connected to the 12th Kolkata Film Festival which was inaugurated yesterday, because of my increasing fondness for good cinema.

Like in the past this year too this Rs 1-crore fest is being organised by the strapped-on-cash state govt. at the behest of the spirited, culture-loving CM who will carry on with his job of organising this prestige city event even after the central govt showed reluctance to any financial assistance despite repeated formal requests. Hats off, Buddhababu !!

The fare is exciting this year, unlike past years as most of the foreign films (Except retro cinema) are new, released in 2005 or this year. But I was disappointed to see only three new Bengali films- Swapner Din and Kaalpurush by Buddhadeb Dasgupta and Teen Yari Katha by Sudeshna Roy and Abhijit Guha and co-produced by Ideas of Prosenjit. Nobody seems to know if the first two will ever get released, as they are known to be stuck in commercial release for want of distributors to pick them up. As reported by the media, the distributors' reluctance to arthouse cinema was not the reason here, though. It was, strangely, the terms (Read 'price') set by the Mumbai-based producer Jhammu Sugand. We the lovers of good Bengali cinema are frustrated at this turn of events, especially because Kaalpurush is Rahul Bose's first Bengali film.

Was keen to watch Teen Yaari Katha, but alas, it is being screened in Nandan and hence is meant for delegates and guests only. Am eagerly awaiting its release since it looks promising, with a cast of Parambrata, Rudraneel and Neel (All well-known faces on Bengali TV, Param also known for his select good work on the big screen too.) and an urban story of the life of three friends and their aspirations and dreams. I applaud Prosenjit to back this film. It shows his desire to give something back to the Bengali cinema audience who has given him so much.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The New Kolkata

There is this old Kolkata- heritage buildings, traffic jams, cheap street food, crowded public buses- everything that everybody knows for decades. And then there is this new Kolkata which I relish on my way back home at Baguiati. I am talking of Eastern Metropolitan Bypass (EM Bypass or Bypass as popularly known). In the last three-four years it has started sporting signs of a new, contemporary, vibrant metropolis. I check out the new glowlit huge hoardings and the real estate developments that are coming up on the sides (Science City junction to Ultadanga).

There is under-sonstruction Mani Square which will house Asia's largest, multi-storeyed parkomat, an IMAX dome apart from a hot 'n' happening shopping mall. Also under construction is Mani Karan which already houses a Food Bazaar and Fashion Station (Both from Pantaloons). In Fashion Station one gets both the Big Bazaar and Pantaloons young fashion range at great bargains not avaialble in either chain. There are other giant under-construction projects which still don't demand a glance.

The fast ride in a shuttle car (Another distinct feature of Kolkata. Will write about it later) are value-additions in the journey for me basically for the above, especially the ever-changing colourful hoardings wherefrom everybody from Shah Rukh and Kareena to pretty and handsome city models look for your attention.

Will come back to this topic over and over again with development updates.