Re-discovering My Kolkata

I moved back to Kolkata after spending 16 years in Mumbai (with a small stint in Gurgaon) and realised I hardly know my city! I always argued with people claiming that my city is beautiful and is rich in heritage; but in order to justify that I needed to know the history of Kolkata, needed to walk and roam in the lanes and discover the unknown, see how its history is waiting to be told to people. I started my walks with Manjit Singh Hoonjan and he took me to Bow Barracks, showed me Kumartuli and got me elated on my visits to Mullick Bazar flower market and the fish market near Sealdah. That was the beginning. Then I started my Heritage walks with Tathagata Neogi and Anthony Khatchaturian getting to know about the history of Kolkata.

KolkataI saw the mess (boarding house) where Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay resided and where the first story of Byomkesh was conceived… remember the mess where Byomkesh sought refuge to catch a drug peddler? The mess is in shambles now, but it’s still there, and I was thrilled. The entire story came alive in front of my eyes!


KolkataI had read about the cemeteries in “Gorosthane Sabdhan”; how Feluda (our all-time favourite detective) solves a mystery which revolved around the South Park street cemetery, and a visit was a must. The cemetery turned out to be a huge source of information for me, especially when you see a tomb which clearly has a Hindu influence and get to know about Colonel Charles “Hindu” Stuart who was considered eccentric since he constructed a temple after acquiring a Hindu wife.


KolkataI was fascinated to learn about the first Italian restaurant opened in Dalhousie area by Chevalier Federico Peliti (who was an Italian Chef serving the Viceroy Lord Mayo), of which only an engraving on the wall remains. And guess what? I was shown this in the middle of the night during my heritage walk.



KolkataI saw the Black pagoda in Kolkata, Madanmohantala in Baghbazar which has the original deity of Madanmohan, and for the first time came to know that St Johns Church has a painting called The Last Supper by Johann Zoffany. After seeing the painting, I realised that it is not an exact replica of da Vinci’s Last Supper and has an Indian touch – with a styled sword, water jugs and water bags made of goatskin. My love for Kolkata just compounded and I have started documenting this journey on my Facebook page called “Kolkatar Katha”.

I am an ardent Ray fan and Aparajito is an all-time favourite! Who can forget Apu’s journey to realise his dreams and his struggle in an unfamiliar city? Yet, he doesn’t give up, he dares to dream big, fantasize, wants to carve a niche for himself. Above all, he doesn’t give up… I think there is a trace of Apu in all of us, and films like this somewhere become synonymous with our lives. Haven’t we left our comfort zone and ventured out to give reality to our dreams? Sarbajaya’s (mother of Apu) wait for her son to come and visit her is now a regular story in most of the households in Kolkata ….

I tried to locate the place where the movie was shot in Kolkata. It shows the location as Patuatola Lane which derives its name from being the quarter of painters or Patuas. It connects Surya Sen Street with MG Road. The area was between College street and Sealdah station, and had a large number of boarding houses catering to the outstation students. Writer Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay resided in one of the boarding houses when he was a teacher at Khelat Ghosh’s school in Esplanade. Apu too, stayed in one of the boarding houses here, when he came to Kolkata to pursue higher studies. Here are some of the gems I collected during the quest.


Patuatola Lane



Apu with a house in the backdrop. The picture shows Apu trying to find his place, as he arrives in Kolkata. The house at the background has a connection with Ray too. This house belonged to Satindra Bhattacharya who had acted in “Mahapurush”, adapted from Porshuram’s “Birinchibaba”. Who can forget his role as the young lover whose muse was under the spell of a spiritual guru, and who took it on him to break the spell and eventually manage to win her heart!



One of the lanes where Apu stayed as depicted in the movie


The lanes had many boarding houses or messes catering to the outstation students and the office-going babus




Apu entering the Royal Press, where he started working part-time

This is the house depicted as Royal Press in the movie. This is now renovated, but still retains some of the old-world charm.

This is the house depicted as Royal Press in the movie. This is now renovated, but still retains some of the old-world charm.


Turni DharTurni Dhar is the National Sales Manager for an imported wine company. After getting her education in Kolkata, she spent 16 years in Mumbai and a year and a half in Gurgaon, before moving back to Kolkata again. Turni is a true Bengali at heart and idolizes Satyajit Ray, loves Uttam Kumar and Kishore Kumar. Her favourite author is Ashapurna Debi but she also loves reading Sunil Gangopadhyay, Sanjib Chattopadhyay and Suchitra Bhattacharya. She loves to sketch, has a penchant for travelling and is passionate about photography. Turni is currently in love with Kolkata’s history.

Pic Courtesy: Turni Dhar

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“A Death in the Gunj”- movie review and tête-à-tête with Sirsha Ray

death_gunj1I saw A Death in the Gunj last week. There’s a sense of haunting melancholia that has stayed with me since then.

The movie, set in the 1979 of McCluskieganj, deals with a discordant family and certain very complex inter-personal relationships. The pace of the film is nuanced and measured, and it is probably this laid-back pace which at times lends an almost eerie feeling to the movie; being unhurried, it builds up a tension somewhere in the pit of the stomach.

gunj4Konkona Sen Sharma , in her first debut feature film does a laudable job in  etching  out each character with precision and also uses her actors beautifully. The protagonists excel. Om Puri and Tanuja need no mention. Ranveer Shorey as Vikram is superlative and you will hate him for showing his ruthless side and machismo. Gulshan Devaiah as Nandu is at times cruel and yet there’s a sense of kindness too. Tilottoma Shome delivers a very controlled Bonnie. Kalki Koechlin is absolutely the seductress and yet vengeful Mimi.  She uses sex unabashedly and doesn’t feel the need to hide her brazenness.  But the character who will stay with you is Vikrant Massey as Shatu . He will just be sitting behind you as he was, and be with you even as you come out of the theatre. He is the conscience as Soma A Chatterjee mentioned. The first scene is from his perspective… the camera angle is from within the dickey of the car and in the last scene, his death and he sits on the conscience of Nandu and Brian.gunj3

Based on a short story by Mukul Sharma, Konkona has created an atmosphere of studied casualness, yet underneath every layer lay a sense of mellowness in an otherwise disquieting mood.  The period feel of the film is never overtly or forcefully created. The sleepy Gunj is not shown in great detail, yet the ambience and the period is almost a character in this movie. Every frame in this movie is worth a watch and some are sheer poetry. The shot when Shatu packs his bag and the window is half open with the mosquito net rolled up or the insect being burnt with the magnifying glass or the jerky movement leading up to the catastrophic climax. And then there is the shot of the sun setting on another day and the tyre swinging by.

This somehow reminded me of The Seagull by Chekhov. Konstantin just shot himself and Shutu of Vikram Massey reminded me of Ramaprasad Banik in the adapted play staged by Chenamukh called Pakhi.

I asked Sirsha Ray, the cinematographer (we have been to school together) about his journey starting from the year 1999 till date, at the time when he started and how he started.  While writing this I realized that how he started and how he got into FTII Pune, post an M Sc, or how he honed his skills and what he watched while learning his skills; call for a separate article.

sirshaSo here’s an excerpt from a tete-a-tete with Sirsha Ray about A Death In the Gunj –

Sudarshana – How it was working with Konkona SenSharma, the Director in her debut feature film, as both of you started your career together in 1999 with the film called Ek Je Ache Kanya?

Sirsha – It of course felt nice when she called me to shoot her film. Because we had worked in the first film and subsequently had done other work too, there was an easy camaraderie between us which helped in the entire process. I have always found her an extremely keen observer about all the genres of movie making. She is very very meticulous about her craft and had her ideas and visions distinctly sketched out.

Sudarshana– You have worked both with the mother, the famous Ms Aparna Sen and now her daughter Konkona as Directors. Any thoughts on that?

Sirsha – Aparna Sen is one of the most prolific film makers of our times and a name to be reckoned with. But with Konkona too, it never felt that it was her debut feature film. Being different individuals, their point of view and their art of story -telling are completely different. But both have an innate and a natural ability of storytelling.

Sudarshana  — What was the most challenging shot in A Death in the Gunj?

Sirsha –  It would be difficult to say off hand which was the most challenging shot!

Sudarshana – I insist!

Sirsha – Okay! The shot when the planchett is taking place, and there’s this string tied to the foot of an actor and the camera had to move out of the room to the corridor, following the thread… that was a little tricky shot. Then there are apparently fairly simple shots… which were the most challenging. For example, when the car first comes in and the car headlight falls on the name plaque, or the shots where everyone was looking for Tani. There’s just a minute or a half when you can take these shots, because in the next minute it will be pitch dark. These times, bordering between dusk and evening are my personal favorites, but the planning for these shots have to be absolutely meticulous and there can’t be retakes. These can be called a little challenging, in terms of the technicalities.

Sudarshana  – What is/ are the most satisfying shots from A Death In the Gunj?

Sirsha – (Laughs) Ok… Every cinematographer will probably tell you this, that the most satisfying shot was edited out, but that editing has made the movie what it is. It was required. So… can’t tell you that too.

Sudarshana – Again, I insist… what is the most satisfying one amongst those which remain in the film?

Sirsha – The one when the sun sets amidst the branches of the trees and the empty tyre swings. That kind of sets a sense of melancholia creeping in and yet that shot if taken out of the context of the present film, still etches an indelible mark.

That then… was our take on A Death in the Gunj and a small question-answer session with the eminent cinematographer who have made the dark and dismal shots poetic in this film.

Do watch the movie. It needs to be watched and rewatched because you will discover layers in each of those viewings.

Let us know your thoughts.

Till then

Love and light


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NARCISSUS-STAN: confessions of a selfie-addicted kid

IMG-20161002-WA0049Hello to everyone who took out some time and stopped by for reading this. So, when I was asked to write something for Kolkata Colloquy , I thought for a very very long time , I was confused and still remain so. I was not really sure about what I should be  writing about, but then chanced upon a topic. We take so many chances and risks in a day , taking another one won’t really spoil the game that bad, ehh?

so my post today is about selfies!

All of us take selfies, wefies, groupfies and all . You do, I do and so does everyone . Do a survey , I bet you won’t find 5 people who don’t. Come on, I mean we all love taking selfie ‘s and don’t hesitate to say that it’s almost a part of our lives.
But have you ever thought where the word selfie comes from? No? I haven’t  too. But close your eyes and think a little deeper , don’t  the words “Selfie” and “Selfish” sound  homophonous? And aren’t the practice of taking selfie ‘s making us a little bit more selfish that we used to be? Or maybe just a little more narcissistic than we already are?  We are becoming self obsessed with every selfie that we take.  We are looking at the mirror double the times that we used to, just in order to take a selfie.  IMG_20161030_071855_1496222949879
Recently,  a lot of cellular phone advertisements have taken  the innocent and playful act of taking selfies a little too further. The makers are trying to make a land full of selfie ‘ s  which is equivalent to making a land full of selfish people.  Also its almost the basic purpose of a phone is only about taking selfiees. Remember those days when there weren’t any selfies and we would ourselves click a picture or two for someone when asked too? Didn’t we click them better ? Weren’t we much more patient while clicking a picture? The biggest thing is we gave someone else time rather than looking into the front camera and caressing ourselves day in day out.
Remember what had happened to Narcissus?  He fell in love with his own reflection, and was unable to rise  and look beyond the beauty of his own reflection. He lost his will to live.  He stared at his reflection until he died.
scary, isn’t it? No, I mean please don’t stop taking selfies . I wouldn’t.  But can’t we lessen down our level of self – obsession a wee bit?
But come to think to think of it selfies aren’t that bad either.
Albert Camus had once said ” To be happy, we must not be too concerned with others” , so being happy and self obsessed is not  that bad too . Selfie is a very contemporary way of showing yourself , your activities and all that you love . So basically,  it is you who will have to do decide what and how selfies are to you and how important is it to show your narcissism.
So… go ahead, rack your brains and think of it. And do let us know.
Much Love
A selfie addicted Kid.
Shreeja Sudarshana Bhattacharya is nearly 18. She aspires to be a cinematographer at times…  then again hearing from close family friends that it’s going to be tedious and will burn her alabaster skin,  changed her mind and now thinks will write copies. A voracious reader and a photographer with a panache,  She will be appearing for her plus 2 S next year and loves listening to music.

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Mad Hatter’s Bistro- the best kept secret for a summer lunch

DDDSummer has emerged in all its scorching, Hot-as-Hades glory, and eating out options for me has dwindled out to iced-teas and nothingness. A dinner out is still kinda, sorta imaginable, but lunch?? ‘No, thank you.’ I said firmly to Sudarshana, when she insisted that we try out ‘Mad Hatter’s Bistro’ – a quaint cafe that has emerged in the Ballygunge area. But she was firmly persistent. ‘The cafe has these lovely soups and salads!’ she said, ‘they’re simply amazing! We are going, Period.’

Thus cajoled and persuaded in an iron-hand-in-a-velvet-glove manner, I meekly agreed for a late-afternoon lunch.

What impressed me first and foremost is the decor of the cafe. It is painted a subtle, happy yellow that makes the place looks bright and sunny. Large windows look out to the tree-lined lane outside and the uncluttered, chic look, subtly accentuated by cunning bric-a-bracs like money plant creepers hanging from clear light-bulbs, little tea-candle holders made of coloured glass, make you feel relaxed, and at-home. Although a printed version is available, the daily menu is written on a blackboard, bistro-style, which I immediately liked! The highlight of the cafe is a beautifully done-up corner- with a full-length mirror, wooden bench and a vintage studio-style lamp, that’s aptly named as the ‘selfie-corner’. Whether you’re enjoying a relaxed, solo lunch or hanging out with your friends, it’s the perfect spot to capture your mood in a selfie.

We settled down in a corner table by a window and ordered our drinks- a ‘sinless mojito’ and a ‘cool rita’, both being perfect summer quenchers- delicious, tangy and not-too-sweet.

The salads in offering were the ‘Moroccan shrimp salad’, ‘Kabuli salad’, ‘Summer greens salad’, ‘Mediterranean salad’ and the ‘Italian surprise’.

The Italian Surprise was fantastic! Fresh, handpicked tomatoes stuffed with crumbly feta cheese with a sprinkling of parsley and a drizzle of olive oil- it’s a perfect example of the culinary feat that can be achieved when you blend the freshest of ingredients with an innovative presentation. The crunchy, tangy freshness of the tomatoes is nicely offset by the crumbly, salty feta and the combo of olive oil and parsley beautifully enhanced the flavour, making for a dish that promptly flew of the plate!

The Summer Green was a light-as-air, fruity salad that was a treat for the eyes as well as palette. It offered a delightful, fresh crunch with lettuce, cucumber and apples mixed with sweet pomegranate and tart olives, all lightly bathed in a tangy French dressing that added just that right amount of ‘Ooh La La!’ in this delicate summer salad.

The Mediterranean salad offered the same note as the Summer Green, using cherry tsalad2omatoes, colourful bell peppers, lettuce and feta to create another lightweight, delicious summery concoction.

I fell in love with the Moroccan shrimp salad at the first sight! It was a medley of colours, with brightly coloured bell peppers and fresh, lightly-steamed pink shrimps peeping out from a bed of couscous! The yummy taste and flavours popped in my mouth with every mouthful and was like instant food Nirvana! A zest of lemon enhanced the nutty after-taste of the dish and left me craving for more.

salad1The Kabuli salad took me by surprise with its taste and presentation! Imagine an exquisitely-crafted ‘alu kabli’ of sorts, with ginger juliennes and shredded chicken to up it’s irresistibility quotient by a few notches and you can get an idea of the dish.

What really impressed me was the freshness of the ingredients, the fact that they were all so light in the stomach, and yet tasted fantastic and were very innovatively done.

We tasted the soups next, and let me tell you at the outset that they were absolutely mind-blowing! The soups in Mad Hatter’s simply re-define the standard idea of soups that you get in any outlets in Kolkata serving Continental cuisine.

First came the Curry Soup which had the unmistakable Anglo-Indian touch to it. It had a thickish, lentil-based broth, spiked with the flavourfulness of curry leaves and very innovatively studded with firm, fresh apples!

Next in line was the Italian Delight which floored me with it’s simple goodness! It was a light and clear soup with a handful of fresh veggies like carrot, zuccinni and bell peppers thrown in. It tasted so good that you will invariably come for a second helping, and it is just the kiSoup1nd of soup that will cause your Mom to shed happy tears due to your rapid devouring of the same.

I loved, loved, loved the Simple Fish Soup that we tried next. It is exactly that- a simple fish soup with a light, clear broth delicately scented with coriander and lemon, with little chunks of white fish in it. It is incredibly toothsome!Soup2

The other soup that made my heart sing a song was the Mushroom Delight. It is a simple Cream of Mushroom soup, that tasted something like heaven! I have tasted various renderings of this soup all my life, and this is probably the best one that I have had. Yes, it is THAT good!

The food in Mad Hatter’s has one ethos- the freshest ingredients, simply but expertly concocted, always make food that is classic in its elegance. They also have a range of gourmet burgers as their seasonal specialities- an offering that has been expertly curated by their chef from Houston, TX, which are a totally different experience from the run-of-the-mill burgers that you get everywhere in the city.

If you love fresh, healthy food that is easy on your tummy and heart, but is addictive in its deliciousness, you have to give Mad Hatter’s Bistro a try! It is the perfect eating out option for Kolkata summers. Go hang out with your friends, or take your kids out for a treat, I’m sure you will keep coming back. Do check out the place and drop me a line in the comments section to let me know how you liked it.

Bon appetit!


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Thank God for Tea!

Thank God for Tea! What will the world do without Tea!

“I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea.” – is what sums up my mood exactly at any point during the day. It’s the elixir that keeps me, and many others going. The Brits too, for that matter of fact… Tea is almost a ritual for them.

Thus it was an almost surreal moment when Atreya from First Idea PR invited me along with a group of other blogger friends for a session of Tea Testing at a place called Karma Kettle.Karma1

The Karma Kettle is promoted by the owners of the beautifully scenic Cochrane Place in Kurseong. I have had the privilege of staying at Cochrane Place and have loved the ambience and also the loving way in which they present their tea. It was at Cochrane that I first had my lemongrass tea and trust me, those who haven’t had that…are just missing an elixir.

Karma Kettle is very conveniently located in Ballygunge – Swinhoe Street to be exact. The beautiful seating arrangement outside is going to be a delight when the weather cools down and the interiors too are absolute gems.

In the tea testing session we had around 20 types of tea, amongst which we tried some of the eternal favorites like the Darjeeling and various types of that, or the Tea Sticks; which are all the rage now and also something Tisane ( pronounced as ti-zahn) which are not tea but beautiful herbal concoctions. Tisanes are without any doubt healthier to an extent as they do not contain caffeine.krma3

I am going to talk about the couple of tea tastes which got me hooked and which I am going to go back for and make into a lifelong habit.

Amongst the slightly known to non-connoisseurs like me were the Darjeeling First Flush, produced in February from the abode of Gods, Darjeeling; where the weather is perfect and the soil gives that perfect tone of astringency which is exquisitely balanced between sweet and a mellow note.

I personally loved and highly recommend the Himalayan Moonshine, which is the second flush. The name comes from the fact that its plucked only during full moon and the leaves look like slivers of the silvery moon. It had a slight lemony flavor upon sipping.

The Maya was truly illusory and had a distinct chocolaty flavor to it, having bits of white chocolate, dark chocolate and butterscotch in it.

We came back to the lemongrass flavor with the tea called Great Wall. The Longjin tea comes from China and has the lower notes of lemongrass, musk melon and lychee. The tea tasted luscious and left a beautiful after-taste.

karma5The other blend which I am going to go back to is the Table Mountain. It is essentially a mixture of ingredients mostly found in the African Sub continent, like the Rooibos, Liquorice amongst numerous others and having a Vanilla top note. It is a caffeine free variety.

Santorini, with its delectable Mediterranean flavor also caught our collective attention. It had the distinct notes of Oregano, Rosemary, basil and peppermint which were immediately recognizable to our olfactory tracts.

Some of The other extremely interesting and musically named teas that we had were – Shanti, Gulmarg, Travancore etc.

We downed these delectable brews along with some delicious red velvet cupcakes, homemade sandwiches with chips and other tid bits.

The premises also houses Ivy House, which in the true legacy of Cochrane Place is a home away from home for the weary travelers.

karma4So those looking for some shanti, which is actually maya and an illusion… do drop in to Karma Kettle and enjoy moments of solitude or have a heart-to-heart with friends! The delectable, refreshing and delicious teas are available as gift packs and boxes too.

So sip on and carry on…

Till then

Love and light


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