Friday, November 28, 2008

The Piper & The Princess


Gosh I have no idea where to start from. How about, Yippieeee! I got to watch Jethro Tull Live. Better still, Jethro Tull & Anoushka Shankar fusing Indian Classical and Rock Celtic Blues Music.

Let me start by saying though that my heart and that of the entire world goes out to the people of Mumbai. Thos that lost their lives and those that are still fighting to provide the freedom that we so enjoy. Towards that effect the concert started with a minutes silence to pay homage and solidarity with the people of India’s Commercial Capital, Mumbai.

All this turmoil on the western coast led to beefed up security at the venue of the concert at Science City Auditorium. So we had to be at the venue two hours before the concert. So I reached at about 5.30 pm and picked up the tickets that I had booked online. Thank god for that because I was like the 10th person in the line that turned out to twist and turn all the way up to the main gate way past the parking area by 6.30 pm. We finally got in and got seated by about 7ish and it wasn’t till 8pm that people were finally seated after going through all the security checks and the concert kicked off after we all stood for a minutes of silence for the events occurring in Mumbai.

Ian Anderson came on stage and in his witty way introduced the three parts of the two part concert. The first was Anoushka Shankar with Tanmay Bose doing a pure classical thing which would be followed by The Band itself, Jethro Tull who would play what he said was an attempt at Rock and the third and final part of the program would be Jethro Tull jamming with Anoushka Shankar in an east meets west kind of Music soiree.

Anoushka took stage with Tanmay on Tabla and accompanied by two artists on Tanpura and one on the Flute. A two track repertoire of classical music with a fast paced crescendo set it up for a break after about an hour.

While the stage was setup people waited anxiously for Jethro Tull to take the stage. Sure enough as the master performer Ian Anderson got on stage to a loud applause he humoured the crowd with some quips and went straight into Act II with his antics on stage. I was amazed by his energy and agility even at his age as he did his trademark Krishna pose with the flute and kept kicking his legs way up into the air. It was encore after encore as he progressed into his early days of music with likes of Aqualung and It was A New Day Yesterday but it’s an Old Day Now.

It was about half past 10 when Anoushka Shankar joined him on stage and they sent the crowd into a tizzy with some mind blowing fusion specially composed for this tour. The “jugalbandi” between “The Piper & The Princess” on Sitar was fantastic. The show ended and after being called back by the crowd who was craving for more, the final Encore was “Locomotive Breath” when the Band was called back and played till nearly half past 11.

Here I’d like to add something which I found quite annoying and maybe quite stupid. The “pseudo happening” people of Kolkata paying Rs. 1500/- per ticket occupying the front section of the auditorium were the most dead set of rockers I’d ever seen in my life. The crowd up in the balcony who had paid the lowest denomination tickets were the ones who were actually egging the concert on, showing much appreciation for the music. Yeah I guess they have some new party talk, these psuedo types. Lets get this straight, either you're a rocker or you're not. Just attending a TULL Concert doesn't make you cool.

Anyway that said I’d like to add that this is like the gates of dawn with the Piper setting up a whole new era of International Acts looking at Kolkata as a venue to perform. Keep them coming man! We love great music!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Best Buffet Lunch in Kolkata

I was invited for lunch with the in-laws and what better place than Mainland China at South City Mall. Add to that the fact that it was their delightful Lunch Buffet. I say delightful because of the limitless quantities that one can eat at this buffet. Ok, I’m kidding about that. After going through the spread that is laid out, I think what makes it wonderful is that you take bits of everything on display and enjoy your own Chinese Food Tasting Festival.

I particularly liked the Chicken Fried Rice and Crab that was prepared today. Otherwise there was everything from soup to dumplings and noodles to shrimps. Of particular interest was the constant filling of the little tea cups with Jasmine tea. And all this for just Rs. 295/- + VAT per head, only at Mainland China, South City Mall.

Mainland China
South City Mall, S-313, 3rd Floor,
375 Prince Anwar Shah Road,
Kolkata - 700068
Tel: +91-33-64578361, 24225330/31/32/33

Premo Sudha Rase

Last evening I attended an epic concert preformed by two highly acclaimed exponents of Classical Music, Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty and Ustad Rashid Khan. The concert was in aid of a young ailing theatre artist who was suffering from Cancer. When I reached the venue, Kalamndir on Theatre Road at 5 pm in the evening, a sizeable crowd had already gathered. By 5.30 pm a serpentine line had formed going out onto the road and the Auditorium doors were opened to the anxious multitude of music lovers who had come to witness this concert. From Kolkata’s who’s who to music loving community of ages varying from 12 – way over 60 years old trotted in and took their seats.

On the dot at 6 pm an announcement was made and the show was kicked off by Ustad Rashid Khan. The concept was unique in its form that the singer would take off from a popular Rabindra Sangeet into a classical recital based on it.

After the Ustad had performed for about an hour, a break was announced and following which bot he and Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty came on stage to present a cheque to the sister of the artist whose aid in which this presentation was being made.

Thereafter Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty took stage and captivated the packed auditorium for the next hour or a bit more.

I’m not much of a classical music fan, more because I don’t understand the art form, but am intrigued by the commitment of these artists and the rigorous training they undergo to capture notes that are beyond my imagination. I just love the way they modulate their voices and the sound of all the instruments. It’s so different to the western music which I’m more accustomed to listening.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Walk on the Bridge

Since the red “Kazi” has been resurrected, I decided it required some TLC and headed straight for the workshop to give it much needed pampering. A new Battery, spark plug and overhaul of the electrical systems was much in need. So once I rode it there and handed it over to the Service centre for the much needed work, I decided to walk down to Park Circus to catch a cab to office.

The stroll across the No.4 Bridge was quite an eye-opener as I passed the entire Shanty town that occupied one slope of the bridge. As I walked up the pavement over the bridge I looked down each of the alleys created by the little shanties made of waste materials and housing scores of street dwellers. The street was marred with “poo poo” and I had to dodge the morning jobs of many a street dweller. This seemed like a sanitation nightmare. The utter poverty and filth in which these people existed was a rude shock for me.

Anyway once across the bridge I needed to cross the road and since I have been a propagator of using civic amenities provided to us by the authorities decided to use the foot-over-bridge which I had witnessed being erected nearly two years ago. It was quite delightful crossing the bridge and getting a different perspective to the road below which I had used nearly everyday for the past two or more years.

Once on the other side, I hopped into a cab and as I was crossing the Topsia Police Station I noticed the wreck of the Honda Accord. Man that car must’ve been hit by a tank from both ends.

ODEON: Hamlet - The Clown Prince

Last evening, after a day long siesta, we went to watch the second play of the Vodafone Odeon Theatre Festival having missed the first one the previous evening. This was called “Hamlet: The Clown Prince” and was directed by Rajat Kapoor. I had just recently seen him acting in Dasvidaniya so expected his brand of acting to come forth in the play we were going to watch.

While we were entering at about 6.45 pm, we saw the director himself walking around quite causally in the lobby of Birla Sabhaghar. We got seated in the second row and in no time the play was on its way. I didn’t quite expect it to be such a combination of humour and seriousness. The great part about the play was its brining of age theatre in the sense of involving the crowd quite literally in the performance, much like stand-up comedy, yet being a theatrical performance.

Noteworthy were the performances of Atul Kumar and Neel Bhopalam.

After that splendid evening, there was no better way of ending it but by dinner somewhere nice. The only place that came to mind at that point was “Fire & Ice” and those Italian Pizzas. Maybe some influence from the play itself. So we went to Fire & Ice, and though it was packed and we had to wait for twenty minutes or so, it was well worth the wait. We ordered a couple of Kingfisher beers and Focacia with cheese and garlic followed by a pepperoni Pizza. Finally we ordered a wonderful desert of Wraps and Vanilla Ice-cream. This place has really kept its standards high and its always a pleasure tingling those taste buds with true Italian fare.

Chinatown at the crack of dawn

After bidding BIG BOSS Season 2 farewell on Saturday night and watching Ashu win the bizarre TV reality show on Colors, we called it an early night. Sunday morning was an early start. We got up at the crack of dawn and headed out for Chinese Breakfast at China Town. Yes meatball soup and the stuff like that. It’s one of those things that you have to do if you live in or visit Kolkata.

We got there at about 6.30 am and I got straight to the business of clicking some picking in that already buzzing marketplace. Apart from the Chinese fare, there were pakodas and tea coupled with a fish and sabzi market all doing brisk business at that otherwise ungodly hour for me.

Once I had captured some pictures I got down to the business of eating. I came back home and caught some well deserved zzz’s for the rest of the morning. I settled for Dosas in the afternoon.

This Old Chinese Man got really mad at me for clicking pictures of him having a go at that leg of roast pork. So I had to scoot off after clicking just one picture.

Celebrating the return of the “Red Kazi”

Saturday evening was a celebration of sorts. We went to Kowloon restaurant and it brought back memories of my childhood spent in New Alipore. Kowloon was the ultimate eatery for us as children. The drive down from G-Block till here was an outing in itself. Anyway the cause for celebration was that I finally took my Karizma out today and did some riding. It took me to Kalamandir to witness Atul Kasbekar in action and now it had brought me all the way to Kowloon to celebrate. Yippieee!

Ok I will tell you a bit about the food. It was a Kowloon Special Soup, Mixed Haka noodles and I Chilli Pork in Gravy. Oh and Jasmine Tea. See I’m true to my Foodie instincts.

Kowloon Restaurant
P-504, Block - M, New Alipore,
Kolkata - 700053
Tel: +91-33-24003145

Shootout at Kolkata with Atul Kasbekar

The celebrity who clicks celebrities was engaging us in a “Shootout at Kolkata”. I was fortunate to be invited for this one of a kind workshop by Mr. Anup Kanodia who was organising this unique workshop by the master himself. I got to Kalamandir and shortly after going through the registration process was seated and the master came on stage and took us through his work on the screen. The images of his acclaimed Kingfisher Calendar and numerous magazine covers interspersed with quips from this man made for an interesting morning.

We soon broke for lunch and came back to a stage that had been setup for a live fashion photo shoot. A leggy model was on stage in front of a white screen and a huge Para light in her face. The photographer got straight to work and started shooting. This was followed by another model coming on and he used a different approach with a ring flash. By the end of the workshop while he was processing the pictures, he allowed some photographers from the audience to have ago on stage.

Thereafter he showed us the pictures taken. Amazing! Now I know why Atul Kasbekar is Atul Kasbekar and how fortunate I was to be at that workshop.

Odeon opens at Pala

This has been a weekend beyond expectations. Though I did catch up on a lot of sleep, some of it throughout the day too on Sunday too, I have to say it has been a weekend of delights.

It started on Friday night with the Vodafone Odeon Theatre Festival Curtain raiser in ITC Sonar at Pala. The show had the likes of Victor Banerjee along with the CEO of Vodafone, Mr Sridhar Rao lighting the lamp to inaugurate the acclaimed Theatre Festival which has become a calendar event in the city and is in its eighth year. That was followed by musical performances by Jeffrey Menezes and his band and the saviour as always Francis Lepcha coming to the rescue at the last moment with his brand of music and also Ananya lending voice to some great tracks like “Don’t cry for me Argentina” from the celebrated “Evita”. The drinks flowed and the people in attendance mingled and besides the discussions on theatre, one topic of conversation that I could overhear in every group huddled around their drinks was the ongoing economic meltdown.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Best Goodbye Movie Ever: DASVIDANIYA

I’m not going to say very much except that Vinay Pathak is in my book the best actor in India. Ok have I overdone it and hurt the feelings of all you SRK fans? Well the fact is that after watching Dasvidaniya and Vinay’s portrayal of the dying Amar Kaul as a serious accountant and his fun loving conscience character dressed in the silliest bright attire, I truly believe he has acting ingrained in his blood.

The plot of the movie is revealed in the opening scene and the movie takes you through the journey of a dying man in his quest to live the best life he can in his last few days. That piece of paper on which he makes his list of things to do is something you ought to follow closely. Maybe think of a list like that for yourself.

Other noteworthy performances are those of his boss (Saurabh Shukla) and mother (Sarita Joshi).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Dying 'Art' Trade

Not a lot of ‘us people’ notice things that occur around them in their daily lives. When I say ‘us people’, I mean all of us working in Corporate India. Not that I am trying to get philosophical on you guys. Its just that there are so many things we take for granted that every once in a while something catches your eye and brings you back to the ground realities of the simple life.

Today while driving back from a meeting, I got caught up in a traffic jam on Theatre Road. Not such an unusual occurrence in most of our lives. But strangely while waiting, I looked out of the car window and saw a man sitting on his hunches inside his shop adjusting what seemed to be a board on some kind of stand. I kept observing him wondering what he was trying to do, till he finally managed to get it in the right position and then lifted a brush voila came a letter that, from this distance looked like a ‘C’ to me. Only then did I notice the board in its entirety. It was a signboard and the rest of the shop had all sorts of signboards all over. The gentleman sitting in front of him seemed to be the customer for whom the board was being painted. Yes I did say painted.

In this day and age if we wanted some thing of the sort done, we’d probably get digital printing or a neon signage or a glow signboard. Who in the world puts up a hand painted signboard outside his establishment? Well a lot of people it seems who make up most of the population who haven’t signed up for the stressful, fast-paced life of Corporate India.

Foodie Strikes Again

The weekend was quite dull, save the party on Friday night, which I’d rather not talk about for reasons beyond explanation. But come Monday and I was back with a bang. The target was Eu Chew. So I decided to join the rest of the gang there straight after office. So after work, while I was heading to the business district, I got a call to make a slight detour and meet them at another Chinese eatery on Free School Street. I can’t remember the name as that is not important, as you will realise soon enough. Anyway the reason for the change in plan was because Eu Chew was closed for some strange reason. So Chimney Soup was out. Oh I believe there is still hope at the joint on Free School Street.

So after negotiating the tram tracks on Wellesley Street, just as I was turning on to Free School Street, I got a call again to follow the other car in which the gang was and that we were now going to another place. So we ended up at Bhojohari Manna, Hindustan Park. Well once there what can I say; It Bengali Food Fiesta which included everything possible: dal bhaat, aloo bhaja, biryani, chicken dak bangla, pabda maach, crab and fried fish. Of course the best ever Rasmalai at the end was there to sign off.

Oh and about that second Chinese place, I learned while at Bhojohari that when they got there, they were shocked to see that the building itself in which it was housed had been demolished. So I guess Chinese was just out of luck.

Bhojohari Manna
18/1a, Hindusthan Road,
Kolkata - 700029
Tel: +91-33-24663941, 24667686

My Universe Revolves Around Food. So It Seems!

In my ongoing pursuit to try out all the food counters at the Food Court at South City mall on Thursday just before we headed in for Dostana, we decided to kill two birds with one stone. So while I ordered a Mysore Masala Dosa, my wife tried out the Indian Thali. Not that I kept away from her plate either. Once I had devoured the Dosa, the food on the Indian Thali hardly stood a chance against the abyss. I am thoroughly impressed with the food at this food court and have nearly tried out every counter. In the famous words of Arnold "Terminator" Schwarzenegger, "I'll Be Back".

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dostana

K-JO (Karan Johar) Strikes again. This Dharma Productions blockbuster had a packed house on day one. In the past couple of months of movie going, I don't think I've witnessed such a full house for a Thursday evening launch of a movie. Everyone knows that the next change is on a Friday but this movie launched on a Thursday and FAME South City was packed for the 9.45 PM show.

Abhishek Bachan can Act. Period. John Abraham is good as Eye Candy with that Beefcake Body of his and Priyanka Chopra is OK. Though I liked her performance in Fashion better. The end of the movie is predictable, but the journey till the end is a complete Laugh Riot.

A must watch.

Monday, November 10, 2008

An Evening at A Musical Extravaganza



Last evening I went for a Musical Extravaganza, the likes of which I don’t think most people get to witness. This was a rare musical soiree that had the highly acclaimed INDIAN NAVAL SYMPHONIC ORCHESTRA entertaining us at the Science City Auditorium.

I can’t begin to put in words to convey the experience.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Lampshades and Paintings

As soon as we got home, I put the bottle of wine in the freezer and called the electrician to come and fix the lampshades. He came and it took home about an hour or so to put them up, just enough time for the wine to get chilled and for us to celebrate our new lampshades and decorative arty stuff we had bought a while back. Now the house is looking more homely.

Street Food and Light

Last evening I finally took the leap for light, meaning I went to Poddar Court to buy much needed and long awaited light fittings for my house. Poddar Court is the Mecca of all things light. We went into a couple of shops before we came to the one from where we actually got the shades. When we walked in and looked around, we didn’t quite fancy any of the fancy lampshades that were on display, till one of the sales boys attached himself to us and quite impressively spoke to us in English enquiring what exactly we were looking for. He showed us into a backroom and voila just the kind of stuff we had in mind. We went through a couple of them as he switched them on as we went along, till we finally decided on one set and got four of them. Once we had bought the lampshades, I indulged in something I was waiting to do all day; Eat some street food.

We started with some Kachori Chaat right outside the Light Shop on the Pavement. I first tried one of his plain Kachori’s and then asked him to make the Chaat. After finishing the Chaat, we paid him Rs. 18/- for the Kachori & Kachori Chaat.

The next stop was just a couple of feet away from him. Fortified by huge plastic bags of Moori, we noticed the Moori walah. Jhaal Moori it was. These guys in Central Kolkata have a distinct taste. I guess every area in Kolkata has it’s own unique recipe of stuff.

That done, we headed to the car and drove off in search of the main item on the agenda for the evening; ‘Shingara’ and ‘Cha’. After wondering where we would get both, we came to the conclusion that at this time Russel Street Dhabha would be the best bet. Sure enough, when we got there and parked the car, one of the waiters ran up enquired and in a couple of moments was back with two Shingaras followed by two teas. After having those hot shingaras, we just had to have two more. So we did.

Now the next temptation on the agenda was Ice cream. So we headed to what we thought was an ice-cream parlour on Russel Street but were misled by the huge SWIRLS signage on top of the coffee joint. So we decided to go to the one outside Music World. So on the way there we came across a Liquor Store and decided to buy some wine to have at home. We had heard about the new UB Group launched ZINZI and so picked up a bottle of white wine which was only Rs. 275/-.

After that when we were just near Music World, temptation got the better of us and we headed into Flury’s and bought some Pastries. After that we got some Ice cream from the Kwality Swirls counter just outside Music World and then headed home.