17 November 2013

Calcutta Film Festival 2013


Kolkata International Film Festival 2013 ended today. 

This year the inaugural ceremony was awesome. Watched Rituparno Ghosh's hindi film TAAK JHAANK at the giant screen at Netaji Indoor Stadium. The bengali version of this film is SUNGLASS. 

Amitabh Bachchan delivered the best speech, just like last year. Added attraction was the presence of my favourite Kamal Hasan. Shah Rukh Khan as usual arrived late.

I have been going to the Film Festival from 2003. This was my 11th year. I used to watch five films per day for seven days. The show timings were 9am, 11am, 3pm, 5pm and 7pm. After coming back home on the last Metro from Rabindra Sadan, I used to take a Saridon tablet every night after dinner. Watching five films every day used to give me a headache. After having Saridon, I used to go on the internet and read about the synopsis of the next day's films. At night I used to decide which films to watch the next day. 

I have also been collecting the Film Festival Brochure all these years. Here are the booklets from the first two years. These two are extremely rare and only a few people in Calcutta have them. I am proud to possess these two brochures. From the third year the brochures started getting bigger and thicker. 

Here is the brochure of 2003, the first year that I attended the Film Festival. 

This Film Festival is like Durga Puja for the film buffs. And the Nandan-Chattor feels like Maddox Square. In the last 10 years I have enjoyed watching films at Nandan-1 the most. That venue has always been my first preference. I simply love those push-back seats.

Sometimes what happens is that if you are late in entering Nandan-1 before a film starts then all the seats get occupied pretty quickly and then you have to sit on the stairs. I have seen so many films sitting on the stairs. 

There is another rule that once a film ends then the audience must go out of Nandan-1 and again come back inside through a queue. What I used to do was that once a film ended then I immediately used to go inside the toilet and maybe smoke a cigarette there and used to stay there for some time. Once the queue for the next film started entering the hall then I used to quickly come out of the toilet and join the queue. In this way I never had to leave Nandan-1.    

My second hall preference is Rabindra Sadan. Though from the 3pm show, this venue literally proves to be a pain in the ass. All the Delegates, Guests and Press Card holders have to fit in the steep balcony. The seats below on the ground floor are for ticket holders. The balcony gets overcrowded. And suppose if one doesn't like a film, then it becomes very difficult for him or her to come out from the over-populated balcony. 

In 2006, inspite of having a Delegate Card and just for novelty's sake, I had watched a few films at the top-most balcony at New Empire during the Film Festival. This balcony has only small wooden seats and they are really uncomfortable. The ticket price was just 10 rupees then. To enter this balcony, one has to get in through a shabby gate on the right side of New Empire and then walk up a never-ending flight of stairs. 

(In the year 2000, I had seen the film GLADIATOR from this balcony. The ticket price back then was just seven rupees.) 

I have a nice group of friends for the Film Festival. We all have been attending this festival for so many years now. Throughout the year we hardly have time to meet up and only keep in touch through Facebook mostly but during the Film Festival we spend these seven days together like a family. 

After the 11am show gets over, then I have my lunch usually at Raju's Kitchen. Some days I eat masala dhosa, on other days I go for veg-thali or fish-thali, or sometimes I eat chicken chowmein or mixed fried rice. Throughout the rest of the day I survive on tea, coffee and cigarettes. Hori Da-r Cha-er Dokan serves the best tea in that area. The owner's full name is Horihar Banik. His tea shop is the most famous in that area and also serves as a landmark and meeting-point. After the 7pm show gets over around 9pm-ish, I usually stay back at the Nandan-Chattor for another half-hour and that is the time to discuss the day's films with friends and even strangers over tea, coffee and cigarettes. 

The beauty of Nandan Chattor during the Film Festival is that one can come out of one auditorium in the middle of a film and enter another hall and watch the rest of the film that is running there. I have so many times left Nandan-1 during a boring film and then entered either Nandan-II or Nandan-III or Rabindra Sadan or Sisir Mancha. I have even sometimes left Nandan-I in the middle of a film, came outside, had some tea and snacks, and then went back to watch the remaining of that film. 

Here is a pic of mine at this year's Film Festival : 

Here is a pic of my group of friends : 

For other pics, please see this link

I studied in St. Xavier's College from 2004 to 2007. In those years I used to bunk college for seven days to attend the Calcutta Film Festival. In our college we had a rule that if you bunk two consecutive classes then you needed an excuse-slip from the Vice-Principal to attend further classes. After the film festival, when I went back to college, the Professors used to ask me to get that excuse-slip. I used to go to the Vice-Principal but he used to get angry at me since I had bunked college to watch films. For the next seven days I used to go to him daily and every day he would refuse to give me the excuse-slip. So it was kind of a holiday for me. I used to go to college every day and spend time inside the canteen or at the green-benches or spend time surfing the internet at our computer lab. Most probably on the eighth or ninth day the Vice-Principal used to show mercy on me and give me that elusive excuse-slip. Then I used to again attend my classes. 

This year at the film festival we all had loads of fun. Saw some good films too. Attended some interesting seminars at Bangla Academy and Jibanananda Sabhaghar. Had a great time throughout these seven days. I am feeling a bit sad now that the Festival is over. The feeling is somewhat similar to the feeling one feels on Doshomi during Durga Puja. Have to wait for next year. Aaschhey Bochhor Aabar Hobey...


5 November 2013

Sachin Tendulkar's 199th Test at Eden Gardens


The above issue of The Telegraph Colour Magazine is from 28th February 1993. I was 11 years old then. In this post I wrote something about the Hero Cup. 

Here is another post on Eden. 

Yes, from tomorrow I am going to Eden Gardens on all five days. This is the first time I am going to watch a Test match on all five days at the venue. I have been going for Test matches at Eden since 1996, but previously I have only visited Eden for only a day during a Test match. Never have I attended a Test match on all five days. This is going to be my first time. Here are my tickets for tomorrow's match. 

Also one can see some more pics at my Facebook album

I have always loved Eden. Here is a bit of Eden history: 

In 1804, the East India Company's civil servants had organised a cricket match between a team of Old Etonians and the Rest. It was played on the large open field lying to the south of Government House, virtually the area which you will be looking straight at as you emerge from the gate of the present day pavilion. The Etonians had won the match by an innings and 152 runs. 

Lord Auckland had created a ground on the northwest corner of Esplanade in 1841 and had named it the 'Auckland Circus Garden'. Later in 1854, to keep alive the memory of his two unmarried sisters, he renamed the ground 'Eden Gardens', as their family name was Eden. The British founded the Calcutta Cricket Club in 1825 and the present ground at Eden Gardens was created in 1865. Though the land originally belonged to Rani Rashmoni, ironically no Indians were allowed to play there till 20 years later in 1885. 

In 1885, the year of the founding of the Indian National Congress, the first international cricket match was held at Eden Gardens between the Clack Australian and Presidency Club teams. All the members of the Presidency Club team were Bengalis, and it was, along with the Wellington Club, one of the oldest cricket teams in India. 

The match had ended in a draw although the Bengalis had put up a stiff fight. After the match, in reply to a question put by the Captain of the Australian team, the Indian skipper, Nagendraprasad Sarbadhikari, said, " Although our British coach teaches us half-heartedly because we are Indians, we toiled hard and tried our best to be your equal. As a result, we were evenly matched". Later Lord Hawke had sent a letter of congratulations to the Indian Captain. A number of distinguished personalities had graced the stands during the match, among whom were the Prince of Wales, Dadabhai Naoroji and Sir Surendranath Banerjee. 

I didn't know about the above piece of history and have only recently read about it in the 30th December 1984 issue of The Telegraph Colour Magazine

DAY ONE (6th November 2013) : 

Reached Eden around 10 am. Gate No. 9, Block E. It was very hot. My seat was just opposite the Club House. Had an awesome day. Made a few friends. Had lunch together. West Indies got bundled out for just 234 runs. The greatest moment of the day was when Sachin Tendulkar came to bowl and got a wicket in his first over. At stumps India were 37/0. Looking forward to Tendulkar's batting tomorrow. Today there were a lot of empty chairs. Hopefully tomorrow we will have a full house. Since digital cameras are not allowed inside Eden, therefore I had to click all pics through my mobile phone which only has a 1.3 megapixel camera.

DAY TWO (7th November 2013) : 

Reached Eden at 9 a.m. sharp. Exchanged my ticket to Block D. The greatest moment came soon when the God of Cricket came out to bat. But 10dulkar could only score 10 runs before the Umpire interrupted. I was so disappointed that I immediately came out from the gallery and started loitering near the food stalls. Met an old friend of mine there. Had a lovely chat with him after all these years. Didn't feel like entering the stadium any more. Suddenly the colourful Sudhir Kumar Gautam walked past me. A group of young boys started following him and wanted to click pictures with him. I was too sad and depressed to do such things. After some time I entered the stadium and saw that five Indian wickets were down. Around tea-break I left Eden and went to the American Library

DAY THREE (8th November 2013) : 

Reached Eden around 10 a.m. Exchanged my ticket to Block L1. Went upstairs and crossed the bamboo barrier and went to Block K1. Now this is the best Block in the stadium, obviously apart from the Club House. First of all there is a constant cool breeze coming from the Hooghly river. One gets a beautiful view of the Vidyasagar Setu on one side and the Victoria Memorial on the other side. Also saw the High Court. Anyways the view of the ground below was simply marvelous. A group of people sitting near me, most probably relatives of some police officer, was having some ethereal food from Bijoli Grill packets. I am damn sure that all of them will soon have stomach upsets and loose-motions. The match ended. India won. But everybody in the stadium was unhappy. Everybody started abusing the West Indian team and demanded that 'Test-Status' should be immediately taken away from them. 

(A comic moment happened when Ravi Shastri verbally struggled and stammered to pronounce the name of the Police Commissioner of Kolkata. It reminded me of one particular scene from Uttam Kumar's Chhadmabeshi.)  

Anyways, I was tremendously unhappy. Left the stadium and went and sat on those benches near the Shahid Minar. After some time I got up and started walking towards the Metro station. Suddenly an Esplanade-Tollygunge tram came and stood in front of me. Without even thinking for a second I boarded the tram. Went at the back and sat on the window seat. After many many many months I again went for a tram ride. It was awesome. The slow pace of the tram made the journey back home memorable. I asked a middle-aged co-passenger to click my picture through my 1.3 megapixel-wala mobile phone. He was amused at my request. He seemed to be a regular tram commuter. His facial expression revealed the fact that in his entire life I was the first person to request him to click a picture inside a moving tram. And here is that picture



(to be continued...)


The Telegraph Colour Magazine


A few months back while writing Sundays, I searched for The Telegraph Colour Magazine desperately throughout Calcutta. Those magazines were an integral part of my childhood. My first target was College Street. I went to each and every shop at Boi-para and also its adjoining lanes. Sadly I couldn't find a single issue there. Then I searched at Free-School Street, Gariahat, Sudder Street and at many other places, but was disappointed on all occasions. 

People said that I wouldn't be able to find those magazines any more. I went to National Library and there at their Newspaper Archives I found all the issues but the Library wouldn't allow me to bring those magazines home. Then I went to the Telegraph's main office, but there they were charging a lot of money per issue. Still I didn't lose hope. I have always believed that if you wanted something very badly then there is always a half-chance that you might as well get it. And I have always loved to hope against hope. I searched throughout the nook and crannies of Calcutta and left no stone or pebble unturned to get hold of those old 80's and 90's magazines. 

Finally a miracle happened. In my search throughout Calcutta I came across a man who provided me with 50 issues of The Telegraph Colour Magazine. In return he asked for twenty rupees per issue. I agreed immediately. The moment the magazines came in my hands after all these years, the first thing that I did was to smell them. They smelt of my childhood Sundays. Going through them made me weep silently as these magazines became like Time-Machines which helped me to relive and relish those golden Sun-days, hours, minutes and seconds. I scanned some of the pages of those magazines and uploaded the pics in my Blog-Post titled Sundays on 14th July 2013. 

Cut to 6th October 2013. 

My miracle-man called me and said that 713 issues of The Telegraph Colour Magazine are available for sale at the same price and that also in 20 neatly bound volumes. The issues start from 22nd January 1984 and ends at 28th June 1998. Plus 5 issues of GRAPHITI from 5th July 1998 to 2nd August 1998. A total of 718 magazines. 

I immediately said that I would buy all of them. The total cost came at Rs. 14,360. With this money I bought a huge slice of my childhood back. Ever since then I have been literally sleeping with these magazines and going through them almost day in and day out. These magazines proved to be like Time-Machines and transported me back to my childhood days of 80's and 90's. While leafing through the yellowish pages of these magazines, so many memories came back after all these years. 

A few months back I was desperately searching for these magazines throughout the length and breadth of Calcutta. There was no ray of hope anywhere. Many people said that I would never be able to find them. And today I am the proud owner of The Telegraph Colour Magazines from 1984 to 1998. 


1 November 2013

Aishwarya Rai


On 13th November 1994, I saw the above cover picture of Aishwarya Rai on The Telegraph Colour Magazine and immediately had my first crush. I was around 12 years old then. That first crush has lasted even to this present day. The magnitude of that crush has only multiplied over all these years. 

In 1997, I saw her first hindi film Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya and fell in love with this songI have loved her in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Taal, Josh, Mohabbatein, Devdas, Chokher Bali, Raincoat, Umrao Jaan, Dhoom 2, Jodha Akbar and Guzaarish

There was a time when the four walls of my room were full of Aishwarya Rai's posters. Most of those posters were from the film Devdas. My first girlfriend used to come to my room and get very jealous. Sometimes she used to try to tear down those posters. I used to have a difficult time in trying to stop her from doing so. I used to buy those posters mostly from Esplanade.  

Today is her birthday. I wish her all the happiness of this World...