29 October 2016

Orkut

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I became a member of Orkut in the year 2004. It was the newest drug in town. In those days I was studying as a first year student of Political Science at St. Xavier's College, Calcutta. My friend from the Physics department had sent me an invitation to join Orkut. Yes, thats right, in those days one needed an invitation from someone else to join Orkut.

Orkut was a social networking website owned and operated by Google. The service was designed to help users meet new and old friends and maintain existing relationships. The website was named after its creator, Google employee Orkut Büyükkökten.

Instantly I was hooked on to Orkut. I loved its colour scheme. I loved its features. The only thing that I hated was the restriction that one could only upload twelve pictures. Not more than that. Obviously later on Orkut increased that number significantly.

Orkut was much better than Yahoo Messenger. On Yahoo Chat-rooms like Calcutta Global Chat-room, most of the time the females turned out to be males. In Orkut you got to interact with genuine female profiles. And the fake profiles were easy to point out too. Profiles which had pictures, such as the one below, as their DPs were all fake profiles.








Once you log into Orkut, your DP (Display Pic) was on the top left hand corner. Next to it was your name. Below your name were the number of scraps, photos, videos and the number of fans which you had. Your page was divided into three sections - Social, Professional and Personal. The top right hand corner showed your friends and below that were your communities. This was my very first Orkut DP in 2004. Today when I look at this pic it seems so corny. This was also my first effort at Adobe Photoshop. 








In those days I had a huge crush on Aishwarya Rai. Back then I had huge posters of Aishwarya Rai pasted on my bedroom walls. Most of the posters were from the film Devdas. I used to buy those posters from Esplanade. Here is another crude attempt at Photoshop. I had uploaded this picture too in Orkut when there was a restriction of only twelve photos.








Orkut was very useful in spying on ex-girlfriends. And also was very useful in stalking other beautiful women. I used to spy on my ex-girlfriend and used to read all her scraps. It gave me an idea of what was going on in her life. Though she did not want me to be a part of her life anymore, still through Orkut I felt that I was still a part of her life. I used to miss her tremendously and Orkut gave me some sort of a solace.

I sent her a friend request from my real Orkut account. She immediately blocked me. Therefore I had to create a fake account to keep track of her life. Through the fake account I came to know things like when she left Calcutta and went to Delhi for further studies and other stuff. 

I made a lot of friends on Orkut. Orkut was all about friending strangers and unfriending known people. It was all about becoming someone's fan and writing testimonials about them. You could send a private message or add someone to your hot-list or crush-list. You could also ignore some unwanted user and also report abuses. You also had to upload a lot of info about yourself and about your likes and dislikes, though it was optional. 

Orkut was about joining groups or communities about things like bangla rock to foreign language films. In those days I was an avid listener of rock music and an avid watcher of foreign films. I used to listen religiously to rock and metal music and watch films from different countries of the world. Orkut was the ideal place to interact with like minded people and exchange views and thoughts and get enriched in the process. 

The Nandigram massacre happened on 14th March 2007. We all instantly expressed our anger against the evil CPM on Orkut. All anti-CPM-minded people immediately friended each other and communities were formed overnight against the CPM. I wrote a poem on the night of 14th March and immediately uploaded it on Orkut. Later on it was published in Nabarun Bhattacharya's magazine "Bhashabandhan".








The first protest gathering was held at Metro Channel, opposite Metro Cinema, at Esplanade on 17th March 2007. On the night of 16th March, I got in touch with a lot of like-minded young boys in Orkut and we all decided that we all would meet the next day at the protest gathering at Esplanade. 

A lot of intellectuals and members of the civil society were present at the protest gathering. The great Kabir Suman had predicted such a scenario way back in 1998 in his album "Nishiddhyo Ishtehaar". Back then he had written "Ekdin Hobey Gono-Obbhyuthhan, Sedin Amar Gaan-er Bhaarar Khulo". And the predicted "Gono-Obbhyuthhan" really happened in 2007. All political and non-political forces came together and protested against the Left Front Government. 

When me and my friends saw Kabir Suman there, we asked him what should we do? He replied, "Anarchy Koro, Anarchy Koro". That day on stage Kabir Suman said the following lines on the microphone, "Ei Sala Khankir Chhele Buddho, Aay Aamakey Eshey Dhorshon Kor, Khomota Thakley Aamakey Eshey Rape Kor". Everybody started clapping. I was there standing just beside the stage on the left side. Fire was brimming over from Suman's eyes that day. He was confident that Nandigram would be the Waterloo of the CPM. Nabarun Bhattacharya spoke on the stage and declared that he was giving up his Bankim Award which he had received for his novel Herbert. Joy Goswami read two poems. I especially loved his poem "Shashoker Proti" very much. Another singer named Bidyut Bhowmik also sang a few protest songs. The protest programme went on throughout the day. One CPM pimp tried to create a minor disturbance and the crowd got a bit agitated for a moment, but Kabir Suman instantly calmed down the crowd with the song "Haal Chherona Bondhu".







A community called BAOS (Be Aware Of Surroundings) was formed in Orkut. I was a member of that community. At the height of the Nandigram movement we all decided to meet one day at Nandan and decided to bring out a little magazine by the same name - BAOS. Within a month we came out with our first edition. It was a proud moment for all the members. My name and phone number was there on the magazine as the founding member. Facebook played a very important role in the revolution of Egypt in 2011. Orkut had also played a very important role in the "Poriborton" of Bengal in 2011.  







Back in those days in Orkut there was a woman named Anamika who used to write very good poetry. There was a page where she used to upload her poems. Most of her poems were political in nature. However I don't know her true identity. The name Anamika was most probably a fake name. She could also be a man. But some of the poems were really good.  


In Anjan Dutta's song "Ranjana-2" from his 2007 album "Aami aar Godot", there were these lines :


Tumi Janabey Tomar Mot 
Dekhabey Naa Mukh
Sudhu Montobbye 
Bhorey Jabey Orkut
Sudhu Computer Achey Nei Oboshor Somoy
Tai Ranjana Aami Aar Ashbona Tomar Paraay...








In 2009 I fell in love with a woman and wrote the following poem as her Testimonial on Orkut :

Alice in Wonderland 

She is an Alice in Wonderland 
I like Her soft-spokenness    
I wish I could hold her hand 
A magical Enigma, by God's Grace 

Life itself has made Her Stronger 
Still She is weak like a Rose 
I really want to Love Her Longer 
Lets see, where this Emotion goes 

She is a Paradox, both Hot and Cool 
A Sense of Belonging I always get 
Am I rushing in as a Smitten Fool 
Wish I could take Her out on a Date 

A Date together from Dawn till Dusk 
From the far North to the South Pole 
What is the Meaning of Life, I ask 
We are All just going down the Rabbit-Hole 

The White Rabbit is showing Us the Road 
Though We are separated by a few Years 
This is nothing but Information-Overload 
We are All swimming in our own Pool of Tears 

But what about the Hypocrites of Society  
We both belong to an entirely different Class 
I don't care about the High and the Mighty 
We are All trying to look Through The Looking Glass 

But somehow there is a Layer of Sadness 
In Her soft serene gentle Eyes 
Though She gives me a Sense of Madness 
I wish She could have heard my Cries 

But it is True that She doesn't Love Me 
It is True that She doesn't really Care 
The Tragedy is out there for All to See
This is my Life, this ain't No Truth or Dare...



Orkut became immensely popular in India and Brazil. Facebook was there too but Orkut was more popular than Facebook. Then a strange thing started happening. Suddenly all the wannabe-beautiful-freelance-model-chicks started migrating to Facebook. The frustrated horny lonely boys had no choice but to leave Orkut behind and follow them there. People started leaving Orkut behind and started building up new lives in Facebook. No body actually deleted their Orkut accounts. The profiles were all there, but people started spending more and more time in Facebook and less and less time in Orkut. If one was still active in Orkut then he/she was considered to be a loser. To be seen in Orkut was considered down-market and an uncool thing.

I resisted the charm of Facebook for a long time. Initially I found it very difficult to migrate to FB. I tried my best to hang on to Orkut for as long as possible. But by then all my friends, enemies, ex-girlfriends, present girlfriends, former and latest crushes etc. had all already migrated to FB and had also started building houses there keeping in mind permanent netizenship. Thus with a heavy heart I also had to leave my comfort Orkutian-zone and enter into an unknown world. In the beginning I did not like FB's structure. Then that FB-Timeline thing happened which I hated even more. But with time I accustomed myself. I had no choice. I had to migrate to Facebook to move on with the times.

Orkut died a slow and painful death. On June 30, 2014, Google announced it would be closing Orkut on September 30, 2014. No new accounts could be created starting from July 2014. By then all Orkutans had migrated to Facebook. I really felt very sad on 30th September 2014. Orkut had become a part of our lives for a few consecutive years especially around 2007/2008. It was like the death of an old friend...







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27 October 2016

Class XI and XII

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I got admitted to Class XI in St. Xavier's College in the year 2000. I did my Class X from The Future Foundation School. It was affiliated to the ICSE Board. After our Class X exams there was a holiday for around three months. During that holiday I used to watch TV for almost the whole day. I used to watch mainly English movies and TV serials. In those days Xena - Warrior Princess was my most favourite show. I loved how the makers of Xena weaved elements of Greek, Roman, Norse and other mythologies and historical events into their story lines. My second most favourite show was The Simpsons. It is the greatest intellectual TV show ever created by mankind. My third favourite show was Friends. My fourth favourite show was Ally Mcbeal. And my fifth favourite show was X-Files. Loved the title songs of Ally Mcbeal and Friends.







The year 2000 belonged to Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai. It was a huge phenomenal hit. In our cable channel it used to be shown almost every day. I instantly became a fan of Hrithik Roshan. Still today I am his fan and I prefer him over all the other actors of Bollywood. The film did such enormous business that even Rakesh Roshan was shot by hitmen because he didn't want to handover the foreign rights of the film to the Bombay underworld.






The year 2000 also belonged to the mother of all quiz shows - Kaun Banega Crorepati? It was Amitabh Bachchan's debut on the small screen. Big B was going through a very rough patch throughout the nineties and through KBC he again rose like a phoenix from the ashes. KBC was aired on Star Plus. The show became so popular that the streets would run empty. Cinema halls reported almost zero attendance for the night shows. The last time such a thing had happened in India was during the telecast of Mahabharat on Sunday mornings. The first Crorepati on KBC was a man named Harshvardhan Navathe. The charisma of Big B in the show was stupendous. This show was not only about money. It was about ordinary citizens encountering extraordinary situations and sitting in front of the one and only Amitabh Bachchan.







After my Class X exams were over, I saw the film Hey Ram thrice at Priya Cinema. I was madly in love with the film and used to listen to its soundtrack day in and day out. I even got hold of the tamil versions of the songs and used to listen to them religiously. This film is indeed one of Kamal Hasan's all time masterpieces. And the music by the maestro Ilaiyaraaja was simply divine.







After Class X, I did not try for admission in any other school. I only tried at St. Xavier's. I convinced myself that if I did not get admission in Xavier's then I would leave studies forever. My parents were very unhappy with my decision but I was an adamant and stubborn child. Nobody could influence me to change my decision. All my close relatives tried their best to convince me to play it safe and also apply in other schools but I refused them flatly.







I still remember the first day I went to St. Xavier's. I took the Metro train from our Rabindra Sarobar station and got down at Park Street. In those days the fare was most probably six rupees. The fare till Maidan was four rupees. Anyways I got down at Park Street and asked a kind looking man for directions to Xavier's. He kindly showed me the way. I walked from the Metro station to Xavier's. Once I entered Xavier's, I was amazed to see the huge building and the huge playground. The place was full with cool dudes and hot babes. I saw a guy who had a green coloured streak in his hair. I went inside the Office and started talking to the friendly man who was sitting in the Enquiry Counter. He told me that admission forms would be given out on such and such dates. His name was Ratan and I started calling him Ratan da. Today sixteen years have passed since that day and I am still in touch and friends with Ratan da. 






Anyways once the admission forms were out, I went there again and collected it and filled it out and submitted it back. Then came the day when the first list of selected candidates was to be declared. From morning I was very nervous though I did not reveal that in my face in front of my parents. I acted as if everything was cool and calm. The list was to come out at 3 p.m. I went to Xavier's around noon and made a couple of friends there who were all candidates. We all went inside the canteen and had tea and adda. We saw boys and girls were smoking inside the canteen. We also felt like smoking but we didn't.

Suddenly I met an old friend of mine there who was from my school. I told him that if I see my name on the first list then I would take him for lunch at Peter Cat to celebrate. At exactly 3 p.m. the list came out. Luckily my name was there. I was so happy. I was on top of the world. Ratan da congratulated me. After spending some more time inside Xavier's, I went to Peter Cat with that friend. Fortunately I had enough money in my pocket. We ordered chicken sizzlers there and indulged in a lovely adda. After coming out of Peter Cat we decided to have a couple of beers at Olypub. Therefore we went to Olypub and ordered Kalyani Black Label beers. This was my first visit to Olypub. After boozing we took the Metro trains and came back home. My parents were very happy to hear the news about my admission to St. Xavier's.








Class XI started. We were under the H.S. Board. Ours was an only boys section. My subjects were English (first language), Bengali (second language), Political Science, Economics, Accountancy and my sixth subject was Computers. St. Xavier's had an old world charm. I loved the huge classrooms and the long corridors. I loved spending time at the fourth floor balcony from where we had a lovely view. In school we had to wear an uniform but here we could wear casual clothes. I mainly used to wear jeans and a full sleeved shirt. Initially I had very good attendance but after a few months we all started bunking classes. It became a fashionable and cool thing to bunk classes. Attending all classes meant that you were a nerd and therefore a loser. Bunking classes meant that you were a cool dude.







In those days smoking was allowed inside the college canteen. I started smoking there daily. Smoking inside the College canteen was a cool thing to do. We used to have grand adda sessions there and check out the senior college girls over cups of hot tea and cigarettes. The canteen was the best place inside the College campus. The canteen was managed by the grand old man of Xavier's named Arun da. He was a kind hearted man and his stern affection was legendary. Sadly he passed away on 17th January 2015. He managed our canteen for more than four decades. There was a canteen staff-member named Srikanto da and he was my most favourite person. Here is a photo of Arun da:








Smoking in St. Xavier's College was banned around 2002. Sadly today my Xaverian brothers and sisters are greeted with the following sign inside the College canteen:






There was a place near the College back gate known as the Green Benches which was like an adda zone for Xaverians. The place had a lot of green coloured benches and a few tables. I used to spend more time inside the canteen or at Green Benches than inside classrooms. Our favourite past-time was to sit at Green Benches and rate anyone who entered from the back-gate in terms of hotness on a scale of zero to ten.







Our English, Bengali and Political Science classes were good and bearable. The Professors were really good and I liked them. Economics and Accountancy classes were horrible and unbearable. We had two Professors who used to teach us Economics and I really hated one of them very much. He was a horrible Professor. The Computers class was total fun-riot. It always used to be the last class of the day. By then we were all tired to attend that class. We were taught pre-historic languages like BASIC and PASCAL. I used to sit near the door and after giving the attendance I used to quietly slip out of the classroom. A lot of other boys also used to do the same. Sometimes I used to tell a trusted friend to give my proxy.







Here is a list of my Professors. English was taught by Mrs. C. Biswas. Bengali was taught by Mrs. M. Bhattacharya Roy and Mr. R. Choudhury. Economics was taught by Mr. B. Das and Mr. P.P. Ghosh. Political Science was taught by Mrs. S. Mozumdar and Mr. S. Ghosh. Accountancy was taught by Mr. S. Gomes. Computer Science was taught by Mr. S. Das.







In Class XI luckily I fell in love and got my first girlfriend. She was a very sweet, beautiful and a nice hearted girl. She was like the Amelie Poulain of Calcutta. She used to find joy and happiness in the simple things of life. I was madly in love with her. In those days landline phones were very much in use. I didn't have a mobile phone back then. I got her landline number from a mutual friend and called her up and asked her for friendship. Initially she played a bit hard to get but later on we became phone-friends. We used to talk to each other daily over our landline phones. Over time this friendship blossomed into love.






After coming out of the Xaverian campus I always used to go to Music World. In those days Music World was the hippest place in Park Street. I used to go there almost everyday and I knew each and every staff member there by name. The concept of listening to 'free-music' was new to Calcutta and me and my friends made the most out of it, as in those days words like limewire, bittorrent, piratebay and Youtube were alien to us. We used to listen to all the cds in those free listening-posts. Inside Music World everything was arranged properly in a systematic manner. The place was beautiful, elegant and majestic. Yet there was warmth in the atmosphere. We could browse through those endless cassettes and cds at our own comfortable pace, which many times was even slower than a snail's. On so many days we spent like more than an hour inside and left without buying anything. Also Music World always provided us with a cool ambience, free of cost, during those hot summer afternoons.







Then back in those days Music World had these 'lucky-drop-boxes' where names were picked randomly and gifts were announced every hour. Keeping in mind Probability Theorem and remembering the quote, "If you want to be successful then double your failure-rate", I was lucky enough to win the various items at Music World : a t-shirt, a mouse-pad, a friendship-band, discount coupons as high as 50%, free cds/cassettes etc. Once even I received a call from Music World on my home landline phone informing me that I had won a gift. The next day I went there and collected my gift.







Back then cassettes were still very much in use. In the 90's I used to buy my audio cassettes from Rashbehari's 'Melody' and Esplanade's 'Symphony'. But since 2000 I only bought cassettes from Music World and no where else. Even today I still have the 2002 A.R. Rahman album "Bombay Dreams", which my first girlfriend had bought for me from Music World. When we were dating, we went to Music World quite a few times together. Once I was busy listening to Nachiketa Chakraborty's new song "Ekla Choltey Hoi" in one of those free listening-boxes in the bengali section, and she wanted to leave but I wanted to stay back for some more time and listen to that song again and again. She got a bit pissed off. It took me some time to comfort her again. On another day there was this gorgeous woman inside Music World who looked somewhat like Amisha Patel, and I was involuntarily staring at her, and then my girlfriend noticed it and got very very very angry.







Inside Music World, in those days, we also got Baazee.com coupons which allowed free internet surfing for one full hour at Junction Cybercafes. In those days I didn't have a computer at home so these coupons were prized items. Junction Cybercafes were spread in many parts of the city but my favourite one was at Ballyunge-phari. Mind you, in those ancient times there were no Orkut, Facebook or Twitter. To meet new people (read girls), what we had were Yahoo Messenger Chatrooms and a pre-historic chat-site strangely named MIRC32.







Usually on Saturdays, after classes got over, me and my friends used to go to Olypub. On Saturdays our classes used to get over around 2:50 p.m. It became like a regular ritual. Sometimes I even used to go alone and booze at Olypub. Beer and beef steaks were our favourite combos there. I loved the decor of Olypub. The waiters were friendly. The place had a home-like feel to it. It was neither too fancy nor too expensive. Still today whenever I feel like boozing at Park Street, my first choice is always Olypub. I have an emotional bond to that place. Nowadays whenever I go there I feel so nostalgic and I really start missing those golden days.







Sometimes in the evenings we used to go and sit at Allen Park and check out the women who used to come there for evening-walks and jogging. If we were hungry then we used to go and eat chicken/mutton rolls at Kusum's and later on drink Thums Up. I only went to Kusum's and never went to Hot Kati Roll or other roll shops at Park Street. Kusum's was my favourite roll shop. On Valentine's Day and other occasions we used to buy cards from Giggles.






I used to spend a lot of time at Oxford Bookstore too though I seldom bought books from there. It felt very nice to spend hot summer afternoons inside the air conditioned environment of Oxford and browse through innumerable books and magazines. The staff never forced anyone directly or indirectly to buy anything. We could go upstairs and sit and read books for hours.




  


Outside Xavier's back-gate was the food-shop called Delights. I used to go there to eat masala dhosa and drink soft drinks. In winters we used to have coffee there. We used to hang out in front of this shop. Even today whenever I go to Delights the people there recognise me and it feels so nice to have soft-drinks or coffee there after so many years.

Just ten seconds walk from Delights there used to be a cigarette shop named Classic. We all used to buy our cigarettes from there. In those days I used to smoke Gold Flake. Nowadays that shop no longer exists there. But back in those days that shop used to do great business by selling cigarettes and other things to us Xaverians. 

Near Park Street, there is the Dreamland Restaurant, at the mouth of Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road. I have been going to this restaurant since 2000. I always sit on the balcony. The prices are reasonable and the food is good. I have always preferred sitting at the corner spot on their Balcony for the last sixteen years. So many years have passed but the charm of this corner chair is still the same. And whenever I go there most of the time I order mixed gravy noodles.













On Middleton Row, near Sikkim House, there was a cyber cafe and the place also had a few pool tables. Sadly the place no longer exists today. My friends used to go there to play pool. I also played pool there a few times but I didn't like playing pool that much. I used to go there mainly to surf the net. Surfing in those days meant checking your email and chatting with strangers in Yahoo Messenger Chat Rooms and MIRC32. My favourite website for sending e-cards was lakecards.com. I loved their java-enabled moving water images. Back then 123india.com was very popular but later it became a paid site and thus lost its popularity. Another site called indya.com became popular for a while but then lost its popularity after some months.








I first created my email address at Rediff in the year 2000. I had no idea how to create an email id. So a friend of mine helped me to do so. One afternoon after our classes got over, we went to the cyber cafe at Middleton Row. In those days the Rediff website layout was damn good. I really liked their yellow and orange colour combination. These days the Rediff page is pathetic where there is too much information cramped into too little space. Anyways there my friend helped me to create my first email. I still use my first email address just for the sake of nostalgia. And I will keep using it till the day I die, or till the day Rediff dies. Then after some months I created my second email id at Yahoo on my own. In those days I used to play a lot of online Chess at Yahoo Games. But the best thing about Yahoo was its Messenger and especially the Chat Room named Calcutta Global Chat Room Number One.





From Xavier's if I came out from the front gate then I used to take the Park Street Metro to come back home and if I came out from the back gate then I used to take the Maidan Metro. While going to the Maidan Metro we had to cross Vardan Market and there used to be a lot of chana-wallahs there. Most of the time I used to buy chana-chips worth Rs. 5 from them on my way to Maidan Metro.








In those days there used to be a Cyber Cafe on Park Street, where today the M3 Music Shop stands. It consisted of two floors. One afternoon, around 2001, I went upstairs to surf the net and found that no one was there. Everyone was surfing below on the ground floor. Since no one was around, it gave me the confidence to open desibaba.com for the first time in my life. I had heard a lot about this site from my friends but had never visited it before. It consisted of some naked pictures of women. I don't remember whether any porn video was uploaded in that site. Anyways fearing that someone might come upstairs any moment, I closed it.

In those days I used to tell my girlfriend everything and I was always very honest with her. Later that evening I told her about the desibaba site over landline phone in an apologetic tone of voice. I confessed to her that I had opened a porn site. She got offended a bit but later on forgave me. I promised her that I would never again open porn sites in my life. I obviously did not stick to my promise!







The annual exams came in due time. I never used to study throughout the year. I only started studying just three days before the exams. The strategy was to commit to memory and then vomit on the answer sheets. I somehow managed to pass with good marks. I got promoted to Class XII. I continued with my carefree and happy-go-lucky lifestyle.






I used to walk up and down the entire length and breadth of Park Street, sometimes with friends or sometimes even alone. Park Street has changed so much over the years. New shops have come up in place of old shops. The street constantly keeps changing. I really miss some of the old shops. More than a decade back there was a nice cosy coffee joint named Nescafe, where today the VIP shop stands. It was divided into two floors. Mostly couples used to go there and sit on the upper floor. If I remember correctly, the price of the coffee was just sixteen rupees per cup. They used to pour the coffee from a vending machine into a paper cup. It was not expensive like the Baristas or the CCDs. When Nescafe closed down in Park Street, I really felt very sad.







In the year 2000 I saw the following hindi films in cinema halls : Fiza, Hey Ram, Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai, Mohabbatein and Tera Jadoo Chal Gaya.







In the year 2001 I saw the following hindi films in cinema halls : Aks, Asoka, Dil Chahta Hai, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, Lagaan and One 2 Ka 4.








In the year 2002 I saw the following hindi films in cinema halls : Company, Devdas and Road. I saw Devdas twice, once with my cousins and the second time with my girlfriend at Priya Cinema. In those days I had huge posters of Aishwarya Rai pasted on my bedroom walls. Most of the posters were from the film Devdas. My girlfriend used to come to my room and get very jealous. A few times she also tried to tear down the posters. With much difficulty I succeeded in stopping her. I used to buy the posters from Esplanade. In those days one poster was around twenty rupees.  







In those days we used to go to a lot of school fests. School fests were very popular back then and was full of fun and joy. School fests were a nice place to meet new people (read girls). I had gone to the fests of La Martiniere for Girls, Ashoka Hall, Carmel, Loreto, Modern High etc. Loved seeing the western dance competitions there. Some of the student dancers were really awesome. And also the quiz contests. In those days quizzing was my hobby and I was massively interested in quiz contests of all kinds. Our very own Xavotsav was a hugely popular event. I first attended Xavotsav in 2000. Sadly in 2001 because of some unwanted reasons Xavotsav was cancelled for that year. Again it was held the next year. In 2002, me and my girlfriend went to Xavotsav together and had a lovely time there. Clicked some pictures of us together. For clicking pictures at Xavotsav I had bought a Kodak KB-10 camera from a shop in Park Street. As far as I remember the price was most probably Rs. 999. Here are three photos from the 2002 Xavotsav:















In January 2003 we went to the fest of Jadavpur University. It was called Sanskriti. Krosswindz performed that evening at O.A.T. inside J.U. There also we clicked some photos in my Kodak KB-10 camera. Here are two of those photos:












Back in those days my girlfriend used to come over to my place and we used to make out in my bedroom. I still remember the first day I kissed her on her left cheek inside a taxi. She was sitting on my right side. We had gone to the school fest of Ballygunge Shiksha Sadan and while returning from there I kissed her for the first time. The first time I kissed her on her lips was inside my bedroom. It was my first lip kiss too. That was a magical moment. Once in 2002 on my birthday she was supposed to come to my place in the afternoon but it started raining not cats and dogs but rhinoceroses and hippopotamuses from the morning. Inspite of all the rainfall and all the water-logging all over Calcutta, she still came over to my place in the afternoon to wish me Happy Birthday. She used to love me tremendously back in those days. That day she had also prepared a special birthday card for me. I loved walking with her hand in hand in Rabindra Sarobar and also in Park Street. In those days there was a coffee shop near Golpark called Caffeine and we used to go there a lot. That coffee shop no longer exists today. We used to speak to each other everyday over the landline phone. In those days we both didn't have mobile phones. We both used to give each other greetings cards on birthdays and Valentine's Days and on other occasions. I still have all her greetings cards. Even today whenever I miss her, I go through her old cards and emails. And I guess I still love her the same way. My love for her has not diminished in the last sixteen years.







In 2002 our H.S. exams came. I got very good marks in the exam. Infact I was the topper in my class. A few Professors had predicted that I would not do well in the exams and when I showed them my results then they had to eat their own words. I really miss my life from 2000 to 2002. If today I have a Time Machine then I would definitely want to go back to the year 2000 and start Class XI all over again. Those were the best days of my life...






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18 October 2016

Zulfiqar

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*** Spoiler Alert ***


Firstly hats off to Srijit Mukherji for attempting to make a bengali film based on Shakespeare's Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra. Also this film is like a tribute to The Godfather. This Durga Pujo Srijit da gave a tribute to Mario Puzo! Interestingly there were references to Julius Caesar in Srijit Mukherji's very first film "Autograph" too.

Secondly hats off to Srijit Mukherji for shooting in the dock area of Calcutta consisting of places like Kidderpore, Garden Reach and Metiaburuz. I don't remember when was the last time that a bengali film was shot in these places. The locations have brought an uniqueness to the film. The locations behave like vibrant and lively characters in the film. Without these locations the film would have been just like any other ordinary film.

Thirdly hats off to Srijit Mukherji for bringing together such a star-cast comprising of the very best of Tollywood. Getting the required dates of all these actors and actresses at the same time must have been a himalayan endeavour. All these actors and actresses are very busy people and are involved in various projects throughout the year. Getting all of them together in the same film must have been a herculean task. Also shooting for this film started in winter when actors and actresses are very busy with various shows and events throughout Bengal.

Whenever I think of underworld films, the first thing that comes to my mind is Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather trilogy, then I think about Martin Scorsese's films like Mean Streets, Goodfellas, Casino and The Departed, Brian De Palma's Scarface, Carlito's Way and The Untouchables, and lastly I think about Ram Gopal Verma's films like Satya and Company. Also the TV series The Sopranos comes to my mind.

Zulfiqar is the first true underworld bengali film in the history of bengali cinema. It portrays a vivid picture of the dark underbelly of Calcutta. However the film only portrays a slice of Calcutta's underworld. The real Calcutta underworld is much more violent and there are certain evil aspects which cannot be shown on the screen. In this film organised crime functions mainly in the dock area in a corporate way with various layers in its hierarchy and is known as the Syndicate. The Syndicate behaves like a wolf-pack and if any one wolf tries to become greater than the pack then he is immediately eradicated for the greater good of the Syndicate.

Last year Srijit Mukherji met with an unfortunate accident in Delhi and his leg was badly damaged. As he lay on the hospital bed with a plastered leg, he conceived the idea of Zulfiqar. Interestingly the first scene of the film begins with a shot of the plastered leg of Parambrata Chattopadhyay as he is lying on the hospital bed.

At the very beginning of the film the director gives us a detailed history about the crime syndicate which functions in and around the dockyard and about its mode of operations throughout the years. The audience must know the background of the area before it can proceed with the story. The protagonists of this film mostly belong to a particular community and this film is mainly about love, friendship and brotherhood within that community.

Loved Kaushik Sen's (Brutus/Basheer Khan) acting the most. He had a lean-mean look in the film. Also loved his unique accent. Loved the scene where Sachin Tendulkar gets out at 98 in the India-Pakistan match during the 2003 Cricket World Cup. Jisshu Sengupta (Cassius/Kashinath Kundu) looked convincing in the role of an evil conspiring man. Parambrata Chattopadhyay (one half of Mark Antony/Tony Braganza) looked cool and smart and his English dialogue delivery was too good. Also loved his Rastafarian wig and he carried it off quite well. Prasenjit Chattopadhyay (Julius Caesar/Zulfiqar Ahmed) was as usual at his very best in a calm and composed way. 

Nusrat Jahan (Cleopatra/Rani Talapatra) looked beautiful and sensuous and delivered her lines quite well. Loved the tattoo of an asp on her neck. What Egypt was to Cleopatra, the Blue Nile Bar was to her. Loved the decor of the Bar too. Ankush Hazra (Octavius/Akhtar Ahmed) was okay, nothing extraordinary. Rahul Banerjee (Lepidus/Laltu Das) was good. But I however felt that Sabyasachi Chakraborty would have been a better choice for this role. Paoli Dam (Calphurnia/Karishma Ahmed) was again okay. Loved that scene where she was walking on the ledge, where she was walking in snowfall and also that scene where she was hallucinating and the walls of her room were closing in on her. Kyra Dutt (Octavia/Albeena Ahmed) looked cute and promising. Kanchan Mullick (Enobarbus/Chheno Bablu) was good. June Malia (Portia/Pariza Khan) and Sujan Mukherjee (Cinna/Kaushik) were okay. Bharat Kaul (Parvez) was fascinating. Interestingly the poet Srijato (Tribhuban Gupta) looked extremely natural in his role and was quite good.

We all make fun of Dev's (the other half of Mark Antony/Markaz Ali) dialogue delivery and his acting skills. Facebook is full of memes which ridicule Dev. However in this film we all must appreciate Dev's effort to first learn sign-language within a short span of time and then to beautifully enact it on screen. Dev was fantastic in the film. His physique, his body language and his charisma helped him to carry this film on his shoulders. Dev deserves full marks for this film.

Also loved Srijit Mukherji's brilliant idea to split the character of Mark Antony between Tony Braganza and Markaz Ali. (In an unrelated topic, there is a music shop at Marquis Street in Calcutta named Braganza and its owner's name is Tony Braganza. There was a time a decade back when I used to play the guitar and I used to go to this shop regularly to buy my guitar strings and various other things).

The dialogues in this film are good and sharp. The audience inside the cinema hall also loved the use of profanities in the film. The aerial camera shots were great. The action sequences were as good as any Bollywood film. The motorbike race sequence was gripping. The costume and make-up department did a good job too. The editing was crisp. I however didn't like it that the scene where Ankush and Kanchan are walking and talking was put inside Kaushik Sen's dream sequence. The dream sequence begins in an interesting way but then suddenly it cuts to Ankush and Kanchan's scene and then again cuts back to the dream scene. The dream sequence should have continued as one continuous scene.

The famous "Et Tu, Brute" became "Tu Bhi" in this film. The Roman Senate became the Syndicate. The "Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears" scene was good but it could have been better. Srijit Mukherji's cameo was good and the audience inside the cinema hall loved it. Loved Kalyan Ray as the soothsayer. The "Ides of March" became Eid. The shayari used in the film is not extraordinary. Dev commits suicide inside the bathroom and falls into the bathtub. Nusrat Jahan had a personal liking for bathtubs in the film and she ultimately commits suicide not with the bite of an asp but electrocutes herself inside her bathtub. I loved the name of the nurse "Niyoti Dey" who poisons Parambrata Chattopadhyay. In the very last scene of the film Rahul Banerjee is killed by Ankush Hazra and he makes it look like an accident.

The songs are okay, nothing great about them. Only 'Qatl E Zulfiqar' is fascinating. 'Aami Aajkal Bhalo Aachi' is typical Anupam Roy. 'Ek Purono Masjidey' is quite ordinary and falls flat. 'Ghawrbari' is sweet. However I didn't like the inclusion of the song 'Katakuti Khela' in such a crucial and tense moment in the film. I loved the background score of the film by Indradip Dasgupta.

This Durga Puja it was strangely fashionable and the "in" thing to lambast Zulfiqar. Facebook and various Blogs were full of bad reviews of the film. Just as Brutus and Company enjoyed stabbing Julius Caesar, some people also ganged up to stab this film and bitch about it on social media. I however liked the film though Zulfiqar will never be ranked among Srijit Mukherji's best films. It could have been better obviously but we have to keep in mind that there were some pre-release controversies surrounding this film and reports suggest that the director had to succumb to several cuts in the film...







P.S. : I have not read the two Shakespearean tragedies in their original texts. Before going to watch the film, I thoroughly read about them in Wikipedia. Many years back in school we first studied Shakespeare through Charles and Mary Lamb's book named "Tales from Shakespeare". I still have that book. It still reminds me of my childhood days...   

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