The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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City Lights
Through the looking glass
With the city on the threshold of a retail revolution, there’s a lot to look forward to in the New Year. Here’s eavesdropping on the 2003 biz buzz from four of the the biggies:


After rewriting retail rules in town, the garments and lifestyle major is looking at even greater penetration. The success of the hypermart model has prompted the retail giant to go for two more Big Bazaar outlets. One will be a large-format food mart spread across 20,000-sq. ft inside Metropolis, the giant shopping mall at Hiland Park, stocking all kinds of processed and semi-processed food at wholesale prices. “We are also looking for a location of around 50,000 sq. ft in central Calcutta to set up another full-fledged Big Bazaar,” says Kishore Biyani, managing director, Panlatoon (India) Pvt Ltd. The chain, which logged sales in excess of Rs 4 crore from its 22, Camac Street outlet in December alone, is also scouting for land in south Calcutta for a “very large store” to house both Pantaloons and Big Bazaar.

Plus, Pantaloons is launching its “exclusive range” of World Cup cricket merchandise this week.


Even as the music industry, in general, slumped by 30 per cent, MusicWorld, the RPG Group store on Park Street clocked “robust sales” in December. The “country’s number one music store”, with a Rs 8-crore turnover in 2001-02, is eyeing a “10-15 per cent growth” in the new financial year, and hopes to achieve this through the shop-in-shop models, Express and Unplugged.

The first MusicWorld Express outlet will be inaugurated at Gol Park on Monday, the second at Ultadanga inside Sony World by this month-end, and the third will come up in Forum, on Elgin Road, this February.

“We are also planning four Unplugged outlets in the city, where a single gondola retails only chartbusters and a limited catalogue range, to cater to the immediate locality,” says regional manager Dipra Jha. MusicWorld will also launch a range of MusicWorld Exclusive series in the New Year.


The popular coffee shop chain, which has already fired the imagination of the city’s young and young at heart, is very buoyant about Calcutta. With five outlets (Park Street, Gurusaday Road, Westside, AJC Bose Road and Salt Lake), Barista is a favourite haunt for college students and office-goers alike. The chain has lined up two more outlets in the city this year, to add to the coffee fizz.

“We are also launching the Barista-STAR World Absolutely Everyday loyalty card. For every four coffees one buys, we will give the fifth beverage free. Besides, one can win mega prizes like holidays to Thailand by answering a few simple questions,” explains Sandeep Vyas, executive vice-president of the chain.

Barista will also introduce in-store events like book-reading, art and music shows, at its outlets this year.


The anchor store in Emami Shoppers’ City on Lord Sinha Road has been launching a steady stream of “unique imports” like the House of Stratus Collection, the Random House catalogue and the Hesperus Press List. “Calcutta has always evinced keen interest in any new book release,” says CEO Gautam Jatia.

The store is planning a series of book-appreciation sessions and exhibitions, besides a kids’ club and a customer-loyalty programme during the course of the year for the “informed and serious” young reader. Landmark managing director Hemu Ramaiah is keen to use schoolchildren as reference points for launching new titles, through a structured feedback formula, to “constantly upgrade repertoire”.

Tales untold

For years now, Badri Narayan (born 1929) has been creating paintings that tell simple tales using the most simple of lines and colours. With their contrasting shades, some are dark and brooding while others look mysterious because of the untold tales they seem to withhold. He has time and again used such figures and constructs delineated with spontaneous lines to illustrate many texts ranging from Hindu epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata and folk tales as well. An autodidact, Badri Narayan has worked in mosaic, painted ceramic tiles and done woodcuts and engravings as well.

Badri Narayan’s current exhibition at Galerie 88 goes back to the Indian miniature tradition for inspiration. His palette has become more colourful though not really bright, and black and the darker shades seem to be absent altogether from all the works save a few like Old Houses. So there is a predominance of ochres and reds, greens and blues that overlap each other and create a harmony that is very soothing to the eye. They have a lyrical effect in the simple landscapes, where geometric forms are grouped against each other. In Old Houses there is an attempt at breaking and analysing form. But he does not pursue that line beyond that single work.

The ones in which human figures are present have a fresh, dreamlike quality about them. Even when he paints fruit they seem to be part of an untold narrative. It seems to be part of a ritual. Although his works are usually small, here he displays some which are pretty large. Here there is no attempt at trying out chiaroscuro. All the paintings are unidimensional, flat. He uses archetypal figures and forms that recur in his works. There is a sense of drama unfolding as he creates myths of his own making. The exhibition continues till January 10.

Album number one

It’s big time for the ‘Rojgere Ginni’ now. The popular anchor of the housewife show Paroma Banerjee, has her first solo album release on January 8. With 200 jingles to her credit — Arambagh, Ajanta Hawai and the Shalimar series — and a plethora of films songs (Mayar Bandhan, Hazaar Churasi ki Maa…), Paroma had been waiting for long to come out with the album. “If I had my way, I could have had 10 albums by now but I was waiting for the right moment. The album contains some of my favourite songs such as Ghore Pherar Gaan which is also the title of the album. Other songs are composed by my husband Debojyoti Mishra, Chandrabindoo’s Anindya Chatterjee and the late Gautam Chattopadhyay,” says Paroma, in between rehearsals for the release at Kala Mandir. Earlier, she had won the best music director award (alongwith Debojyoti) for Rituparno Ghosh’s Dahan. The new album to be produced by Prime Music contains eight numbers. The other event of the evening will be a performance by Indranil Sen,along with his cassette release.

Action queen

She learns Bharatanatyam, Flamenco, Hindusthani classical and Broadway music. But Mahira Kakkar’s first love is the stage, and western plays are her forte. Now, as a third-year student of Julliard theatre school in New York, she has the chance to perform in front of an international audience. The ex-student of Modern High and La Martiniere also writes for the school paper in New York. “It’s a hard life. I’m up at 6 am and don’t get to bed till about 2 am, but the experience is wonderful,” the 25-year-old smiles.

Back home in Calcutta for the holidays, she performed a one-woman, one-act play, Moonshot Tape, by American playwright Lanford Wilson, under the aegis of Spandan. “The theatre community in Calcutta is very strong and theatregoers here are knowledgeable. Unfortunately though, the younger generation is not that involved,” the English graduate from Jadavpur University observes.

Mahira ventured on stage at a very young age, and loved it from the first moment. “But I wasn’t always so sure about pursuing it as a career. I thought about law for a while, but then I decided to follow my heart. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to work with some very good directors, like Phyllis Basu and Zarine Chaudhuri. I still get nervous before every performance though,” she laughs. “But it’s the adrenaline rush that matters. If I ever get used to it, then I know it’s time for me to quit.”

Universal themes with a human connection are her passion. The girl from Tollygunge, however, will not turn down offers from Tollywood, if they should come her way. “I have worked in short films for private channels and the SRFTI, and I quite liked it. Although I love theatre, anything that pays the bill after I graduate is good,” Mahira adds.

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