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City Lights
Memories, melodies & Manna
Manna Dey at a city hotel. Picture by Aranya Sen.
Celebrity members of the audience on Thursday — Subrata Bhattacharya and Satabdi Roy
BanerjeePartytime in Tollywood. (From left) Rachana Banerjee, Indrani Halder, Pallavi Chatterjee, Tapas Pal and Mahima Mukherjee dropped by to wish birthday boy Abhishek Chatterjee (third from left) at Tangerine. Picture by Aranya Sen

What makes a man in his eighties sing on for two-and-a-half hours in the sweltering evening heat when even the air-conditioner plant has called it quits' Manna Dey did not have an answer to that, but sing he did to his heart’s content on his 84th birthday at Netaji Indoor Stadium on Thursday.

The celebration party comprised everyone from Governor Viren J. Shah to composers for whom Manna Dey had sung in his initial years in Bollywood, to colleagues here from his heydays. And a packed stadium.

The more-than-capacity crowd did strike a jarring note initially. And it was left to the Governor to make up for the ruckus over lack of seats. “Chalo, isko hum background music maan lete hain. Yahan Bollywood ke jo composers hain, isko bina royalty use kar sakte hain, main permission deta hoon,” he said, as the stadium tittered.

The first part of the show showered accolades and gifts on the veteran singer. The line-up ranged from the old (Ramkumar Chattopadhyay, V. Balsara and Nirmala Mishra) to the contemporary (Usha Uthup, Swagatalakshmi Dasgupta and Tejendranarayan Majumdar). Glamour, too, was not lacking, with Satabdi Roy and Indrani Halder showing up, along with Gautam Ghose and Tarun Kumar. The sports fraternity was represented by department minister Subhas Chakraborty and ex-footballer Subrata Bhattacharya.

Dey was sitting on the dais, enjoying every moment of being at the receiving end of the roses. Till Anandji, (of the famous composer duo) took the stage. He got the soundmen to play Aye meri zohra jabeen on the tape and called for “action”. So Manna and wife Sulochana, had to do a close-up, a la Balraj Sahni-Achala Sachdev, much to the lensmen’s delight, before blushingly withdrawing. Ravi, the composer of the song in Waqt, was smiling away all the while.

The stadium broke into applause as Manna Dey came back to take the mike. Starting off with his uncle Krishna Chandra Dey’s song Swapan jodi madhur eman, he rolled off one superhit number after another — Coffee Houser sei addata, Hajar takar jharbatita, Ami je jalshaghore...

After a while Kavita Krishnamurthy joined him in memorable duets — Masti bhara hai sama, A ja sanam and Pyar hua iqrar hua. It was a touching moment as the top singer of today thanked and greeted the veteran, known to have been “a second father” to her.

The close of the evening too was exceptional. Request after request poured in. In the end, Manna himself asked the crowd: “Won’t you go home' Look at my accompanists. Their shirts are dripping with sweat.” The answer was a combined roar of requests for songs left unsung. At 9.30 pm, a full two-and-a-half hours after he took the mike, he stopped. “Go home, now.” It was a voice both tired and moved.

— Sudeshna Banerjee


What women want

Poems and stories, from feminism to Hemingway, written in English, Hindi and Bengali and translated into other languages, winners of myriad awards and international acclaim… It’s an interactive reading session with five women who have distinguished themselves in the field of literature, and a discussion of topics relevant to them.

Sanjukta Dasgupta is an associate professor of English at Calcutta University (CU), and the author of books like Snapshots and Dilemma (two collections of poetry), Selected Essays and A Study in Two Planes of Reality. Next up is Dr Alka Saraogi, winner of the Sahitya Academi Award for Kali-Katha via Bypass.

Poetess Sharmila Ray is the inspiration behind the eastern chapter of the Poetry Society of India. The author of four books has compiled Art and Poetry, a collection of poems from all over the country. Anjana Basu is an ex-professor of English at CU and a former professional in the advertising industry. A prolific writer of short stories, she has just published her first novel, Curses in Ivory. And then there is Shoma Chatterjee, a commentator on cinema, television and gender studies for two decades, and author of The Indian Women’s Search for Identity and Parama and Other Outsiders – The Cinema of Aparna Sen.

Prof Krishna Sen of CU will moderate the event organised by the British Council and the Forum for Contemporary Cultures, on May 5 at the Council.


Princely art

The history of the craft dates back to the Mughal empire. It is the product of a merger between folk art, embroidery and miniature painting, and was once a passtime of the royalty. The exhibition ‘Chamba Rumal: Life to a dying art’ is an effort to breathe new life into it.

Having originated in the princely hill states of north India, the embroidery work was done in a square format and in folk style. It is based on miniatures, being heavily influenced by it. There are depictions of mythological scenes like from Raasmandal and Krishna legends, on cotton, with the embroidery in silk yarn dyed in natural colours. The stitch is double satin, with the distinctive factor being that Rumals are do-rukha, or reversible.

At the beginning of the last century, the fading away of the feudal system meant a loss of patronage and the subsequent decline of the art form. About five years ago, the Delhi Crafts Council took up the project of restoring the Rumal collections in Indian museums. A dozen selected have been successfully restored, and the exhibition has travelled the country. Keep an eye out for the Chamba Rumals on May 7, at the Birla Academy of Art and Culture.


Brush of creativity

Six women, most of whom had passed out of the Indian College of Art and Draftsmanship in 1963, decided about two years ago to rekindle the spark of creativity in themselves and take up the brush once again. Only one of them, Katayun Saklat, is a practising artist and works extensively in stained glass. So in late 2001, they formed a group named Friends, and the ladies, all housewives save Saklat, began to draw and paint in right earnest, once their husbands and children left for work, or late in the evening when there was nobody around to disturb them. Last year, Friends held its first exhibition at the Academy of Fine Arts. This year, too, the group decided to do so at the same venue.

After quite some time, Katayun Saklat is showing her stained glass in Calcutta. Although she works on secular themes, too, here religion comes to the fore. The largest work shows a dancing Ganesh. The others are inspired by Zoroastrianism and Buddha. The Navjote initiation ceremony and Zarathustra are represented in all their simple grandeur. Buddha meditates and turns into a skeletal form. Judaism is represented by the many-branched menorah. Occasionally, Saklat uses a pearline colour that is quite unlike the primary shades that give stained glass its rainbow quality.

The other participants are Maya Danda, Mukul Banerjee, Meena Mukherjee, Smrit Sen, and Sankari Sanyal. Three others who joined recently are Purnima Roy, Manik Pal and Kunal Kar. All the artists may have done their homework, but there are some who outshine the others. Mukul Banerjee has created an arresting Statue of Liberty crushing the peace dove to death. Manik Pal shows monkeys delicing each other. Purnima Roy does a competent cityscape. Meena Mukherjee presents sensitive portrayals of women.

This year there were too many works on display. As a result, the walls looked cramped. So, perhaps, they should be screened first.

nRay on VCD: Sandip Ray will release video CDs of Satyajit Ray’s classics Sonar Kella and Pather Panchali at MusicWorld on Saturday at 12.30 pm. According to the RPG Group music retail chain management, the entire Ray repertoire will be available on VCD at the Park Street outlet “within 15 days”.

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