The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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City Lights
Mr India back on Calcutta Mail

Seventeen years is a long time. Especially if one is an ever-twinkling star shining bright in one hit production after another in far-away Bollywood. But Calcutta is all set to renew ties with Anil Kapoor.

The intermission has been long. The city had last seen him facing the camera in the Eighties for M.S. Sathyu’s Kahan Kahan Se Guzar Gaye. But come July, Calcutta Mail — where he plays a Bihari man being shadowed in the city — will hit city halls. And there’s more good news in store. With the experience of the shooting stint here fresh in his mind, Mr India is set to put pen to paper for Vande Mataram, a mega Tollywood venture scheduled to take off this winter.

“It must be some 20-21 years since those Kahan Kahan Se… days,” recalls the star over telephone, just back from New York shooting for home production Bewafaa. He was then just a couple of hits old, establishing his credentials in the industry.

But when he flew in to shoot for Calcutta Mail two autumns back, it was Durga Puja time. And the city, caught up in merry festivities, bewitched him. “Dharamtalla, the tube, Babughat, race course, Howrah bridge, both old and new… I remember everything,” he rattles on in one breath. “Every day was a memorable experience. It’s a hazard to be well-known, you know,” sighs the popular star, “We were getting mobbed and had to take recourse to ‘guerrilla-type’ shooting. On some days, when the love and affection of the people became too much, we had to cancel the shoot.” The telephone rings off with a modest laugh.

Kapoor was here in two phases — once alone and another time with Rani Mukherjee and the rest.

But it wasn’t always the movie-mad crowd that stopped the cameras from rolling. Recalls director Sudhir Mishra: “On the first day of our shoot there was a meeting of Mamata Banerjee in town. And the Howrah station (the location) was milling with thousands of people, , who must have come over to join the rally. Once they realised a shoot was on, they just wouldn’t budge, spoiling our day and perhaps the meeting too,” he chuckles. So the crew learnt its lesson. “We would shoot early in the morning. Otherwise, we wrapped up as soon as people got wind, and came back half an hour later,” the award-winning director of Is Raat ki Subah Nahin and Dharavi adds.

About 70 minutes of the two-hour-20-minute film is set in Calcutta. Rima, Rani’s character, is a Bengali. She speaks the language at home, but without “any ish-fish in her lines” — an obvious attempt by Mishra to stay away from Devdas. But otherwise, there is nothing integrally Bengali in the film.

Kapoor feels it is just a matter of progression. “Devdas recreated Bengal on the sets, Calcutta Mail has the city as a background. Now, once I go back for Vande Mataram, the state will be on the Bollywood map,” asserts Kapoor with pride.

“I am doing the film with Prosenjeet, subject to the script,” he volunteers on his own. “Rituparno (Ghosh) and Prosenjeet are involved. So the script should not be a problem…” he quickly adds.

As Kapoor waits for the script meeting in the first week of July (“They are coming over"), actor Prosenjeet who debuts as director with the Hindi venture is making preparations at his end. “There is one sequence at Cellular Jail, which will take us to the Andamans. Otherwise the shooting will be completely in Bengal,” he confirms from Siliguri. Prosenjeet, whose company Golden Moments is producing the film, has complete faith in his choice of Kapoor. “He is a dedicated actor and has just the right rugged look I need for the freedom-fighter character.”

Seventeen years was a long time, indeed. But Kapoor seems to be in a hurry to make up for the break.

— Sudeshna Banerjee

Woman and space

On June 16, 1963, Russia’s Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space as commander of the Vostok-6 spaceship. For the next three days, Tchaika -- her code name for the mission, meaning seagull – orbited the earth as she manually guided the craft. To commemorate the event, Gorky Sadan, the Russian cultural centre in Calcutta, has organised 40th anniversary celebrations, starting in earnest on Tuesday and continuing through the year.

Gorky Sadan, in association with the Youth Guild for Friendship, has organised a sit-and-draw competition for children, followed by a colourful cultural programme by the kids themselves, with the theme being the event. Theatre veteran Usha Ganguly will inaugurate an exhibition on The Art of Ascension, comprising 60 works by 60 women artists. The exhibition will be on till June 20, from 3 pm to 7 pm. Also, freedom fighter Phularenu Guha and minister for parliamentary affairs Prabodh Chandra Sinha will participate in discussions on the Indo-Russian relationship on June 16.

From June 16 to 23, the Eisenstein Cine Club will host a film festival entitled Cinema of Ascension – Films of Understanding. The sessions include the screening of Bagalar Banga Darshan by Ritwik Ghatak on June 16, Titli by Rituparno Ghosh on June 17, Ek Din Pratidin by Mrinal Sen on June 18, Grihayuddha by Buddhadev Dasgupta on June 19 and Parashuramer Kuthar by Nabyendu Chattopadhyay on June 23.

Given the fact that Valentina’s achievement was one giant step for womankind, women’s organisations and eminent personalities will participate in Talks on Ascension on June 20. In addition, Calcutta Astronomy Centre will host a round-table conference on the Legacy of Valentina Tereshkova on June 25, with renowned scientists and astronomers. This will be followed by a screening of Flight For Ever, made for the event itself, which includes footage of and archival material on the mission and the woman.

Alekhine Chess Club will organise a contest, Space for Chess, on June 27. And on June 28, the Bangla folk group Dohar will perform Songs on Ascension.

Art, craft & music

—Artists Circle is opening on Saturday, 6 pm, at 46, Circus Avenue with an exhibition of works of some big names in Bengal art. The participants are veterans such as Paritosh Sen, Lalu Prasad Shaw, Ganesh Haloi, Alok Bhattacharya, Amitabha Banerjee, Prakash Karmakar, Jogen Choudhury, Rabin Mandal, Shyamal Dutta Ray and Sunil Das. There is not a single young artist in this list.

Md Salim, minister, minorities development and welfare department, has been roped in to inaugurate Artist Circle and his letter is proudly displayed on the invitation card.

But Artists Circle is no mere art gallery that only tries to sell art. It has an ambitious goal. The handout says “It is to promote and showcase contemporary art in India and abroad in a significant way.”

It also intends to become “a meeting ground for cross-currents of interdisciplinary creativity with the support of painters, sculptors, art historians, critics, curators, photographers, printmakers and practitioners of gharana music, scholars from diverse disciplines.”

Easier said than done. If Artists Circle keeps half the promises it makes it will be a big boon to the arts scene of Calcutta. It already has a website: This is something few can boast of. We only hope it does not die an untimely death.

—From an art gallery with a mission to a crafts display with a cause. Umang, ‘an exhibition of innovative and aesthetic lifestyle products from all over India’, is coming to town next week. From June 19 to 22, from 10 am to 8 pm, Sangam Hall in The Park Hotel, will play host to the display organised by Real Concepts. “The objective of Umang 2003 is to bring together the unorganised sector from all over India under one roof. It is not a consumer durables expo, but a unique platform for creativity craving expression,” says Piyush K. Servaia of Real Concepts.

—Young talent will take the stage “to bring classical music to the people”. The 24-year-old sarod player Arnab Chakraborty will take the stage for The Sarod Speaks, organised by Hampshire Media and Theatrician, on June 15, at GD Birla Sabhagar, 7 pm. Actor Dhruv Mookerji will lend his voice to “a progressive interpretation of Raga and Time”. Pandit Debasish Sarkar and Anuradha Pal will feature on the tabla. Lee Alison Sibley is the keynote speaker for the event.

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