The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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City Lights
Lights, belts, karting action

As the hands of the clock inch towards midnight, the track heats up and the rubber begins to burn. The murmur rises to an excited chatter among the onlookers as another helmeted head whizzes past under the strong halogen lights.

Welcome to a new chapter in the nightlife of Calcutta, set to unfold at Clown Town, the amusement park off the EM Bypass. From mid-September, the karting track, which has been staying open till 9 pm for the past couple of weeks, will close at 11 pm. And during the Pujas, shutdown time will be pushed back even further.

Says Sanjay Maheswari, director, Clown Town: “We want to promote karting as a nightsport, so that people can enjoy it even on weekdays after work. The only options now are discos and pubs. But there are many people who are sick of both.” The restaurant also stays open as late as the karting track. So it is a dinner outing for the family that is on offer, he points out.

The extended hours are testimony to the rising popularity of the sport. After tasting Formula 1 on ESPN, the speed thrill is ultimately here to be had first hand. Says Rajat Majumdar, president, Bengal Motor Sports Club: “I have seen even mothers try their hand at the wheel with kids in their laps. Of course, they do not hit top gear but neither do they like to be left out.”

Shubhra Biswas, who drives a Maruti, came to the Patuli park all the way from Salt Lake for her maiden lap on the track and loved hitting what she thought “must have been the 100 kph mark”. “On Calcutta streets, you have no choice but to crawl with the crowd of cars. My best is 60 kph on the Bypass. But here I could just press on the accelerator and let go.” She did leave her nine-month-old with a relative on the ‘safe’ side of the siderails, but other older kids are full of enthusiasm.

The fastest drivers, according to Maheswari, are the 10 and 11-year-olds. “They take the first five laps to get the feel, and then you just have to see them zoom off,” he laughs. Age eight is the lowest limit at Clown Town.

Yet, it is the nine-to-fivers who have influenced the decision to add the late hours. Shibaji Roy, owner of a shop in Gariahat, is a regular at Clown Town on weekends, along with businessman friends Yogesh Mullick and Ajit Sharma. “By the time the day’s work is done, all the tracks in the city are closed. But if karting is on at night, we would love to come over on weekdays too. Karting is bound to be more comfortable in the cool night air,” he says, while buckling on his helmet strap.

Explaining the rise in popularity, Majumdar says: “Karting is a safe sport. Since the karts have such a low centre of gravity, they do not turn turtle although you feel the same thrill as in F-1 races.”

Vicky Chandok, president, Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India, says over telephone from Chennai: “Two years ago, we had five tracks across the country. Today we have 60. If Calcutta keeps its tracks open for longer hours, it will no doubt be a big boost for karting.”

And considering Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandok, India’s top racing stars, rose from karting tracks, the miles clocked in the dark can lead to a bright future.

— Sudeshna Banerjee

Birthday bash

It’s celebration time on Park Street as Someplace Else, that popular haunt of music lovers at The Park, plans its ninth anniversary in style. A weeklong musical extravaganza, from August 23 to August 30, is what has been lined up.

The birthday bash promises to come alive with the best of rock ’n’ roll, hard rock, jazz, blues and new-age music, from favourites like Pam Crain, Louis Banks and Lou Majaw, among others.

The festivities begin with a rendition of evergreen tunes, from Chicago to Mississippi, with The Saturday Night Blues Band, followed by Hip Pocket, featuring Lou Majaw, founding father of the Great Society of Music, on August 23. With the likes of Nondon Bagchi on the drums, the band will belt out old favourites of The Doors, The Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin and Jimmy Hendrix, to name a few.

On August 26, rock on with Krosswindz, performing cover versions of hard-rock bands. The Orient Express takes over on August 28, with the rhythms of South America. Monojit Dutta, along with his 10-member band and an array of exotic instruments, will not only perform familiar Latin tunes, but also Latin adaptations of popular songs.

For the grand finale, on August 30, the line-up will feature Skinny Alley, with Louis Banks on the keyboard and Pam Crain’s voice, for a trip down memory lane. Not to forget, during the festival, you can drop in and do your own thing, jamming live with DJ Austin.

So, if you’re in the mood for music, join the party and dance the week away.

Flight of fashion

He’s the “first choreographer from Calcutta” to be invited to do a fashion show in the capital. And for Ashish Banerjee of Rampedge, the point of pride is the fact that he’s been chosen “over a host of well-known names” in the business. So, he’s off for his Delhi debut on September 6.

The fashion competition, organised by Delhi-based Real Events, will showcase the works of around 15 young and upcoming designers from the north. Being held at the Hyatt, the design awards features names like Rohit Bal, Ritu Kumar and Sylvie on the judges panel. And models like Koena Mitra, Tapur and Tupur Chatterjee, Aditi Gowitrikar and Fleur Xavier will walk the ramp dressed in bridal wear, saris and salwar suits, the three categories being judged. The winner will get prizes worth Rs 3.25 lakh, and the show will travel to Hyderabad and Chennai later this year for similar fashion contests in the south.

Screen story

It’s a “mini film festival”, but of the literary kind. The theme is Adapting Films from Literature, the setting is the American Center. The panellists included the likes of writers, film critics and film-makers. The screening of some famous films followed discussions on the eternally controversial subject of the pros and cons of literary adaptations on the silver screen.

From authors Ernest Hemingway, Arthur Miller and Arthur C. Clarke to film-makers John Ford and Stanley Kubrick, the debate spanned decades, issues and continents, and included novels, short stories and plays, with the panellists talking about their own experiences as well as the more well-known examples.

The audience, comprising students and teachers of film studies and literature, listened with rapt attention to the lectures and threw up their own observations in the quest-and-answer sessions. It began on August 19, with writer Dibyendu Palit, film critic Samik Bandyopadhyay and film-maker Malay Bhattacharya talking about Page to Screen — Prospects and Challenges, with an introduction to Grapes of Wrath by film critic S.V. Raman.

On August 20, Salzburg Seminar returnee Subhabrata Bhattacharya spoke about American Playwrights on Silver Screen, while A Streetcar Named Desire and Death of a Salesman were shown. On August 22, Somnath Zutshi discussed Adapting the Fantastic, followed by 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Saturday will find Samik Banerjee giving a talk on Filming Hemingway: Faulkner’s Version, and To Have and Have Not will be screened, followed by editor of Seagull Books, Sudeshna Banerjee’s views on Lucino Visconti and European Adaptations and a screening of Death in Venice.

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