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Season's greetings with fizz 'n' fun

What do you do when you want to wish all your friends for New Year' Sending mindless SMSs is one option, but Ambuja scion Harsh Neotia thought it better to host a lavish party at Swabhumi, instead.

On January 1, from 7 pm, Rang Manch and Rang Durbar of the heritage park played host to the who's who of Calcutta even as host Harsh stood at the gate to personally welcome everyone. From veteran politician Sougata Roy to the ever-so-beautiful Aparna Sen, from the evergreen Soumitra Chatterjee to today's hero Jeet, they all trooped in. But the biggest buzz, of course, was reserved for Team India skipper Sourav Ganguly.

Once the 500-odd guests settled down, melody took centrestage, but with a Tollywood twist. Actor Arjun Chakraborty took the Rang Manch stage for his first solo show, belting out numbers from his debut album Shudhu Tumi. The original Bengali tracks have been penned and set to music by singer Swagatalakshmi Dasgupta.

Then came the real dhamaka ' Crazy Cousins, a band of brothers and sisters led by Rupa Ganguly, out to rock the pretty people.

(From top): Champagne starts off the first day of the New Year at Flurys; film-maker Aparna Sen and cricket skipper Sourav Ganguly exchange greetings at industrialist Harsh Neotia’s bash at Swabhumi on January 1; actress Rupa Ganguly on song at the same party; Jamaican singer Kaiya Manning regales December 31 revellers by the Oberoi poolside. Pictures by Aranya Sen and Rashbehari Das

The action shifted to the open-air Rang Durbar and guests soon gravitated towards the dance floor. Kicking off with Labonyo purno prano prane esho ' one of Rupa's favourite Tagore songs ' the band soon graduated to a host of popular numbers from Bengali and Hindi films.

From Kon shey alo (Teen Bhuboner Pare) and Mein khayal (Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin) and Tu hi re (Bombay) to hit pop numbers like Bheegi bheegi raaton mein, the Crazy Cousins consisting of Rupa, Shona, Joyita, Shuvo, Sayantan, Dhruvo and Joy had something for everyone.

Members of the Bengali tele brigade were the first to take to the dance floor which inspired even Rupa to step down from her lofty performance platform, join the others on the floor and steal the spotlight to Bahon mein chale aao.

Munch followed melody with a yummy Indian spread packed with kebabs, daal, roti, paratha and steaming gulab jamuns to beat the winter chill. A great way to start the New Year.

Bubbly break

Champagne breakfast for New Year's day in Calcutta. Time to call Coleridge' Not really, for a little willing suspension of disbelief was required at Flurys on Saturday.

The revamped and remixed Park Street tea-room decided to flag off 2005 with glasses of sparkling champagne. For every sit-down order placed on January 1, Flurys offered a glass of champagne for just Rs 100. 'It's not only a first-of-a-kind for the city but also a very new concept in the country,' claimed Nitin Warikoo, manager of Flurys. 'And the response was quite impressive. Almost 75 per cent of all those who came in for a bite ordered champagne.'

If Flurys has been remodelled on the lines of a European caf' of the 90s, the concept of the champagne breakfast, too, was in tune with the European way of celebrating the first day of the year.

Jamaican jive

The clear blue waters of the Oberoi pool reflected a mellow mood as a select gathering fringed it to enjoy an evening of music, good food and drinks into the New Year.

At a short distance was a shimmering patch of yet more blue, draping the sensuous frame of Jamaican sensation Kaiya Manning, the star attraction at the New Year's Eve celebration, after regaling guests at The Grand's Chowringhee Bar through the Christmas week.

While the food menu included an extensive international buffet comprising live counters dotted with sizzling charcoal corners, Kaiya came up with a rocking repertoire of reggae, jazz, blues and rock ' roll.

Her sonorous voice apart, the singer known to have done opening acts for the likes of James Brown, Eddy Floyd and Aretha Franklin was in full swing, circulating among guests and getting them on the floor.

Kaiya was also the emcee for the evening, announcing cash prizes and holiday packages, part of the celebrations at the heritage hotel. 'I like giving out prizes' Maybe deep down I am a gambler,' laughed Kaiya, as the guests lingered over their candle-lit dinner with the bubbly sparkling at the odd table under the star-lit sky.

Family fare

It was a complete family's day out at Fusion, the restaurant and lounge at The Golden Park on New Year's Eve. To meet the rush, the wooden dance floor was extended and the menu made more elaborate by adding some exotic Indian dishes and new cocktails. Doing the appetiser act was the Dance Crush Troop from Europe. DJ Suraj kept the diners going with tracks like Macarena, Un dos tres and Where do you go.

Kid's stuff

Even as most of Calcutta indulged in an overdose of bacchanalian revelry, there were some who stuck to Pepsi on the rocks throughout New Year's Eve.

Relieved guardians accompanied adolescent wards to the non-alcoholic party hosted by 89 Cinemas in the first floor lobby of the multiplex.

The young adults grooved on the make shift dance floor in the lobby, high on soft drinks, mocktails and cold coffee.

Parents watched the live show from the sidelines at the three-hour gala, munching popcorns all the while. But even this harmless fun proved too much to take for a few folks, who pressed hard on their ears to cut out the thumping music!

But for the bunch of youngsters, most of whom seemed to have ventured out post 9 pm for the first time, it was possibly the best New Year's gift ever.

Hoot toot

The news of the Hooters from Texas flying in to add a naughty twist to the New Year tale in the city spread like wildfire.

most the whole of Calcutta made a beeline for The Park banquets to witness the fun. The excited lot started trickling in from 9 pm onwards and by the time the first performance was due to start two hours later, both spirits and expectations had grown as much as the queue outside.

The rowdy crowd's reaction to the first flash of skin was enough indication for the authorities that the city still has a way to go before it can take public adult entertainment in its stride.

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