At the stroke of the midnight hour, when India will awake to a new year, Calcutta will be crowned the country’s party capital.
Hear it from the Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL), which collects royalty on behalf of major music labels from party spots across the country playing copyrighted music for commercial purposes.
“New Year’s Eve parties in Mumbai are down by more than 50 per cent this time. People would rather be at home with the family. Even till last week, we couldn’t send legal notices to hotels and clubs there as so many of them were reporting cancellation of events,” says Soumya Chowdhury, the country head (events) of PPL.
Delhi too is dull. “Under normal circumstances, we were hoping Delhi would catch up with Mumbai this year. But Delhi is down by about 20 per cent. And down south, the party scene has been hit by 20 to 30 per cent. The December 31 parties in Calcutta, in comparison, have been the least affected,” adds Chowdhury.
That’s evident from the rush for entry passes into party zones around town in the final countdown to 2009.
“We don’t have a single pass left. It’s a full house. The craze for passes peaked on the first day (December 28) itself. People want to enjoy and relax and start the New Year with a smile,” says Jaideep Gangopadhyay of Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC).
The festive spirit that set in on Christmas Eve is waiting to peak with New Year’s Eve. “For the 24th Nite party, most city clubs were jam-packed. The Mumbai terror attacks have touched everyone, but we have to move on and lead our lives. Calcutta is really ready to party on Wednesday night,” says Rajen Sood, the president of Saturday Club.
The midnight mood at the 31st Nite in clubs, held in association with The Telegraph, is matched by popular private parties. Rikki Dewan of BTP (Born To Party) Rocks On at Swabhumi, in association with t2, was bracing for a low-key affair this year but the response has been anything but. “The enthusiasm is encouraging. With economic meltdown and global fear because of terror attacks, we want to tell the people to get over the past and rock on,” says Dewan.
In Mumbai, ‘rock on’ this 31st would only mean songs from the film Rock On!! that are sure to play at small private parties, where all the midnight action will be. The celebrations are muted with the biggest casualty being the entertainment quotient. Budgets have been slashed by as much as 40 per cent.
“The terror attack is a very important reason, but the bigger culprit is the meltdown. No one plans to spend big this time,” says the general manager of a leading suburban luxury hotel in Mumbai.
The other major spoilsport is the police advisory to end New Year parties in Mumbai half an hour after midnight. “How can one party with police keeping a close watch?” demands Suraj Bhatia, a garment exporter.
Neither splurge concern nor security cover can spoil the party mood in Calcutta, where the revelry promises to stretch till dawn.
If the club passes here cost between Rs 250 and Rs 1,000, access to the VIP zone of private parties can cost Rs 6,000.
“Come on, this meltdown till now is more in the mind than in the wallet. Why deny ourselves a memorable all-night party?” demands Ramesh Agarwal, a 25-year-old businessman, who is likely to spend “Rs 10,000-12,000” on the last night of the year.
The party people in town will take security checks in their stride, feel the clubs.
“We had a meeting with Lalbazar officers and have accordingly installed CCTVs, metal detectors and increased the number of securitymen,” says Deepankar Nandi, the CEO of CC&FC, which hosted 1,400 on 24th night and expects at least 2,500 on 31st.
None of Delhi’s party places can hope to come even close to such footfall on Wednesday, as people have decided to stay indoors.
The hospitality industry in the capital blames the slump on three reasons — many are reluctant to spend because of the dread of downturn; some are wary of hotels and crowded spots after post-26/11; a few do feel this is not the time to celebrate.
With small get-togethers with friends and family being the order of the night, the hotels are the hardest hit. Occupancy in Delhi’s star hotels is down 40 per cent this December and New Year parties have either been scrapped or slashed.
The fact that the 31st midnight action in Calcutta has traditionally been in clubs rather than hotels has helped this time. “There is a sense of security and comfort when it comes to clubs. So there should be a good turnout on Wednesday night,” says Air Commodore K.B. Menon of Tollygunge Club.
So, where’s the party tonight? Calcutta, of course!