Its the start of the year and time to look into our crystal ball and divine the future. Calcuttas entertainment scene is alive with a rich mix of opportunity and talent. Weve looked at nine of the brightest and the best who are making a mark in theatre, music and the movie industry and whove caught the eye of the critics. This isnt an exhaustive list by any stretch of imagination and there are many others who are waiting in the wings to make the big time.
Of course, success in the long run depends on a crucial combination of perseverance and hard work and its impossible to predict who will burn out and who wont.
But these youngsters are giving the citys entertainment scene a new buzz.
Trina Nileena Banerjee
Actor / Director
People often expect Trina Nileena Banerjee to be older than she is. Thats because she has a resumé as long as her arm, which even
veterans would be happy to show off. But Banerjee is a 20-something theatre person and her work — as an actor as well as director — have made
audiences and critics sit up and take notice.
According to veteran director Bivas Chakraborty, what makes Trina stand out is her command over both Bengali and English diction, powerful expression and internalisation of the character she portrays.
|Trina in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
The youngsters work in plays like Mitrapuran (by Vijay Tendulkar, which she
directed) and Ntozake Shanges Coloured Girls Who Have Considered Suicide (where she played the lead),
directed by theatre critic and Jadavpur Univeristy professor Dr Ananda Lal, won her accolades. According to Lal, Trinas directorial strength lies in her concern over womens issues and her sensitive handling of them.
The youngster, who is writing her PhD thesis on women in Bengali group theatre, has made her presence felt on screen as well. Her first film, Nisshabd, won her the best actress award at the Osian film festival in Delhi in 2005. She has also been praised for her role in Chaturanga (directed by Suman Mukhopadhyay in 2008). Trina also directed and acted in several plays produced by her father, Salil Bandyopa-dhyays group, Theatron, like Tom Stoppards Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and Tennessee Williams The Glass Menagerie.
Academics was always an extra-curricular activity, jokes this talented actor, who claims to have acting and singing in her blood. Just 25 years old, Damini Mukherjee has worked with the some of the biggest names in Bengali theatre, be it Bivas Chakraborty, Usha Ganguly or Soumitra Chatterjee.
These days, Mukherjee is rehearsing to play a psychiatrist who attempts to treat a young man, in Peter Shaffers 1973 play Equus. The play is being directed by award-winning director Vikram Iyengar and will be staged in April. Her current play, Debesh Chakrabortys Surjo Pora Chai, has been running to packed houses in the city.
|Damini in Surjo Pora Chai. Pix by Pronob Basu
Damini has worked with a range of theatre directors. That helps her bring in clarity in terms of the text when shes acting. She doesnt need to be guided all the time. In fact, she also provides her own inputs, says Iyengar.
When she was part of my group, Rangakarmee, we noticed how she was totally free from mannerisms and at the same time, very intense. Shes ambitious and open to all kinds of theatre, says Usha Ganguly.
Damini stepped into the limelight early, in her mother Bhadra Basus productions — Khirer Putul (by Abanindranath Tagore) and Kankabatir Golpo (by Troilokyanath). At 17, she acted in Gangulys Mukti. A fan of Anton Chekhov, Bernard Shaw and Ibsen, Mukherjee has also acted in several plays staged by her father Asit Basu, including a play by Utpal Dutt called Manusher Adhikare.
Actor / Director
Plays, films, television, radio — theres no pie Dhruv Mookerjis hasnt stuck his finger into. But its theatre that is the 27-year-olds passion, his comfort zone.
Whats fascinating about Mookerji is that hes happy to dash from the studios of Red FM (he hosts a comedy show on Sundays) to the theatre — hes a founder member of the Theatrician group. In between all this, he has also acted in films like Mira Nairs The Namesake, Anjan Dutts Chalo Lets Go and is looking forward to Kaushik Gangulys Brake Fail, where he is also the assistant director, and Anjan Dutts Hindi film BBD.
|Dhruv plays the prosecutor in The Bottled Spider
Mookerji has directed plays like Harold Pinters The Birthday Party (in which he also acted), Tom Stoppards The Real
Inspector Hound and Terry Pratchetts The Wyrd Sisters. Most recently, he acted in and directed a show of three comic plays — The Bottled Spider, The Marriage Proposal and The Philadelphia. Says theatre critic Dr Ananda Lal: Comedy is Dhruvs strength. Though it would be good to see him take up more challenging plays now.
Mookerji says hes willing to try almost anything. Its true that as a director Ive stuck mostly to comedies. But Im looking at a few good scripts for a horror play, he says.
At 28, this youngster is definitely rocking to all the right tunes. With his compositions from Chalo Lets Go (2008) and The Bong Connection (2007) still on peoples lips, Neel Dutt is geared for a slew of new releases in 2009 — BBD, directed by his father Anjan Dutt, Cross Connection by Sudeshna and Rana, Brake Fail by Kaushik Ganguly and Chowrasta: Crossroads of Love, also by Dutt.
|Neel at work in the studio with his
father Anjan Dutt and Amyt Datta
(on the guitar)
And amid all this, the composer makes time for his five-member band Friends of Fusion, where he is on the nylon strings (classical guitar) and electric lead. The first Friends of Fusion album is slated for a nation-wide release in February. Weve treated Hindustani classical music with a populist spin. The instruments used are all Western and the ragas are treated as songs, is all Neel will reveal now.
But what hes really excited about is Anjan Dutts untitled film, a rock musical that revolves around a bunch of teenagers trying to form a band. This is a dream project. Ive drawn inspiration from my rock idols like Jimi Hendrix and Mark Knopfler, used Sufi rock, and got musicians like Gyan Singh and Amyt Datta on the soundtrack, Neel says ebulliently.
While classic rock, blues and jazz top his personal playlist, Neel is open to all musical genres in his compositions. Says Bangla rocker Rupam Islam: Neel has broken the monotony of Bengali film music.
Calcutta, Goa, Delhi, London, Paris — his voice is casting its spell around the world. And Indian classical vocalist Parthasarathi Desikan is naturally thrilled.
The Musée Guimet in Paris has invited the 33-year-old for a solo concert tour in February. In March, Desikan will regale audiences in the United Kingdom with his singing. Back home, more concerts across the country are on the anvil.
|Parthasarathi, engrossed in a
performance, at the Barrackpore Sangeet Sammelan
But thats not all. With fingers firmly on the audiences pulse, hes currently working on a novel fusion project that involves composing and singing bhajans to Western music. A good beat inspires audiences. Thats the reason why bhangra is so popular in the West, says Desikan.
Says percussionist Bickram Ghosh, who had Parthasarathi sing for his fusion concert, Rhythmscape: Desikan is one of those rare singers who can adapt to a variety of genres — be it classical, playback, new age fusion and even modern songs.
The vocalist, who also plays the swaramandala (harp), has had a stint with films too, singing playback for Gramophone (a Malayalam film) and Shotabdir Golpo (Bengali).
Jivraj Jiver Singh is making quite a buzz in the music circuit. Ask anyone about this young drummer and the feedback is unanimous — brilliant.
Having blown away audiences at live music hotspots in Calcutta and Bangalore, Jiver, whos barely 21, also won rave reviews for his performances at the Eastwind Festival and At Home Festival in New Delhi and at the Blue Frog in Mumbai.
|Jiver performs with his mother, Jayashree Singh, at Opus, Bangalore. Pix by Carlton Braganza
Son of vocalist Jayashree Singh and bassist Gyan Singh, Jiver is on the drums for Pink Noise — a hugely popular band on the live performance circuit.
Whats special about Jiver is his musical thinking. Its very advanced — the kind that usually develops through a lot of experience, says Pink Noises guitarist Datta. Even if its a cover, Jiver will devise a unique way to play it out, he adds.
The youngster is currently studying to be a filmmaker.
But he gets his biggest kicks doing live gigs. Live performance is the most important purpose of music and the most expressive outlet for musicians, says Jiver.
When he can spare time from Pink Noise and devouring Stanley Kubrick and Werner Herzog films, the youngster works on Pitch Blende — a project with some friends in college, he says, which includes the sarod, guitar, bass and keyboards. Whats their kind of sound? Its a hybrid project and we dont have any general references yet. Hopefully, Ill be able to call it Pitch Blende mush, he says.
Nitesh Sharma of Bangla Talkies dares to dream big — and out of the box. His efforts have not gone unnoticed. Sharmas production Padakkhep won two National Awards for Best Actor and Best Bengali Film in 2008.
For his upcoming venture, the Quashik Mukherjee-directed Bish, Sharma is gearing up for a simultaneous theatre and online release along with a Mumbai-based online movie rental service. The 33-year-old is also in talks with a UK-based production company for an English thriller.
|Sharma receiving the National Award for Padakkhep from President Pratibha Patil
Sharma is gearing up for an unusual release for a string of digital films over the first half of 2009. Also on the anvil is the Nandana Sen-starrer Kaler Rakhal, co-produced by Bangla Talkies. Not content with all this, Sharma has plans to get into television. I want to do subject-oriented films which arent hardcore commercial, he says.
Sharma started production with serials and ad and corporate films in 1995. Then he joined G.P. Films and was the executive producer for the National Award-winning Dahan. In 2003, he moved to Mumbai where he started work for Sanjay Leela Bhansalis Black but chucked it all and returned to Calcutta. He turned down Bhansalis offer to get back because he wanted to be his own boss. I realised I have potential and started Bangla Talkies, says Sharma, who plans to don the directors cap in 2010.
As a producer, he is supportive and completely transparent. Hes trying to do good films and a bit of luck will see him go a long way, says director Rangan Chakravarty.
|Pix by Anindya Shankar Ray
When all the producers were putting their money on regular commercial fare, Joy Ganguly of Moxie Group thought differently. The business management graduate from the US invested in a young concept and produced The Bong Connection, which ushered in the New Age multiplex movie era in Tollywood.
The film earned over a crore and is still generating business. Moxies next venture Via Darjeeling was well-received by festival audiences.
|A still from Ganguly’s production, Brake Fail
Now the 28-year-old is all set to release four movies — Kaushik Gangulys Brake Fail, Gaurab Pandes Shukno Lanka, Birsa Dasguptas 033 and Anjan Dutts BBD. Moxie will be shooting Gautam Halders Mukti and Mainak Bhaumiks Maach Mishti & More in March. Ganguly is in the process of creating a subsidiary company in the US, which will be responsible for sales and distribution of independent and regional Indian films.
After his studies in the US, Ganguly and his brother set up a BPO. It didnt work. Meanwhile, he started organising events and did some short films. In late 2005, Moxie Entertainment (then Moxie India) was formed. I wanted to part of the booming film and media industry, he recalls.
Says director Anjan Dutt: Joys passion, adventurous spirit and the courage to be different is what makes him stand out.
Pijus Saha is one of those rare film producers whos not afraid to give his creative streak full rein. He is, after all, a storywriter too. After the 2008 superhit Bajimat, which he wrote and produced, Saha is all set to shoot his next and yet untitled venture, written by him and directed by Sujit Guha. Hes also in talks with a Mumbai-based director for a bilingual movie, shooting for which starts in March. Saha also plans to do mega-serials. He plans to start shooting another film, Lorai, by March.
Saha wanted to become an actor as a kid. I used to buy projection machines and film reels from the fairs and even sell tickets for a show, he laughs. He finally got into films with the Swapan Saha directed
|Mithun Chakraborty shakes a leg in Saha’s Tulkalam
Shotrur Muqabla, co-produced by Pijus. After co-producing a couple of other movies, Saha launched his own company, Prince Entertainment in 2003 because he wanted to expand and do different kinds of projects.
His first venture, the Prosenjit-starrer Gyarakal, was a huge hit and he hasnt looked back since. Other hit movies like Raju Uncle (2005), Tulkalam (2007) and Bajimat followed turning Saha into one of the hottest producers of Tollywood.
For the 32-year-old, both creativity and the commercial aspect of films are important. He doesnt believe in producing more than two movies a year. His dream? To bring back the flavour of old Bengali films.