The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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River rendezvous for glory gala
- Govt backs seven-hour extravaganza to mark New Year’s Day

A boat-ride down the Hooghly alongside illuminated ships and decked-up barges. Strains of Indian classical, baul gaan and Bangla rock fused with Rabindrasangeet. Stagecraft, laser shows and fireworks. Nizam’s rolls and Bijoli Grill’s fish fry…

It’s magic by the waterfront this New Year’s Day, and everyone is invited. ‘Let’s Celebrate Calcutta’, a seven-hour entertainment-arts-food fusion on the Strand, promises to provide the perfect platform to party. Put together by the West Bengal Tourism Department, Concern For Calcutta, Spandan and Showhouse, with support from the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, the extended riverside party is a January 1 resolution to “create a better Calcutta”.

For once, the government will lend its muscle to the masti marathon from the Man-O-War jetty to the start of the Strand. “The idea is to project Calcutta’s inherent cultural heritage and make it accessible to the masses. If it works, we can even turn it into an annual fair, like they have in Times Square, New York,” says R.K. Tripathi, principal secretary, tourism.

The mood of the open-air bash will be “inclusive” and the fare widely diverse. One could find Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty sharing the spotlight with pop diva Sharon Prabhakar and Bangla band Bhoomi; Mrinal Sen and Soumitra Chatterjee, Paritosh Sen and Ganesh Pyne, Bhaichung Bhutia and Jose Ramirez Barreto…

“Somewhere down the line, Calcutta has lost its spontaneity. The Strand bash is an effort to recreate our past glory and restore the faith. Closed-door New Year bashes are out of bounds for most Calcuttans. This offers an opportunity for them all to usher in the New Year,” says A.V. Iyengar of Concern For Calcutta.

Initially, the organisers had planned a nightlong gala, but settled for the 2 pm to 9 pm affair instead. “Security and the chill factor were the main concerns. Besides, the whole idea is to enable as many people as possible to come to the show,” says Renu Roy of Spandan.

Showhouse, which is producing the extravaganza on the waterfront expected to draw around 25,000 people, hopes to turn it into an annual milestone in the Calcutta calendar. “This party by Calcuttans for Calcuttans will become a landmark, like the Khajuraho Dance Festival and the Konarak Beach Festival,” promises Omer Haidar, director, Showhouse.

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