The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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City Lights
First blossom across the seas

Shabana Azmi, Girija Devi, Supriya Devi and Rituparna Sengupta. To be brought before the camera in London, Varanasi, Calcutta and Santiniketan by a Bengali filmmaker. London-based Sangeeta Datta is known as a film historian, singer, documentary maker, lecturer and, for the last few months, as “Ash’s coach” on the sets of Chokher Bali, where she has been assisting Rituparno Ghosh.

Mango Blossoms, Datta’s first feature film, is likely to hit the floors next February in London, where protagonist Swati, to be played by Shabana, is devastated by the news of the death of her husband and child. When the classical singer finds herself unable to sing, she returns to India and her guruji (Girija Devi). Near the ashram, Swati meets a lost man who eventually leads her back to her home in Calcutta, where her mother — Supriya — and sister — Rituparna — live.

Though the cast is largely finalised and the script complete, the search is on for a producer. With the London schedule pushing up costs, she fears the budget will be a hurdle. “Sometimes I wonder if I am being too ambitious, as this is my first project,” reflects Datta. But working in Tollywood for the past few months has given her hope.

“I have spoken to quite a few people who have shown interest,” she adds. Working on Chokher Bali was as much about gaining experience in the local industry as it was about the project itself. “I know now what kind of technicians and actors I want to work with,” smiles the Ph.D in 19th Century English writing.

The stop in Calcutta has seen Datta dabble in other untested waters as well. The Rabindrasangeet singer, who trained under the late Ashoketaru Bandopadhyay, has cut an album, Sakhi Bhabona Kahare Bole, released on April 15. The 39-year-old runs a school, Rabishikha, in London, and has been touring England with two Bharatanatyam and Kathak dancers for ‘Sakhi’, a project that sets dance to Rabindrasangeet on the theme of friendship.

Datta, the mother of two sons, has worked in diverse areas. During her days at Jadavpur University she worked under Jasodhara Bagchi. Having shifted base to Mumbai after marriage, she taught English and film studies at St Xavier’s College. There she worked with guest lecturers such as Shyam Benegal, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Kalpana Lajmi and Shabana. She assisted “family friend” Basu Bhattacharya on his final project, Aastha, but left for England during post-production. She has made two documentaries – The Way I See It, about women filmmakers, and In Search of Durga, which examines the perception of women and children in England of Durga Puja. She has also written a book on Shyam Benegal, published by the British Film Institute.

Opposed to the “uncritical celebration of Bollywood” abroad, with limited representation of the “discourse of parallel cinema”, she has started In Focus, a film society which arranges screenings and talks by Indian filmmakers across England. She has toured with retrospectives on Shabana, Aparna Sen and Om Puri, as well as with Rituparno and Utsav last year.

— Madhumita Bhattacharyya

Earthy collage

In the garb of a dance drama, Metho Surer Arshi is actually a collage of Bengali folk forms, which Sur Bahar, a centre for cultural studies, is slated to debut at Madhusudan Mancha on April 23. Bhatiali, bhawaiyya, leto, domni, pala gaan, kathakatha, dhamail, shaari gaan, panchali, gambhira, jhumur and several other forms have been woven into a storyline that tries to relate the rustic tone with the contemporary. The project has been conceived and developed by Sunil Saha over three years, while Krishna Samaddar has improvised and directed the 36 folk pieces — some traditional and some with modern lyrics set to traditional tunes.

Portal to ad world

Bowled over by Sprite’s attack on Mountain Dew’s ‘do’ campaign' Have your own ideas about ‘Sehwag ki ma’ inspiring a match winning six'

If the beam-break battle seems more exciting than the saas-bahu blows, you may make a career out of the couch habit. Advertising Club, Calcutta, is conducting its first Advertising Career Counselling Workshop on April 19 and 20 at the CMA Auditorium at 1, Shakespeare Sarani (above AC Market). Ad man Sumit Roy, founder-director, Univbrands, will conduct the sessions, held in association with The Telegraph.

Saturday is open to students from Class X to post-graduates, from 9.30 am to 6 pm. The fee of Rs 750 includes course material, lunch and refreshments. Sunday is for graduates and post-graduates interested in enrolling in a six-month part-time training from June 1.

Disciple Isheeta Ganguly performs at the felicitation of Suchitra Mitra at GD Birla Sabhagar on Friday. Governor Viren J. Shah is also present. Picture By Pabitra Das

Freedom fun

To “free a child today” sounds like a lot of work. But on April 24, Calcutta’s know-it-alls will show off how much fun it can be. The annual Free a Child Today — or FACT — Quiz will be held from 6 pm at HHI. Organised by CRY (Child Relief and You), it will be conducted by quizmaster Derek O’Brien.

CRY, a funding agency that works in the area of child rights, charges a participation fee of Rs 8,000, with companies like HTA, Usha Communications, Eveready, Pepsi and HSBC signing up in the past. In its fifth year, Maruti Udyog has lent its muscle to the event, the national finals of which will be held in Delhi on May 10.

Block basics

Thirty years expertise of creating contemporary western and Indian clothes, furnishings and accessories, in India and abroad, with original prints and designs, is in Calcutta at the Anokhi Jaipur store at the Forum, on Elgin Road. All garments, quilts, spreads, throws, cushion cover, table linen, scarves garments, etc, are handmade, from fabric processing to block printing, using vegetable, mineral and chemical dyes.

The company employs a whole community of block-makers (the blocks are carved from wood), hand block printers and crafts people, who produce the goods, including bags and curtains in traditional styles, that are marketed through the Anokhi Jaipur boutiques nationally and internationally.

Beam delights

HBO presents a bouquet of blockbusters as part of Saturday Nights, Superstar Sundays, Friday Double Bill and much more. Catch Arnold Schwarzenegger discovering that he’s been cloned and that his duplicate self is now living with his family in the action-packed sci-fi The 6th Day on April 19.

And on April 26 is Girl, Interrupted starring Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie in her Oscar-winning role, based on Susanna Kaysen’s chronicle of two years at a mental institution.

On April 20, Jean-Claude Van Damme stars as an officer in the Time Enforcement Police, assigned to prevent criminals from travelling to the past with the intent of altering the future in Timecop, while Uma Thurman is a blind woman stalked by a serial killer in the thriller Jennifer Eight on 27th April.

On Friday Double Bill, don’t missmovies like the action-packed Tango & Ash, in which two of LA’s top rival cops framed for murder by a drug lord get their own back, starring Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell on April 25.

A New York socialite transforms her upstate mansion into a menagerie for cats, dogs, birds, chimps, and the titular baby gorilla in Buddy, on April 23. And a dog and a dolphin strike up a friendship that brings two families together in Zeus and Roxanne, on April 30.

For a laugh, watch a desperate producer create a whole new technique of filmmaking to get his dream movie made in the comedy Bowfinger on April 24.

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