A jamming session at Trincas this July
Deepak ‘Sunny’ Puri vividly remembers how the roads use to be washed clean every morning and street-lamps lit religiously in the evenings. The horse-drawn carriages, the regal residential mansions, the bright neon signs and, of course, wonderful food and pounding live music.
Those were heady days on Park Street, Calcutta’s first corridor of entertainment. And if the incurably romantic owner of Trincas — once the fountainhead of all that jazz and more — has his way, the revelry raj could well be back to where it belonged.
“Over the years, Park Street has lost some of its old-world charm, but it still remains a very important part of life in Calcutta. If all the stakeholders realise this and work together, there’s no reason why the past glory of the street can’t be restored,” says Puri.
Along with wife Shashi, he has embarked on ‘mission salvage’ with great zeal and in rare earnest. The first step was an attempt at luncheon theatre inside the landmark restaurant, when Theatrecian did a one-act comedy to send a leisurely Sunday afternoon crowd into splits. “It was a great success, much more than we had bargained for, and the relaxed air about the performance had the audience totally involved. A lot of theatre personalities have since evinced interest and carrying the Sunday lunch theatre show forward is a distinct possibility,” observes Puri.
If histrionics had been good for starters, music has to be the main course on the Trincas reinvention menu. “Music has always been synonymous with this place and from Molly to Eve to the inimitable Usha (Uthup), we have had a string of wildly popular singers entertaining diners at Trincas in the 60s and 70s,” says Shashi Puri, herself a keen pianist.
The Puris want to make live music the fulcrum of their Park Street plans. For old-timers, a throwback to the Usha and Benny Rosario days was served up with the Ode to Elvis evening earlier this month, when perennial favourites Shiva rocked the house along with Pam Craine, Nondon Bagchi, Jayshree, Anjum Katyal and others.
Apart from more such theme evenings in the pipeline, Trincas has given a platform to budding rock bands in town to flaunt their fret-boards and vocal chords every last Sunday of the month.
Pride was the first act at Rockbaaji hosted at The Tavern, the cosy annexe bar of Trincas. Barefoot is booked to showcase their talent this Sunday.
“The idea was to enliven the atmosphere at The Tavern on Sunday evenings, trying to bring back a little bit of what used to be Park Street in those days. After all, we had clung to our live music even when there was a 30 per cent entertainment tax, and today’s youngsters have rediscovered the joys of live music,” says Shashi.
To go with its music mantra, the old eating house is keen to promote preferred items from old Park Street cuisine like prawn cocktail, roast chicken and chilli-garlic noodles. “After all, we introduced drums of heaven and Szechwan food in Calcutta,” smiles Sunny.
— Subhro Saha
Fusion-jazz aficionados of Calcutta can look forward to a great autumn-winter fare served up by frontline international musicians. Friends of Drums, an experimental musical movement launched last year to break barriers in form and genre and to support talented musicians fallen on hard times, has grand plans to invite on board a few jazz legends this year.
“We are talking to a host of big names in jazz to come and share the stage with us, and legendary flautist Paul Horn is almost certain to perform in Calcutta this winter,” says versatile tabla exponent Subhen Chatterjee, who along with Sivamani and Lew Hilt, had kicked off Friends.
Subhen, who has played with Horn and other international icons like David Crosby, Peter Gabriel and Keith Jarret, is in dialogue with Jarret for a possible gig in the city. British tenor saxophonist Jesse Bannister is also likely to regale Calcutta audiences from the platform this December.
And then there’s Siva’s flamboyance on his assorted kit of cymbals, snares, octopan, bells and other percussion instruments. Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia, who had performed with Friends last year, is expected to join the gang again, while the likes of Shankar Mahadevan and Hariharan are also slated to add to the medley magic.
Rakshanda Khan in town to promote Sony’s megaserial Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahinthat premieres on September 1, taking on Sahara’s Karishma. Picture by Aranya Sen
It’s aesthetics all the way for Lamhaus, the TV channel waiting for a May 2004 launch, under the creative leadership of veteran film-maker Vijay Anand.
The small screen charm has not yet waned for the actor-writer-producer, who has had considerable success with serials Tehkikat and one on Indian soldiers.
Anand is now vying for a sizeable chunk of the telly audience, with his fingers firmly crossed. “It’s my dream channel and I am very confident that I will be able to push it in the right direction,” says Anand, in town recently to attend a meeting with the governing council of Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI). Anand is an executive member in the council.
The content will be an aesthetically-pleasing package of soaps, short plays, dance, music and documentaries, with a dash of news. But Dev Anand’s elder brother is wary of disclosing too much about the channel, floated on a Rs 250-crore budget by Lamhaus Communications.
“Ideas get robbed very easily,” he says. Anand intends to form a committee of literary experts from across the country, which will scour for stories from vernacular literature. He is already in talks with dancer Tanushree Shankar for a dance drama based on Tagore and tailored for TV.
A special slot beaming the best programmes of the rival channels promises to be an unusual draw. And once Lamhaus clicks with the audience, Anand is keen on taking on three more channels exclusively for health, business and full-length feature films.
Nandan is headed for a break from tradition when it attains adulthood next week. The authorities are hosting a low-key 18th anniversary celebration, with an accent on talent-spotting rather than stardom, youth rather than age-old.
Budding film-makers and young cinegoers will take over the mecca of Calcutta’s film culture for five days from September 2. A bouquet of 16 diploma films by the first and second-year batches of SRFTI will be screened to mark the event.
“Earlier, we used to screen new films or a package of old and new films to mark the occasion. Later, we shifted to retrospectives. But all this had become stale and the footfall has started to drop. So, this time we decided to do something different… Capturing the thoughts of film school graduates seemed a good idea. In fact, quite a few of the SRFTI lot are very talented and a couple of shorts have already done the international film festival rounds,” says Nandan chief Ansu Sur.
The inaugural session will be kicked off at Nandan I with Tridib Poddar’s Khoj, Nilanjan Banerjee’s Chhota Aasman and Sandeep Chattopadhyay’s Sundar Jeebon (all second-year projects).
Nandan has extended an open-door invitation to institutions teaching film-making for the screenings, at 5 pm and 6.30 pm at Nandan II, with all the shorts being repeated for the convenience of students.