Pawan Ruia has arrived. Not because of what he has done with Jessop or Dunlop, but what he is about to do on Wednesday night — host a high-profile “cocktails and dinner” as part of the 12th Calcutta Film Festival.
The annual cultural show is chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s baby (even more so than the Book Fair), so the significance of being chosen as the host for a festival party is lost on none.
“Hosting a film festival dinner is a big thing for a city-based businessman. It’s the perfect platform to send out the message that you are close to the establishment,” says an industrialist who lobbied hard to play host this time and lost.
The winner was the reclusive Ruia, who could not have hoped for a better entry point into the city’s social circuit. “Jessop and Dunlop have got a lot of attention and so I think we have to come into the limelight now,” said Ruia, ready to shed the ‘outsider’ tag and enter the inner circle.
“We wanted to contribute to the film festival and they (the festival committee) suggested that we host a dinner,” he explained.
Is this a pat on the back for being close to the chief minister' “I think the chief minister is close to the opening of Dunlop, not Pawan Ruia,” declared the festival debutant.
Clearly, Dunlop has been Pawan Ruia’s passport to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s good books and, therefore, to the favoured list of the film festival committee.
For it is this committee that picks the preferred hosts from a pile of applications — the lucky seven for the seven nights. The big one up for grabs — Wednesday’s dinner at Taj Bengal — puts Ruia in the league of loyalists (then and now) from Harsh Neotia and John Mantosh to C.K. Dhanuka and Sanjay Budhia.
Twelve years ago, when the film festival was first organised, getting people to throw a dinner party was “tough”, recounts a Nandan old-timer. Now, businessmen and industrialists queue up to play hosts.
The first festival dinner was thrown by Shyamanand Jalan in 1997. Sponsors started trickling in from 1998, once the festival got the nod from the Paris-based International Federation of Film Producers’ Associations.
“The dinner started off as an occasion where foreign delegates could meet and also interact with local film personalities,” said Madhuchhanda Chatterjee of Anamika Kala Sangam, which has been hosting the inaugural dinner from the third year of the festival.
The city’s business team came into the filmi frame when the festival became “Buddhababu’s event” from 1999. “Now, there’s power play among Marwari businessmen to be picked by the committee... The only criterion to be a host is to be clean,” said a source in Nandan.
What was left unsaid was the more vital C-word: “connections”.
The names aside, the nature of the parties has also attracted a lot of attention. If Neotia’s Swabhumi bash grew big enough to host a certain Abhishek Bachchan a few seasons back, Sanjay Budhia’s dinner was a high point on the city’s social calendar, last year’s farewell party hosted by Sundeep Bhutoria drew everyone from Biman Bose to Tollywood biggies.
Also on the menu: If the festival dinners have so long been hogged by Marwari hosts, a Bengali lunch has been slipped in this time. “I will be hosting a Bhojohari Manna lunch on the Star theatre terrace with Baul songs and Santhal dance on Thursday,” said Arijit Dutta of Priya Entertainment.