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Watch out, 2009!

Chess Surya Sekhar Ganguly

His success may not be as well inscribed on the Bengali brain as Sourav’s, but this Calcutta grandmaster is checkmating the best in the business.

Fresh from his triumph at the National Championships in Mangalore, where he created a record by winning the title for six consecutive years, Surya is on a high, but more about his scores than the records.

“I have been told that it’s a record but I really don’t care about records. I have performed well and that is what counts,” says the 25-year-old. Grandmaster Dibyendu Barua says that if there is one talent from Bengal to watch out for, it is Surya Sekhar. “He has the killer instinct.”

Surya was one of Viswanathan Anand’s four seconds in Bonn as Anand defended his world No. 1 status against Vladimir Kramnik. Surya has not yet got over the heady feeling. “I was chatting with him (Anand) one day online when he asked me whether I would assist him. There was no question of saying no. There were tough training sessions of 15 to 20 days — one in Chennai and two in Germany.”

This year Surya has his eyes set on the European Cup, the Gibtelecom International Open and the Canadian Open. Move 2009?

Politics Mohua Moitra

City girl Mahua Moitra knows the ills that plague our country. Like everyone else, she is fed up with the rot in the system. Like everyone else, she would like things to change. But unlike everyone, she won’t just stand and crib.

Moitra, in her early thirties, worked with finance major JP Morgan in New York and London and became a vice-president there before she chucked it all and returned to India to be a part of the change that she wanted to see in her country. In September 2008, she joined the Youth Congress as a state coordinator for the Aam Aadmi Ka Sipahi programme in West Bengal. She is currently visiting remote corners of the state, popularising schemes and programmes initiated by the UPA government.

The first, obvious question: why the career switch? “The way politics is perceived in this country is slowly changing. There is a lot of dynamism now and we have quite a few young leaders. Since I was always interested in politics, I felt this was the right time to become a part of the change,” says the graduate in mathematics and economics from Massachusetts.

Asked about her plans, she said she would like to get more youth involved in politics. And political aspirations? “Well, Youth Congress is a political forum, not an NGO,” she signed off with a smile.

Cricket Wriddhiman Saha

Year 2008 may have ended on a dull note for Bengal, with the team bowing out of the Ranji Trophy after losing to Tamil Nadu in the quarterfinals, but 24-year-old Wriddhiman Saha has a lot going for him. A successful first season at IPL (his feisty half-century against Kings XI Punjab, which came of just 28 balls) followed by a tour of Israel as a part of India A (team of young guns spotted at the first IPL season) where he scored a handsome 85 — the boy from Siliguri, now a Calcutta resident, has made us dream big.

Quick behind the wickets, he is also a hard hitter of the leather and can score some quick-fire runs when the going gets tough. With Manoj Tiwary’s and Ranadeb Bose’s national hopes not looking so bright, Wriddhiman seems Bengal’s best bet after its decade-long poster boy Sourav Ganguly. The Kareena Kapoor-fan is only too aware of the expectations. “If I get the opportunity, I will try to make full use of it,” he says. Hit hard!

Stand-up comedy Papa CJ

Ask him his real name, and pat comes the reply: “As a teenager I witnessed a brutal assassination involving an international mafia cartel. I have since been under a witness protection programme of the International Court of Justice in The Hague...so I cannot reveal my true identity.” For the MBA from Oxford, who worked as a management consultant in London, stand-up comedy happened on a chance visit to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

“Three months later I was on stage at my first stand-up gig and I haven’t looked back since. Stand up can be a good life — waking up late, never having to commute at rush hour, travelling to interesting places all over the world, working less than two hours a day, exercising free speech in its truest form and of course, spreading laughter and cheer,” says Papa, or CJ, or must both always go together?

In early 2008, he competed with over 3,000 contestants from across the globe to reach the top 10 at the US contest Last Comic Standing.

He travels extensively — “In 2009 I’m expecting to be in India a lot. I will also be travelling to London, New York and possibly Italy. I am scheduled to visit Edinburgh and the US later in the year” — but his roots are in Calcutta.

“I studied in La Martiniere for Boys till Class II, when I went away to a boarding school. But I would come for the holidays to our home in Sunny Park. One has to just ask me to perform there and I’ll land up in the next 24 hours,” he laughs.

Net business Induna brothers

As there seems to be no decline in the number of Calcuttans, or people anywhere, wanting to watch films on DVD, the business of Aadarsh Agarwal, 37, and his brother Siddhant, 34, look only set to rise. Their website Induna.com, which sells DVDs online, was among the most googled items in Calcutta in 2008.

It was a passion for movies that led former students of Don Bosco Liluah and Bhawanipur College to develop their online cinema shop. They operate out of a section of their parents’ house in Liluah, Howrah. Launched on October 21 last year, the website sells a wide range of films — Hindi, Bhojpuri, Bengali, English and Swedish (it means Bergman, there are five DVDs of his films). There is also a category called “obscure”. The website has 55,000 hits a day.

“The idea of selling DVDs online might not seem too novel, but we knew we had a winner. Our own experience of buying movies online in India taught us the dismal state of affairs in this sphere,” says Aadarsh. Induna.com is simple in design, employs a fast web server, a fast courier service and is run, obviously, by fast-thinking brains.

Film Mainak Bhaumik

The young director stunned Tollywood with his debut film Aamra, touted as the first intelligent contemporary urban “sex” comedy to come out of there, two winters back. Many were shocked; they thought the rather frank conversations, with the characters looking straight into the camera, were a cheap attempt to hook viewers. It has never been easy to talk about sex in colloquial Bengali.

But many were delighted; they thought the rather frank conversations were a bold attempt to bring to the screen things that may be practised but are not spoken about in middle-class or upper middle-class Bengali homes. Mainak earned a quick following among the Bong hip.

He has not been seen for two years. This year Mainak, who insists that he can’t make a film that he can’t relate to, will be back with another Bengali urban flick, titled Maachh Mishti and More: The Bong Connection 2. He is also planning an English film, tentatively titled 18, about teenage life in Calcutta. “It’s a coming of age film about a bunch of teenagers,” says Mainak.

Tabla Mayookh Bhaumik

Back in 2000, a fresh-faced tabla player with his bunch of four or five musician friends ran a project called Black Coffee, playing in every available space — from the Rabindra Sadan Metro station to a corner of a park off Prince Anwar Shah Road. The project wanted to break down the wall of fear that keeps the listener away from classical music as a high-brow and , well, “boring” art form.

Mayookh Bhaumik had founded Black Coffee with Mainak, the filmmaker, his younger brother.

Five years on, this Calcutta-born, New York-based student of Ustad Zakir Hussain and Ustad Sabir Khan, is back with the 2009 edition of Black Coffee. This time, the project gets a makeover as an “acoustronix” show. The 31-year-old says his goal in 2009 “is to bring to contemporary Indian music a breath of fresh air. And it will be launched from Calcutta.”

Medicine Partha Sarathi Basu

Cervical cancer is the most common form of cancer affecting Indian women. Though largely curable, the dreaded disease turns fatal because of a lack of awareness.

Dr Partha Sarathi Basu, the head of the department of Gynaecological Oncology at the Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute in Calcutta, and his team are working on a cure for a viral infection that often leads to cervical cancer.

The research, involving extracts from turmeric, is in the clinical trial stage and is expected to bear fruit this year.

Art Samit Das

The artist harnesses latest technology in his exploration through sophisticated art work of the human endeavour to create space for himself. Samit’s investigation of architecture and urban spaces involves photography, collage, laser engraving and acrylic painting as well as his crafts skills.

He tries to create a three-dimensional effect to capture the “noise” and “volume” of a city. Brought up in Jamshedpur, trained in Calcutta and Santiniketan, and living in Delhi since 1996, Das has first-hand experience of architecture.

“The facts and files of Indian cities are my data bank — a shop, signage, graffiti, earlier the yellow-and-black taxis and the old cafes of Calcutta. As an Indian artist I would like to bring these visuals into my art work. I would like to connect history with contemporary reality,” says the artist whose work has been exhibited in many cities all over the world.

Heir apparent Harsh Lodha

Harsh Vardhan, the younger son of Rajendra Singh Lodha, will be watched closely in the battle of wills that began in 2004, when Priyamvada Birla left all her assets to RS Lodha. The sudden demise of his father in London last year put Harsh Vardhan, who was named as a beneficiary in Priyamvada’s will, on the forefront of the war, which has raced from one court room to another in the past four years.

The young chartered accountant will also be steering the Rs 3,500-crore MP Birla empire. Under Lodha’s chairmanship, the profits of Birla Corporation, the flagship company of the MP Birla group, swelled around 10 times in four years.

Though Harsh Vardhan is yet to be formally appointed as the chairman of the cement to cables group, share holders will have great expectations from the younger Lodha. Friends describe him as a “focused guy with a cool head”. Many will be focused on him.

Star kid Sana Ganguly

Now that Sourav Ganguly is retired from cricket, the city, it seems, will get to see much more of his family. Since wife Dona has already been in the limelight for long, the eyes will follow with more interest how daughter Sana grows in Sourav’s shadow — or out of it! Should we brace ourselves for pictures of Sana getting out of the car at school, as her father follows behind with her bag, pictures of Sana at a new mall, with daddy nearby, pictures of Sana at a new restaurant, as daddy smiles?

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