The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Glamour begins at home

It was a party day for the Sens. Their two daughters, Ria and Raima — do they need any introduction in Calcutta — were coming home for a break from Mumbai and that was good reason for a celebration.

On the sprawling 6,000sq ft terrace, Ria and Raima’s father, Bharat Dev Varma, was arranging wine glasses and making sure that the scented candles were in place for the evening. The terrace is the party zone for the Sens.

The Sens moved into this apartment in 1995 —when the original house (which belonged to Suchitra Sen, the founder of this dynasty of actresses) was replaced by a smart apartment block on Ballygunge Circular Road. The family now owns three flats in the block. Suchitra lives in one. Moon Moon, Bharat, Ria and Raima live in two flats which have been broken down and turned into one mega-apartment.

We were first led to the sunny terrace which is Moon Moon and Bharat’s favourite hangout. One unique feature of the terrace is that it has a terracotta temple where Bharat comes to pray everyday. “I like to pray here. When I had it designed, I told the sculptor that it should look like a village temple,” he says proudly.

In another part of the terrace, there’s a cosy sitting area with comfortable sofas and a glass-topped centre table with a cowboy for its base. This is where the Sens bring small groups of friends for casual evenings on the rooftop. The terrace is also the venue for small live soirees, attended by family and friends.

One unusual feature of Moon Moon and Bharat’s apartment is that there’s two of everything — there are two living rooms (each with its own dining table), two dens and even two pantries. One reason for this is that these are two flats that have been turned into one.

Since they constantly have a stream of distinguished guests from around the world — including famous cricketers, French countesses and, of course, Maharani Gayatri Devi, who is Bharat’s aunt — half the flat is meant for visitors and the other half is used by the family. Three bedrooms are used by the family.

This is a house that’s chock-full of memories — both of the distant past and not so long ago. There are photographs and knick-knacks everywhere — of Suchitra, with daughter Moon Moon and her two grandchildren. In the second living room, there are portraits of the “handsome men and women” of Bharat’s family — Maharaja Jitendra Narayan of Cooch Behar (Bharat’s grandfather), his mother Ila Devi (who died young) and sister Devyani Devi. Bharat himself is the scion of the erstwhile royal family of Tripura.

In the main living room, since it was a party evening, the eight-seater dining table was ready for the onslaught of guests and there were flowers and candles all over the room, adding to the ambience. On one wall there’s a large Chinese screen painting has been turned into a hanging (Bharat bought it during a recent trip to Macau).

One unusual piece of furniture is the three-seater love chair in the centre of the room — where party animals can get to know each other better. Also, there are old sofas and furniture that Suchitra bought years ago.

Moon Moon likes to buy works by upcoming artists. So, one guest bedroom (it has bright orange upholstery) has canvases by artists Jaya Rastogi and Subrata Gangopadhyay. “Jaya is my favourite. Her painting smells of Rajasthan,” says Moon Moon.

Though Bharat and Moon Moon both take an interest in the upkeep of the house, Moon Moon’s favourite place in the house is her own bedroom. “I just love to relax in my room and watch television,” she says.

Bharat’s favourite hangout on the other hand is the bar room, where old sofas (upholstered in animal prints) are surrounded by unusual knick-knacks like a bison horn, which is an heirloom from Bharat’s family. There’s also an Elvis telephone — when the phone rings the Elvis figurine sings and dances. Also, there are paintings on the walls. Some of the figurines are from South Africa. “This is where the family gets together for their adda and drinks. It’s totally informal and is my favourite room”, he says.

In second living room, there’s a four-seater sofa, a dining table and several figurines and family portraits. A large figurine of the Goddess Saraswati sits in one corner.

Our last stop is another den — with its quaint knick-knacks from around the world and a brightly painted wall — which is the perfect place for meeting guests.

The party was scheduled to get underway in a short while, and Bharat was still pottering around the house checking all the arrangements. We had entered the apartment via the back entrance and headed straight for this terrace. This time we left by the main door, leaving behind the apartment crammed with knick-knacks, memories and a sprinkling of stardust.       

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