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Sunday , June 3 , 2012
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Model teachers

Two remarkable men had their birthdays celebrated recently with a film festival and a book launch respectively.

A festival was organised between April 22 and April 24 in memory of film and stage art director Rabindranath Chatterjee (1925-2009) at his homestead Durgapur. A documentary, Rabir Aloye, directed by Jyoti Mukherjee, was screened. Director Raja Sen and actor Chinmoy Roy attended the event.

Rabi Chatterjee had to his credit over 100 films directed by Ritwik Ghatak, Tarun Majumdar, Rajen Tarafdar, Manju Dey, O.C. Ganguly, Nabyendu Chattopadhyay and Uttam Kumar, among others. He had run away from home to study art in Santiniketan.

A favourite student of Nandalal Bose and Ramkinkar Baij, Rabi was an all-rounder: he was good at drawing, sculpture, leatherwork, carpentry. After graduating from Kala Bhavan, he moved to Calcutta and worked for a while in theatre para. He then joined Rabindra Bharati University’s drama department as a teacher of set design. A dedicated and well-loved teacher, he worked on all university productions.

A scene from Meghe Dhaka Tara

Working as assistant in two Hindi films, Pehela Admi and Devdas, got him interested in art direction for films. He was in Satyajit Ray’s unit for Jalsaghar and earned his praise.

He went on to work in films such as Ajantrik, Meghe Dhaka Tara, Komal Gandhar, Jukti Takko O Gappo, Subarnarekha, Gana Devata, Rahgir, Bonpalashir Padabali, Abhisapta Chambal, Kinu Gowalar Goli and Aaj Kaal Porshur Galpo. The palli he had constructed for Tarun Majumdar’s Sansar Simantey was so realistic that it could fool anyone, says actor Soumitra Chatterjee in the documentary.

Like Rabi Chatterjee, Bibhuti Chowdhury too chose to remain a teacher. Born in 1912 in Chittagong, Bangladesh, Chowdhury was a Calcutta University topper who had received his post-graduate degree and gold medal from Tagore in 1937. By then he was a promising poet with his work regularly appearing in well-known journals, but financial needs forced him to abandon poetry. He continued teaching at City College and writing “notebooks” or text handbooks that were must-haves for school and college goers.

Many agreed that his writings on literature had rare depth and sensitivity. He remained Professor B. Chowdhury whose lectures brought countless admiring students to City College, a saviour for those who found Tagore and several other writers boring and unfathomable. He never introduced himself as a poet. Poet Sankha Ghosh, who was one of his colleagues at City College, recalls how much coercing was needed to get him to show his poems. The six practical notebooks full of his poems cut from various journals had impressed the younger poet.

Bibhuti Chowdhury’s family members, who recently organised a commemorative evening at the Jibanananda Sabhagar of Bangla Academy, released two books, one a collection of poems Neel Shaap O Ananya Kobita (by Dey’s Publishing) and another a monograph, Bibhuti Chowdhury Janma Shatabarsha.

Universal language

The language of mime and art brought an Indian teacher and a bunch of Arabic students together at a sand animation workshop conducted on the sides of the recent Cairo International Children’s Film Festival.

Animation filmmaker Debjani Mukherjee was at the festival, held in Cairo Opera House, for a special screening of her film Shabdhane, nominated in the “International Competition” category. But what kept the filmmaker busy was a four-day animation workshop for schoolchildren.

Students at the sand animation workshop in Cairo

“One day I had to conduct the session without a translator. I was a bit nervous since no child could speak English and I couldn’t speak Arabic! So, I got back to the basic means of communication — mime,” Mukherjee said.

She communicated her nationality to the kids by drawing the Taj Mahal. The animator plans to hold similar workshops for city children.

Kalcutta masala pan

Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan might have sung paeans to the Banaraswala paan in Don and its remake, but in the original Don’s backyard, the Benarasi paan has competition. On the Juhu beach, five minutes away by foot from the Bachchan bungalow, Bengal’s mishti paan (or the Kalcutta Masala Sweet Pan) rules. The Calcutta sweet paan sells 400-600 pieces a day, says Ramesh Kumar Yadav, the owner of the biggest paan shop on the beach, Benarasi Paan Bhandar.

The other varieties do not sell more than 40-50 pieces.There are three types of paan leaves on sale — Calcutta sweet, magai from Gaya and Benarasi from Varanasi. “There is a cheaper local leaf from Pune,which is had with tobacco, supaari and lime but our customers are too discerning for us to bother stocking that,” says a salesman at Santosh Best Panachi Gari, another stall.

Ramesh Kumar Yadav at his paan shop. (Sudeshna Banerjee)

Other than Calcutta sada and Calcutta masala mitha paan, which are the staples at Rs 15 a piece, Ramesh sells dry fruit masala paan, chocolate masala paan and anjeer masala paan, all with Calcutta sweet leaves. For the chocolate one, Ramesh pours liquid chocolate over the other standard ingredients and tucks in a few pieces of a chocolate bar for effect. At Rs 40 a piece, it is the costliest.

Ramesh has never been to Calcutta himself. But there is a connection with the city.

“My grandfather’s father was from Calcutta. He was a hawaldar,” he smiles.

(Contributed by Sebanti Sarkar, Chandreyee Ghose and Sudeshna Banerjee)