Monday, 30th October 2017

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What’s cooking at Thakurdalan by the flyover

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  • Published 1.10.14

A continuum of festivity at Jhaal Farezi, as experienced by Rita Bhimani

There has been much food for thought at Thakurdalan by the Flyover, but there’s been actual food on offer too at Jhaal Farezi, which is what this young and happening culinary hub is all about.

A special menu has been created by Chef Sumanta Chakrabarti and fashion designer Nil for all the days of the festival, based on the specialities created at Sonar Tori, the heritage dining place at Raichak on Ganges. And so, Jhaal Farezi is — in sync with the Puja ambience — offering people a choice of vegetarian and non-vegetarian versions of Mussalmani, grameen and zamindari preparations in traditional kanshaa thalis.

Apart from the upstairs, a number of Bengali snacks are in the cafe downstairs, for those who might like to eat Mochaar Chop, Loitya Maachh Bora or fried Topshe, on the run. We have till Lakshmi Puja to get our fill of the Bong cuisine connection.

Day 3: Madly bangali

This must be a one-of-a-kind phenomenon — the business of those that are Bengali and those that are not. “Aw-Bangali” (not Bengali), us and them. Not heard this term in any other state, have we? So there you are, something to chew on, and the Bong has plenty of this. An adda where a non-Bengali, Malavika Banerjee, good Keralite, good bahu of Bengal, the spirit behind the Kolkata Literary Meet, among other hats she dons, talked up a storm with other non-Bongs, on what the Pujas mean to them. Then there’s Kiran Uttam Ghosh, Sindhi by origin, designer to the core, Bong at heart, who has chosen Calcutta as the base of her designing, and who feels that it is the karigars of Bengal who have inspired her to stay here and work, they “who have god in their hands”.

There is Cesare Bieller, the popular Italian consul-general, who is totally in sync with the local populace, and knows his India well. His lament — people in India don’t dress Indian enough, but his positive — Puja is the best time when you can discover the soul of Calcutta. And he walks around and into traditional homes to do so, threatening that he might try a Lambretta for effect this year. And Saharsh Parekh, the dapper young man who is all charged up about Atletico de Kolkata and charged up too about the photography that he intends to do during Puja.

Day 4: calcutta, my city

Celebrated author Kunal Basu’s relationship with the city of his birth, a city which features in his latest novel that will be released soon, his take on the changing persona of Calcutta, his views on being a writer — all this and much more held an eclectic audience rapt for two hours in the music room of Jhaal Farezi on Friday.

When he talked about authors of varied temperaments, they could be categorised into those who were brash and egotistical, others who were shy and retiring and the ones who like to reach out to their readers at literary festivals and book launches. He put himself in the third category, with everyone heartily agreeing, for Basu is that type of individual — forthcoming, frank, extremely articulate, the warmth of his personality giving the audience the assurance that successful writers can also be human, approachable.

He was certainly candid about the changed character of Calcutta, but gave it high marks for its continuing intellectual growth.

Having set his four novels in diverse environments like China, (The Yellow Emperor’s Cure) or in a different era — Mughal India (The Miniaturist) — another on a deserted island off the coast of Africa (Racists), we were keen to know about the novel that has been completed and is set in Calcutta. Basu was attracted by the excitement of the unfamiliar coming in contact with the familiar... but we are not saying very much out of deference to his publishers!

His most charming riposte about critics is that while the good reviews are a morale boost, for a bad review, he merely takes himself into the shower and shouts out his annoyance. Way to go!

Day 5: cinema, cinema

Talking of critics, on another occasion, film critics and star ratings came in for some heated discussion by a group of Tolly celebrities who met on Saturday with Arindam Sil, director-producer-actor leading the discussions with Arijit Dutta, of Priya cinema who is also an actor, June, actor and popular anchor, and Srijit Mukherji, the successful director whose Chotushkone has hit the cinemas and is finding rave reviews.

While they felt that reviews could colour the way audiences decide to take in a film or not, there were a number of other issues they focused on, all of them leading to a constructive take on where Bengali films are heading. Whether it is a matter of the “wrong” kind of financiers who are coming forward to produce films, advice to those from the audience who agonised over how their films had not “run” and the idea of correct marketing; and what goes into the making of good films (here the whole background to the pathbreaking and successful Autograph by Srijit was brought in).

There were nostalgic moments that they shared and the positive news that we can look forward to quality films releasing during festivals.

Day 6: fired up!

A special menu has been created by chef Sumanta Chakravarti and designer Nil for all days of the event

We are not done with food talk. A live demonstration — a cookout which was a cook-in so we could watch and learn in cool comfort — gave the eager group a chance to see what Rakhi Purnima Dasgupta of the iconic Kewpie’s demonstrated from the recipes that will appear in her forthcoming book.

Partnering her, unusually, was Usha Uthup, who shared a Kerala Prawn Peera (despite being a strict vegetarian), from a recipe given to her by “aunt” Susheela, replicating the exact proportions, as she says she always cooks “by the book” to get the dish perfect. Executed simply in a short time, while in a dressy Kanjeevaram, it was a dish with lots of shredded coconut, curry leaves, green chillies, onions, ginger, kudampuli (to impart the sourness) and coconut oil. It tasted divine.

Rakhi Purnima’s three Bengali recipes had her own measure of creativity in them. There was Country Captain, diced chicken cooked with ginger, garlic, onion, and with lots of green, yellow and red peppers to make it a pretty and peppy dish. There were two mustard paste items — a cauliflower florets dish based on “Mona ma’s” recipe, a widowed lady whom her family had known, and a rohu preparation, traditional, with a twist. And executed in just minutes.

There’s still lots of music to take in at Thakurdalan till Dashami (October 3), with new music from young bands and Shiladitya’s dhaak mix on October 2. We had Soumyojit Das and Sourendra Mullick doing their classic numbers at Pujor Gaan or Gaaner Pujo on Monday, setting the tone for Sashthi.

Post-Puja, the music of the spheres, the cacophony of the streets, will continue apace. But there will be plenty of music, art, food and conversation at Thakurdalan by the Flyover to mull over in quieter moments. The food, certainly, will always be there at JF.