Tuesday, December 18, 2007

For Kolkata, Love’s Labour is not all Lost.

Where whenas death shall all the world subdew,
Our love shall live and later life renew.
--- Edmund Spenser
How can one not write about the ever-changing, ever evolving expressions of love while discussing the changing face of Kolkata? When you are 20 something and belong to the Gen-RDB, romancing love seems to be the best way to understand the soul of Kolkata.

While one can see the city is stretching its arms with extended towns, malls and multiplexes, flyovers and skyscrapers…One can feel the city is gradually opening up to the uninhibited and honest notions of love and public display of affection. It is such a relief that you rarely attract frowns nowadays while taking a stroll together on the street or sitting intimately in the gardens, which, until recently, were still taboos among us. What is more heartening is Kolkata could be the most liberal among Indian cities when you discuss homosexual love.

Some might say the haste and hustle of the new millennium have ripped love off its coyness, innuendos and veiled mysteries to make it insipid. But I strongly oppose them. I believe the green stretch of Maidan still looks greener, the traffic jam at Belgachhia crossing seems bearable, the waterlogged lanes of Behala do not bother us anymore, the dustbowl of the Book Fair adds to our complexion…Kolkata still seems beautiful when you fall in love.

Kolkata makes you cry when you say goodbye to your love at the Terminals.

Kolkata makes you feel blessed when you travel in the last metro home with your sweetheart. And then we all know, Love’s labour is not all lost in Kolkata.

Monday, November 19, 2007

It's all in Your Head

There is this notion got into the psyche of many people that it is only natural that a rich man dares to foray into something big, extraordinary or larger than life dreams while the common man with less or no money has to remain satisfied with small goals and meager achievements. This theory would immediately spark off the debate if human excellence has something to do with the amount of currency one has in his bank balance! Even if we doubt the veracity of this statement, we can not deny the fact that the basic difference lies in the way of thinking-

Those who have achieved big have dreamed big and smaller dreams have lead people to smaller goals.

Some might argue that you can not dream big without a financial stability behind your back and they can, in no time, draw conclusion that big goals come after big bucks. But the example of Walt Disney, who had nothing but a skimpy $40 with him when he set foot in Los Angeles, and many like Disney nullifies this verdict.

Here, we can surely say that money is not the prerequisite of dreaming high, rather it is the courage and sheer passion for something in men what drive them to take plunges and to think bigger than ever.

Examples are aplenty to justify this argument. A good number of ordinary businessmen are there who start off with a small store at 24 and would end up retiring from work at 64, possibly from the same, old store! The dearth of ambition in them leads them to nowhere. On the contrary, there is another kind of businessmen who, starting off with the same would eventually grow bigger, possibly with multiple stores or other types of business, in times to come. Here, the difference in thinking makes the difference of lifestyle and what not?

You can only reach somewhere near the sky if sky is the limit for you. Otherwise stay happy being in the puddle if you do not dare think big.

Money does not bring you success, thoughts do. Think big, it’s all in your head.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Kolkata Celebrates Oktoberfest!

Goethe Institut/ Max Mueller Bhavan, Kolkata organised Students’ Oktoberfest, a miniature Kolkata version of the world’s largest beer-festival, on its premises on 27th September. The Oktoberfest is a two-week festival held each year in Munich, the capital city of Bavaria in southern Germany, during late September and early October. Around six million visitors gather in Bierzelts (large beer-tents) to enjoy the specially brewed beer for the occasion. There had been a number of thematic workshops for everyone at MMB such as film shows titled “Glimpses of Munich”, Oktoberfest quiz, crash courses on the Bavarian dialect and music to tune up a perfect prelude to the main festivities. The party kicked off with Dr. Reimar Volker, the Director of MMB and Mr. Jürgen Fischer, the German Vice Consul in Kolkata tapping a keg of Bitburger beer and declaring “O’zapft is!” (“It’s tapped!” in Bavarian).

The kegs were tapped. The beer was poured in huge mugs and soon revelers to be seen swooning to the peppy notes of Bayerische Blaskapelle (the Bavarian Chapel music played on the trumpet, accordion, tuba and clarinet), performed by Brandkobl-Blosn, a Bavarian Brass Band exclusively flown in from Munich for the occasion. The members of the band, wearing the traditional Lederhosen (leather pants worn by Bavarian men), charmed everyone with their exuberance and energy and as a result, all gathered to lip-sync the beer-song “Ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit!” meaning “A Toast to Happiness” and it lit up the atmosphere. With delicacies like Würstchen (sausages),

Käsespätzle (cheese noodles) and Kartoffelsalat (potato salad) to gorge on and a Mass (beer-mug) in every hand, the countdown to Bengal’s own “Oktoberfest” (the Durga Puja) would surely have been merrier to some of the citizens!

Friday, July 6, 2007


Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain

(The Fabulous Destiny of Amelie Poulain) (2001)
Directed by :Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Jean-Pierre Jeunet has created montages of insignificance and triviality only to bring out in an euphemistic way the biggest support one can get in life;love.Every single character,including Amelie herself,has some kind of peculiarity in their characteristics(which often resemble the eccentricity of Dickensian characters)but the one thing binds them together is their agony of being lonely,unnoticed and search for companionship and appreciation.Amelie is like the angel who repairs the missing links in their lives and finds a root of her own.The "All's Well that Ends Well" motto of fairy-tales has been adopted very skilfully in this movie and it rather wakes up the fairy godmother in each of us.
For 20 years Jean-Pierre Jeunet collected small astonishing and intriguing moments in his life, taking notes in his diary, not knowing that he was up to co-write and direct one of the most successful film in French film history. Jean-Pierre Jeunet fell in love with the story and the film he titled Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain. But it's popularity was even a surprise to Jean-Pierre Jeunet himself as he once stated: `I guess I have to produce a film like Alien Resurrection (USA 1997) to make a movie like Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain', obviously not aware of the films potential. Unfortunately the film didn't win an Academy Award for the best foreign film in 2001 which still puzzles film fans all over the world.
I consider Jean-Pierre Jeunet's film as a masterpiece. In my opinion, it is an outstanding film in film history for its cinematography, the music, the story, but above all the overall atmosphere. Going to the cinema is like meditating. We sit for over one-hour and comfortable chair - our breath slows down and as the lights are switched off, we enter a dream world. We seek to escape our normal world just for a short period of time, to experience something totally different and yet, we want to find ourselves in this world. Thanks to Jean-Pierre Jeunet I had a wonderful dream, I will never forget.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet and his camera man, Bruno Delbonnel, wanted to make the film look like the Spanish painter did his artwork. To establish a dreamlike atmosphere they used mostly red and green, sometimes adding a little blue spot in the picture to set the contrast. Audrey Tautou (Amélie Poulain), mostly wears either red or green dresses, as well as the housekeeper (Yolande Moreau as Madelaine Wallace, concierge), and Amélie's mother (Lorella Cravotta as Amandine Poulin) in the beginning of the film. When Amélie Poulain sits down to watch the tragedy of her life on her TV, there is an outstanding of a blue lamp in the background. Sometimes the use of color gets very obvious. Amélie's apartment for example is almost completely red, the underground station and the train station are kept in green and the green grocery store stands out from the grey buildings. Honestly, I haven't noticed the extreme use of color the first time I watched the movie. I just wondered how Jeunet succeeded in establishing such a fabulous atmosphere.
The atmosphere is also supported by the magnificent music by Yann Tiersen who has composed 19 songs in 15 days for this movie. The principal motive appears in many variations somehow being joyful, yet at the same time sad - slow and sometimes fast and activating. The music supports every moment in the film and becomes the sound of a fabulous world.
Camera movement certainly contributes its part to the atmosphere. Balanced and unbalanced pictures contribute to the message of each shot. Right in the beginning when Amélie's mother is introduced, the picture is balanced symbolizing her pursuit for correctness and cleanliness. The same can be about the first shots of Amélie's father. When talking about his dislikes, the shots are unbalanced. But more impressing are some camera movements. For example there is an astonishing high angle shot of Amélie flipping stones on le canal in Paris. The camera shows her leaning on a fence, flying above her head then craning to a low angle shot to show her flipping stones in the direction of the camera. Another one worth mentioning might be the chase of the repairs person. Nino is shown falling up the steps chasing the repairs person for the photo machines. The camera turns to show the man getting in the car driving off. Still in a low angle Nino starts his moped, trying to follow the worker, almost hitting a car. Amélie is entering the picture running after Nino. The camera follows her, then turning almost 180° around her to show her hold Nino's red bag that he lost. When Amélie sits in front of the station, we see her in a long shot, the camera dollies in to fly over her head to an over-the-shoulder shot. Some of these camera movements are really awesome, not only from a technical point of view, but moreover from an aesthetic standpoint. They support the dreamlike atmosphere, adding interesting aspects to ordinary actions.
Audrey Tautou ( who was seen with Tom Hanks in the much awaited celluloid version of Dan Brown best-seller "Da Vinci Code") at the age of 23 is an astonishing actress. I really can't imagine anybody doing the job better than she did. To me she is not only giving life to the character, she lives it. It's wonderful to watch her. There was no moment when I had the faintest impression that there is something wrong or inappropriate in her acting. Also Mathieu Kassovitz as Nino Quincampoix is extraordinarily gifted with his talent. Most of the actors have done a wonderful job, although I want to mention the scene when Amélie's mother gets her nervous breakdown because of the suicidal fish. This scene appeared to me exaggerated which it probably was intended to be. Anyhow, the extreme close-up of Yolande Moreau was to intriguing to me, so I shrug back in disgust rather than laughing about it. I gues this was the director's choice, so I don't hold her responsible for that.
Another negative and distracting thing where some scenes when Jean-Pierre Jeunet decided to show the key in Amélie's pocket after copying it and bringing the original key back to the grocer's door in a very unrealistic way. He uses a digital effet showing the key's silhouette in a yellow light. This is a technique that hasn't been used very often in the film, except for showing Amélie's heart going faster and the old, blind man feeling very happy after being guided by Amélie. All these scenes disturb the otherwise wonderful cinematography. There could have been other ways to communicate the actions. A simple smile on the old's man face, a close-up of Amélie's hand letting the copied key slide into her pocket and the heart beat as a background sound would have done the same without disturbing the atmosphere.Anyway, Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain is still my favorite movie. The narration is perfectly arranged taking its time to tell every detail. I enjoyed the subplots a lot that are told in a subtle way. Maybe the introduction is a bit to long, but still I enjoyed every second. Maybe I am too used to typical Hollywood productions, where you can tell the stages of a story by watching the clock. Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain has its own rhythm driving the story forward not by a superhero trying to achieve his goal, but by a hero that knows that she has time to arrange everything by strategic means. Maybe that is also one reason why I like this film so much. The story is told with time and not against time. There is no last minute-rescue, no time pressure, no need to act. It just takes its time as life does.In my opinion, Jean-Pierre Jeunet created a masterpiece. A film that is not only outstanding because of the cinematography, the special effects or any other technical characteristics, but also combines the perfection of craftsmanship with a wonderful story, humour, and emotion.

Monsoon in Kolkata...Finally !

In recent times,the citizens of Kolkata have gone through a clearly visible change of unprecedented atmospheric behaviour...the weather board has also acknowledged that Kolkata is receiving late monsoon and short winter...the demon of global warming (alas!) too has struck our dear
city ! Well... for years the Kolkatans are experiencing hot and humid summers with crowds of perspiring foreheads,glasses of aampora shorbot (green mango juice),scent of khus-khus and of course,the regular heat-buster every evening; the lashing Northwester winds which would cool down the daytime heat-wave...but we were missing our dear kaal-boishakhi (yeah ! that's the name we call it by) very badly this time.In a quite unprecedented way,the summer of '06 has been very dry (it draws an immediate parallel to the extreme summer of Delhi,with severe heat waves) which rather added to our woe...it was really a strangling struggle with Mother nature I must say !
But ah-ha ! goodness gracious...much to the relief of Kolkatans...the Northwester has striked back and what a soothing experience it has been ! Last week there were hints of a thunderstorm taking place but apart from a few gusty blow and droplets of h2o...all was there were anticipations ! Finally,yesterday the kingdoms of heaven were so pleased with the City of Joy that it sent a mighty bolt from up above and voila! the next twenty-four hours there would be incessant raining...quenching the thirst of flora and fauna,rejuvenating our mind, drenching us with the rain of life...singing the malhaar raag of upcoming monsoon
"Rain on the roof-top,and rain on the sea...
Rain on those li'l cars...and certainly upon me...!"
I am so happy that the scorching summer would soon take its leave...at the same time I feel bad about those who live in shanties,lead poorly clad,poorly fed,poorly dreamt lives in thatched huts and can anytime be snatched away of their shelters by the mighty blows of windstorm...I can fantasize about the deadly charm of the storm,I can even write a poetry about it...but can I really feel like those helpless people who would be at our doors for nibbles of food,grains of rice and clothes soon after a horrible thunderstorm devastates their "insignificant" existence...? Can I really be one of them
I know I may lack the guts to endure the pangs of being homeless but one thing I can promise to myself...the Northwester might show them the wrecks of nature...but to my humble best,I can try to bring to them a piece of rainbow(in every sense it could be )after the thunder-showers cease creating havoc...as a human being,would that be much to ask from my self within ???