Sundeep Bhutoria

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Monday, March 22, 2010

`Bengaliana’ in London

The Indian diaspora has always been the subject of my interest.
I am here in London and attended two different Bengali festivals – Anando Utsav at the Great Hall of the Alexandra Palace and the Billat Bangla Utsav at The Harrow Art Centre. The non-resident Bengalis (NRBs) in London were indeed very lucky last weekend when they had a whale of a time with Bengali music, theatre and songs and of course Bengali food. The long queues for the Bengali mishti and singhara only proved that we Indians are deeply rooted in our culture and our passion for desi food, which rules our palate, is here to stay.
 The Alexandra Palace, where the London Anando Utsav was held, had a Great Hall set atop a small hill with great scenic view (picture). The function began with a dance performance by Dona Ganguly and Mom Ganguly. I met Sharmila Tagore, Soha Ali Khan and Soumitra Chatterjee before the inauguration on Friday outside the Great Hall. (picture)
Sharmila Tagore could not recognise me as she has always seen me in attired in white kurta and I was in a black suit. Not just Sharmila, many others from Kolkata who have always seen me dressed in white failed to recognise me in a black suit at first glance.
The inaugural dance performance by Dona was followed by Soumitra’s play called Tritiyo Anko Atoeb. This was followed by a performance by Babul Supriyo that I missed. I had told Babul on the flight to London that I had some prior commitments and if his performance got delayed I’d miss it.
The Great Hall, which looked somewhat bigger for the crowd on Friday, was packed to the capacity on Saturday and seemed smaller. People from 8 to 80 years thronged the venue. Usha Uthup had called me up in the morning and told me that the timing of her performance had changed from 12 noon to 5 PM. At 12 noon Anjan Dutta and his troupe staged a musical play Bhalobasa Nandini. I liked it very much, especially the style of letter reading by Churni Ganguly and of course Anjan Dutta himself.
After this play, I had to leave for Harrow Art Centre the venue of the Billat Bangla utsav (BBU). Thanks to my chauffeur Mr Bal who was familiar with the streets of London and drove me to the spot a minute before the inauguration of the festival.
The Chairman of BBU, Satyam Roy Chowdhury, a personal friend of mine, had put up a lot of effort to make this event happen at the Harrow Art Centre. I met the Mayor of Harrow along with the ex-Mayor of Kolkata, Subrata Mukherjee, and the Chairman Bidhannagar Municipality, Biswajiban Majumder, at the inaugural function. Many other people from Kolkata were there - Indrani Dutta, Raya Bhattacharya, Indronil Roy, Biswajit and others. I was thrilled and watched in disbelief the excellent performance by small children aged between 3 to 4 years.
There was a dance performance by Indrani Halder – a very good classical rendering on Rabindra Sangeet – in which she quickly changed dresses many times during the performance.
From the Harrow Art Centre I had to rush back to the Alexandra Palace where Usha Uthup had the audience up on their feet. Wow! What an electrifying performance it was. The crowd kept asking for more and she obliged with Dum Maro Dum, Uri Baba and concluded with the timeless Sarejahan Se Accha, all along she played to the galleries amid resounding cheers.
On Sunday, after lunch I went straight to the Harrow Hall and met Tony and his wife Indrani, Swastika and Parambrato, June and others. Had a small adda session at a coffee lounge with Indrani, Tony and two lady singers from Bangladesh, Shama Rahman and Mehreen.
Late evening, after the festival, I visited Leicester Square with a big group. I had missed the performance of Kumar Sanu and Alka Yagnik at the Alexandra Palace but did watch the movie Hitlist with Sandip Ray at Harrow. Many times even in Kolkata I have felt - why can’t we be at two places at the same time. Well, if only wishes were horses……
ess bee 

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