Sundeep Bhutoria

Welcome to my blog. Do share your views and thoughts with me. Request visitors to keep their comments brief and to the point. I shall respond to you to the extent possible.
Thank you.
ess bee

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Friday, September 30, 2011

A frantic Friday

Mamata Banerjee releasing the book at Writers' Buildings
September 30th 2011: It was one of the busiest days for me. At 11:30 am I was at the Writers' Buildings conference room for the release of the book Moner Manush Chitranatya Ityadi by Hon'ble Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. 
The book, a Prabha Khaitan Foundation initiative, has been written by Nirmal Dhar.
Among those present were Prosenjit Chatterjee, Arpita Chatterjee, Haranath Chakraborty (picture) and Nirmal Dhar. 
Film maker Goutam Ghose could not make it as his train was stuck in Siliguri.
As soon as the function was over, I rushed to the Raj Bhavan for a banquet lunch hosted in honour of Prime Minister of Bhutan, His Excellency Jigme Yoser Thinley by the Governor of West Bengal M K Narayanan. 
It was a very small luncheon gathering and I again met the Chief Minister there (picture).

The others who were present on the occasion were Industry Minister Shri Partha Chatterjee, Police Commissioner Shri R K Pachnanda, Bhutanese minister, Mr Dasho Tshering Wangda, Lt Gen Bikram Singh, Shri Manish Gupta minister for Development & Planning, Mayor Shri Sovan Chattopadhyay, Chief Secretary Shri Samar Ghosh, DG Shri Naparajit Mukherjee, Ms Dekey Choden Gyaltshen, Shri Amit Mitra Finance Minister and Mr Dorji Tshering.
I sat at the table next to the Minister for Cultural Affairs, Bhutan, Mr Dasho. He invited me to visit Bhutan. Though Bhutan is one of those countries which is just 75 minutes via flight from Kolkata, I have never been to Bhutan in the last two decades during which I have visited over 60 countries.
From the Raj Bhavan I straight went to Chaltabagan for the inauguration of the Puja by the Governor of West Bengal and all the guests invited by me were present.
From Chaltabagan I went to Hotel Hyatt Regency to attend the National Day cocktails & dinner on the invitation of the Ambassador of Chile, Mr Cristian Barros, Mrs Poly Michell and Dr J K Saraf.
I also dropped in at the ITC Sonar for some time and even though I could not watch the play titled The Urge, directed and conceptualised by Aamir Raza Hussain and Virat Hussain at ITC Pala. I met the host.
ess bee

Thursday, September 29, 2011

`Aparajita Tumi'

Thursday, September 29, 2011: Yesterday I returned home around 3 am as there was shooting for Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s film Aparajita Tumi. Aniruddha or Toni, who is a personal friend of mine, won the best award for National Film a couple of years back. This film is his first directorial venture since then.
The whole movie has been shot in San Francisco, USA, and only a day's shooting was done in Kolkata yesterday because of Soumitra Chatterjee who couldn't go to the US.
I made a guest appearance as Sundeep Bhutoria in that film in a particular sequence with Soumitra Chatterjee. The movie is slated for release in January next year and yesterday it was last day of shoot.
The other main castes of the movie includes Prosenjit Chatterjee and famous actresses from South India Padma Priya and Kamalika.
ess bee

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Puja time, crunch time

September 27th, 2011: For the past two weeks I am in Kolkata carrying out desk work relating to the Pujas. My desk is handling thousands of letters, invitations and correspondence and my bureau looks like a small town post office. Just to give an idea of the work in hand:
· Puja Parikrama cards for 4500 Pronam members
· Puja Darshan arrangements for Pronam members,
· Inter College Interactive Workshop on Let’s Talk Bengal: 28th September, 2011, St Xavier’s College, Lady Brabourne College in association with Education for All Trust
· Moner Manush book launch on September 30th at the Writers' Buildings conference room where Hon’ble Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, chief guest, would release the book. The function is being organised by Prabha Khaitan Foundation.
· Manicktala Chaltabagan Lohapatty Durga Puja inauguration on September 30, 2011
· The Telegraph In Schools (TTIS) Puja Awards (The Telegraph in association with Education for All Trust, October 2, 2011)
· True Spirit puja competition organised by The Telegraph in association with The Bengal, Kolkata Police, West Bengal Fire Service and Kolkata Municipal Corporation on October 4, 2011
· Sending personal Bijoya greetings and The Bengal Puja greetings to the Pronam members and all who are associated with The Bengal.
....... and the list goes on and on.
I am directly associated with all of the above events through Education for All Trust, Prabha Khaitan Foundation, The Bengal and Manicktalla Chaltabagan Lohapatty Durga Puja. So technically, I am the host every where which demands a lot of my time and effort and is keeping me busy organizing these events.
September 30th is going to be one of the busiest days for me as at 12 noon our Hon’ble Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee will launch the book Moner Manush Chitranatya Ityadi written by Mr Nirmal Dhar and initiated by our Foundation at the first floor conference room in Writer’s Buildings. Incidentally, September 30th also happens to be Prosenjit Chatterjee's birthday.
The same day at 1 PM I will be at the Raj Bhavan for a banquet lunch to be hosted in honour of Prime Minister of Bhutan, His Excellency Jigme Yoser Thinley, by the Governor himself. This would be followed by the inauguration of Manicktala Lohapatty Durga Puja by the Governor of West Bengal. Later in the evening there is the National Day Cocktail & Dinner invitation by the Ambassador of Chile, Mr Cristian Barros, Mrs Poly Michell and Dr J K Saraf at the Hyatt Regency. Also, the much talked about film Baishe Srabon is slated for release on that very Friday at Priya cinema.
My everyday destination ITC Sonar is hosting a play at ITC Pala titled “The Urge” which is directed and designed by Aamir Raza Hussain and Virat Hussain. Also, there is a dinner by Venkatesh Films.
Let’s see how I manage that day. But rain or shine, I have to be present at the Writers’ Building, Raj Bhavan and Chaltabagan for sure.
ess bee

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Science City and frivolous award functions

The chaos at the recent Jagjit Singh function at the Science City auditorium reminded me of the increasing number of `Award Nights' that are organised there.
In the last two years, various Award functions of different hues and names are being held in Kolkata - the Mecca of Indian culture – in the name of promoting and felicitating talent. Kolkata, of late, is in the grips of a frivolous awards frenzy.
I have been invited to many of these come-and-get-awarded events, either as a recipient of an award, or as a guest to give away awards. I'd say that I have been to very few of these events during the past few years and took some time to see through it.
These award functions have very gracious names like Sammans or Puraskars to begin and end with. An overwhelming majority of these events are related to television, cinemas or television and cinema (tele-cine) etc. Even new categories of awards are invented each year by the organisers.
For the past five years I have been watching the event management companies who usually engage is organizing these type of events. These companies have split into dozens of companies with fancy names that keep conducting such events. It simply means that you pick up the tricks of the trade and start your own business.
The formula is very simple. Organize a `cultural performance' involving celebs and starlets in between the awards function and give the award to any celeb who agrees to come to the program. These so called `performances' are sometimes so lengthy that celebs have to wait and request the organisers again and again to give them the award so that they can leave.
In fact, all these events invariably start not less than an hour or two late. This has become the standard practice. The trick is to keep the glamour quotient high in the name of culture and talent so that sponsors are easily roped in so that the tickets are sold. It is a very profitable business model for the organisers who rake in tidy takings with each show.
The criterion of judging the best actor or actress at these award functions is ridiculous. The best talent is chosen from four or five handpicked scenes that is shown on the screen. The audience is fully aware of the fact that there are scores of better scenes to choose from but the real reason for choosing the best actor is that he or she must be physically present in the auditorium to receive the award.
I personally don't blame only the organisers of these award functions. I think it is the recipients who are actually belittling the award functions by agreeing to associate with such events without even bothering to find out the credibility of the organisers and the judges. Often, the key organiser happens to be the sole judge.
I don't mean to tar all award functions with the same brush. There are some award functions which are prestigious and naturally draw most of the celebs and eminent citizens of Kolkata in full strength. Some of the events organised by print or the electronic media do, or at least try to do, full justice to the awards. In fact, some of them have earned a respectable brand names as on date.
To all my celeb friends I say, what is point of receiving any such stage-managed awards. An award is an award in the true sense when your competitors are present and clapping for you in recognition. All the celebs work very hard to earn their reputation and must protect it. Why fritter away something so precious by associating with such dubious and frivolous award schemes with zero credibility.
So next time you get one of those award invitations and have any arriere pensees, you'd do a lot of good to your reputation by giving it a miss.
ess bee

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dhak festival at Chaltabagan Puja

Monday, September 20th 2011: The day before Yesterday I arranged for a Dhak Festival organized by the Manicktala Chaltabagan Lohapatty Durga Puja Committee in front of the Puja Pandal.
It was the first time any Puja Committee has organized such an event, as far as my knowledge goes.
It just occurred to me that it was a Sunday and Vishwakarma Puja and all film shooting at Tollywood was closed and most of the actors and artists would be relatively free. So why not have a get together of all celebs.
The celebs from all walks of life Tollywood, artists, diplomats, industrialists and the city's music fraternity tried their hands on the dhak. Pallavi Chatterjee and Gargi Roy Chowdhury danced to the dhak beats of D J Akash while Usha Utthup sang a song on Chaltabagan Puja on the tune of her hit song Daaa…rling.
It’s the sound of dhak that reminds us of the onset of the Pujas. Everybody enjoyed themselves thoroughly and I plan to have a dhak festival before the Pujas from this year onwards.
ess bee.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Puja darshan for the elderly and `Food Bank'

Saturday, September 17th 2011 : Today afternoon I went to police headquarters Lal Bazar for a meeting with Kolkata Police officials regarding various issues of Pronam project.
As the Pujas approach, there are quite a few activities like arranging for Puja Darshan for the Pronam members, getting permission for entry to some of the big and famous puja pandals through VIP gates using special cards, Pronam annual function and other matters.
Currently, Pronam membership has reached over 4500 it is expected to touch 5000 soon. There is a need for working out suitable logistics and resources to organize any activity for that many members.
In the evening I went to Harsh Neotia’s residence for a dinner with Sam Pitroda (picture). I had met Sam Pitroda just once before in Delhi at Dinesh Trivedi’s residence at an informal get together. He had delivered a lecture that was followed by a question & answer session and dinner.
I reached the Queen's Park late and the lecture was over by that time. I joined the guests over dinner.
Jogen Chowdhury, Dinesh Trivedi and Suvaprasanna (picture) informed me that Sam had spoken very well about an idea of food bank and we should all try to implement this in our state. As I had missed the lecture I just said if something concrete can be developed it will be good.
I also met Yogi C Deveshwar (picture) for the first time after he was re-elected / nominated Chairman of ITC Limited. Though he is my neighbour, we always get to meet at the social get togethers only.
Let’s see the “Food Bank” proposal mooted by Sam and how well it is taken by the citizens of state.
ess bee

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

All India Inter-School Drama Festival

With Arpita
Wednesday, September 14th 2011: Monday evening I could not make it to the 68th Foundation Day Celebration of The Council of Iran Society. The Society’s Foundation Day was graced by the Guest-in-Chief Hon’ble K Rahman Khan, Deputy Chairman, Rajya Sabha.
K Rahman Khan is known to me and I wanted to be at the event. Yesterday was the semi-finals of the Inter-School Drama Festival 2011 at Kalakunj (Kala Mandir) organized by The British Council and Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London, in association with Prabha Khaitan Foundation.
The All India Inter School Drama Festival 2011 is a tribute to the commemoration of 150th Birth Anniversary of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. 
Seven finalists were chosen from 45 schools that came to Kolkata from all over India.
Actress Arpita gave away the certificates to the finalists. 
Sujata Sen, Director, The British Council was also present on the dais (picture)
Of the seven finalists, four schools were from outside Kolkata including Vasant Valley in Delhi and three schools from Kolkata i.e., Calcutta International School, Birla High School and M B Girls School. The finals would be held in New Delhi on the 10th of December, 2011.
In the evening I went to The Bengal Club for dinner, hosted on the occasion, by Sujata Sen. A gathering of school principals and I shared a table at the dinner with the members from three winning schools - Calcutta International School, Birla High School and M B Girls’ School.
It was a very different evening compared to the usual evening events and it was after a long time I got an opportunity to interact with the school principals under amid calm and quiet atmosphere.
ess bee

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Are the international brands short shrifting Indian customers?

Top notch international luxury brands have a halo effect that inspire awe and envy among Indians. The thrifty Indians' lust for luxe has drawn scores of big names to set shop here and reap the dividends of their shopping safaris.
But all is not well. Let me share my not-so-pleasant recent experience with three reputed multinational brands in India that have forced me to question their god-like appeal. Do these brands treat Indian customers at par with those in the West or are they giving Indian customers the short shrift?
L'Occitane En Provence: The first incident took place early June this year in Delhi when I picked up a beauty products major L'Occitane En Provence soap. When I opened the packet I found the soap was totally dry. I thought the dry Indian weather was the culprit.
On my second visit to the shop, I asked the person in L'Occitane uniform if they were selling old products. He said, no way they could do so. I emptied a basket full of soaps in front of him and checked out the expiry dates. About half of the soap bars had expired about a month or two back but were still on sale. The shopkeeper feigned surprise and gave me the usual blarney that this was the first time this had happened.
On my return to Kolkata, I wrote a mail about my experience to the London head office of Customer Service, MELVITA UK, L'Occitane Ltd., Beauty Products. I did not get any reply. After two weeks, I forwarded the same message to them.
This time, within 15 minutes, I received a call from the Indian agent who once again threw up a flurry of excuses - how he had tried to get in touch with me in vain during the past two weeks and so on. I did not argue with him. I was cocksure he hadn't acted on the first email and was calling me for the first time. He offered me a box of soap bars for free. He said could courier it to me or I could collect it from the South City showroom in Delhi. I refused.
Dunhill: Last month I was at the Dunhill UV City Mall in Bangalore. I saw a leather bag and out of sheer curiosity asked for the price. A week before, I had picked up the same bag at a 50 per cent discount from the Dunhill Emporium Mall in Delhi. On being told the price, I inquired if there was any discount. The sales staff said, “Dunhill never offers any discount in any of its showrooms.” I did not stretch the conversation further because I already had a somewhat odd experience when I bought the bag in Delhi.
The lady at the Delhi showroom had showed me a pair of sunglasses saying there were only 250 pieces of this make in the world and this one was the only in India. But when I checked out, the same sunglasses were available in another Dunhill showroom in India. When I reported this incident to the head in Mumbai, he apologized on behalf of both the store managers.
Bose: The last incident took place just last week. I sent my music system of famous Bose brand to the company's service centre at Shantiniketan Building in Kolkata for servicing. My man told me that the company staff had said it would take 10 days to check out if the system was OK. I was little surprised and called up the service centre. A lady told me, “Sir, please bear with us, for the past three-and-half months we do not have any engineers.”
A reputed global brand like Bose doesn't have an engineer for over three months. Is it so just because it is Kolkata and India and one can get away with anything. Can a company like Bose afford to have a similar situation in Paris, London, New York or any other leading cities in the West?
Surely not, it would blow craters to their reputation.
Such service from renowned global brands like L’Occitane, Dunhill and Bose selling three different categories of products in three different cities cities of India makes me suspect of double standards. Wonder if these brands are being let down by their local partners or is it some kind of consumer apartheid when it comes to servicing Indian clients.
It is high time Indian customers strip these brands of their halo and start asking questions if there is deficiency in service.
ess bee

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Jagjit Singh the maestro

Narayan Sinha's work
Saturday, 10th September, 2011: Today evening I went to the Science City to watch the live concert of Jagjit Singh.
It was a private affair organized by ACC to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of ACC. The programme - Melody Forever – was a captivating musical evening with Padmabhushan Shri Jagjit Singh to commemorate his 70th birthday celebrations.
The programme started half-an-hour late. Whether it was Jagjit Singh’s name that drew crowds or more cards distributed by the organisers, I don’t know. But I have never seen such an over-crowded Science City auditorium.
Many of those who turned up did not get a seat and there was a commotion giving the organizers a tough time.  
The police also had to intervene while the organizers were kept busy making arrangements for extra chairs, benches, plastic stools as late as 9:30 PM.  
However, as far as the show is concerned and having watched Jagjit Singh live in more than 40 shows, I think this was one of the best shows.  
For two hours in such an over-crowded hall, where the guests even had to sit on the corner of the stage, there was pin drop silence. No doubt, even on his 70th Birthday, Padmabushan Jagjit Singh is still one of the best ghazal maestros the country has.
Yesterday evening I also went to the Harrington Street Arts Centre to attend Debi – an exhibition organized by Narayan Sinha.  Ina Puri, who invited me to this exhibition, was also filled in as the presenter at the exhibition. 
I met many artists including Ganesh Haloi and Ramananda Bandhopadhya at the Exhibition (picture).
Narayan Sinha’s work is very unique.  It is nice to see the use of old iron locks, keys and iron handles in such a beautiful way.
ess bee

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Can't take a chance with the city traffic

September 08, 2011: Yesterday evening I went to the Topaz Banquet Hall at Hotel Hindustan International for unveiling of the first look of Rituparna's new film Murder.
As expected, Rituparna came almost one-and-half hours late from the scheduled time given to us for the program. The audio promos and shots of the film were screened on time.
Met a number of acquaintances, including Gautam Mohan Chakrabarti, IPS, DG Armed Police & Traffic, and his wife Tripti, fashion designers Agnimitra Paul and Jyoti Khaitan and Deputy Mayor of KMC, Farzana Alam (picture).
I took Mr Star Jingkaojai, marketing head of cement major Holcim India, to the premier (picture).
It was his first experience of this kind. 
He excitedly clicked photos which is his hobby.
I unveiled the poster of the film with other guests (picture) and Saheb also joined in.
Today evening I will go to the Raj Bhavan to meet the Governor. It will be a courtesy visit. I, however, will miss out on the event at National Library which the Governor is suppose to attend prior to our scheduled meeting.
With Jyoti Khaitan
I decided to skip the National Library event as I am skeptical of making it to Raj Bhavan on time. 
Given the city's traffic situation of late, it would be unwise to take a chance and I don't want to end up as being another Rituparna Sengupta.
ess bee

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Secularism in action

After so many months I was in Kolkata for more then one week at a stretch. Earlier, this week a senior editor of a daily newspaper forwarded me a picture with the title – Real Secularism. The picture was so captivating that I stared at it for quite some time.
It was a picture of a Muslim family on a scooter with a child dressed as the Young Lord Krishna. I think this simple picture, a snapshot of everyday Indian life in a city, is truly representative of secularism in action in the world's largest democracy.
In fact, the sheer imagery of the picture tells us a lot more about secularism in our society than all the high voltage events and full page advertisements from time to time that try to remind us of this concept. This photo was a pleasant break from the usual Iftar party pictures or Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations.
The last week Id was celebrated and I, besides visiting some of my Muslim friends on the same day to exchange Id greetings, also attended a puja at the Manicktala Chaltabagan Lohapatty Durga Committee where I am serving as the Chairman of the Committee. It was Khuti Puja.
Khuti Puja is basically a ritual done before erecting the puja pandal. Debasree Roy, MLA, accompanied me to this Puja ceremony. The next day after Id was Ganesh Chaturthi. No doubt, India truly lives up to its reputation of being the `Land of Festivals' in ample measure.
The whole of last week there were a number of religious, social and cultural functions in Kolkata. Apart from the Messi fever, there was the Bridal Show by Tarun Tahliani at the ITC Sonar Bangla. Rituparno Ghosh's stage performance at the Birla Sabhaghar, Id get togethers and Samatswari festival of the Jain community.
Yesteray there was a Van Mahotsav at the state assembly and today evening Sunil Gangopadhyay would be acting in a play at Sisir Manch. Many important religious festivals of the Hindus, Muslims, Jains etc., and general events were all packed in a single week.
The festive season has just arrived. After Id, there is the Pujas / Dussehra and Diwali. Every year, it is a tradition among the old families of Kolkata who celebrate Diwali to go to the Machua Bazaar to pick up puja samagri and diyas. It is believed that if you go and pick up these diyas on your own then Mahalaxmi - the Goddess of Wealth - will bless you with abundance.
How many of us know that these earthen lamps which light up our homes and festivals are actually produced and sold by the Muslim families of Kolkata. Many members from these Muslim families who sit at Machua Bazar to sell diyas, earn their livelihood because of the Hindu families and festivals. This is another example of secularism in action in this country. I would call this embedded secularism. Something which has over the years symbiotically become an intrinsic part of our social life.
Of course we also have blemishes like Godhra, however, as millions of people of different faiths go about their daily lives in India, an invisible bond binds us all whose glimpse – like this picture - we get to see once in a while.
ess bee

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Van Mahotsav

Saturday, September 3, 2011 : Yesterday evening Van Mahotsav was celebrated at the State Legislative Assembly compound. The traditional Mahotsav function, slated for 2pm was shifted 5:30 pm. This suited me well and I could take the Venezuelan Ambassador Milena Santana Ramirez out for lunch.
I reached the Assembly at about 5 pm and then heard that the Assembly session was still on. So I went to the gallery and watched the last hour proceedings on this important day the addressed issues of amendments for Gorkha Bill and the historical initiative to change the name of the state – which was passed by voice vote.
By the time the session concluded it was ten minutes past six. The Van Mahotsav function started little later. 
Mamata Banerjee at the Van Mahotsav function
Girls in traditional costumes performed Van Mahotsav dance followed by Tree Planting ceremony by the Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee. MLA Debasree Roy also helped in planting the trees during the ceremony.
On the occasion, present on the dais were Industry Minister Partha Chatterjee, Government Chief Whip Sovandeb Chattopadhyay, Forest Minister Hitin Barman, Speaker of the Assembly, Biman Banerjee, Deputy Speaker, Sonali Guha, Member of Parliament, MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar and Secretary to the Assembly, J L Chakraborty.
Among others present in the audience were Amit Mitra, Subrata Mukherjee, Manas Bhuiya, Rachpal Singh, Mayor Sovan Chatterjee, H A Safwi and others ministers and MLAs from different parties.
Kaviguru Rabindranath Tagore had first popularised Van Mahotsav – the festival of planting trees - in Shantiniketan. The Government of India officially initiated this festival in 1950.
ess bee

Friday, September 2, 2011

Messi fever grips city

September 2, 2011: Yesterday I missed Rituparno Ghosh's stage performance at the Birla Sabhaghar but dropped in at the ITC Sonar Bangla for Tarun Tahliani's bridal show.
I met Karan Paul, Ratul Sood (picture) and others and then had a late adda session with the Venezuelan Ambassador who is in town for the first ever Fifa International Friendly Match between Argentina and Venezuela in India at the Yuva Bharati Krirangan, Salt Lake, Kolkata. The city is gripped by the `Messi fever' lets see how the match shapes up today evening.
I am not going for the match today but had lunch with Milena Santana Ramirez, Ambassador of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, in India at the Kewpies (picture). This restaurant serves traditional Bengali food in typical Bengali style on earthen utensils etc. Gautam Bhattacharya joined us over lunch.
I will go to the West Bengal Legislative Assembly for Van Mahotsav in the evening.
ess bee