Sundeep Bhutoria

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Thank you.
ess bee

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Big event, bigger responsibilities

Welcoming Shri Md Hamid Ansari, Vice President of India
For the past three weeks I was engrossed in the three-day Agyeya Birth Centenary Celebrations which concluded on Thursday at the historic National Library in Kolkata. The Vice President of India, Md Hamid Ansari, was the chief guest of the event that was attended by about 50 leading scholars from across the country.
I have, in the past, many times dealt with events and issues pertaining to the visit of VVIPs and I was fully aware of the marathon exercise that entails any programme involving them.
The Government formalities, clearances, protocols and issues related to security at the highest levels (Z + category) are very stringent due to the security scenario in the country. Anyway, the processes are very lengthy and and a test of stamina and patience. It is very comprehensive and also very exhausting.
Firstly, the organisation and the person involved has to get clearances from a multitude of departments and security agencies of the state government. Once that is sent to the state government, the VVIPs' consent or confirmation of participating in the event is taken.
But once the process of formalities starts, the hosts, at every stage, realises that it is a tough job to involve VVIPs in functions as one has to comply with strict guidelines and rules, mostly pertaining to the security aspects.
For example, at the advanced security liaison (ASL) meeting, one has to to answer a series of queries down to the minute details as the officials have to do their duty, considering all aspects, with a fine-tooth comb. Where will the wires from the Television AV vans lead to? What will happen if the lift stops working? What if there are more cars than the premises can accommodate? If tea is offered to the VVIPs who will make it? What if there are more media persons at the venue ? What if they come in front of the Stage? And so on.
I wish to distribute 1500 cards to include all the state ministers, bureaucrats and other invitees. But I was allowed to issue the same number of cards as the seating capacity of the auditorium. I don't think any social event in this country has a 100 per cent turnout or attendance. I was cocksure that half of my hall would be empty. So I had to hire another hall available at National Library ground floor, put up a projector and organise for another 200 seats in lieu of which I was allowed to issue 200 more cards.
At the end of the day the number of people who visited the function tallied with my estimate as did the media turnout. The another hall, where the 200 chairs were laid, was empty. It is true that the Government departments have their own set of rules and formalities to comply with, but there has to be a practical approach for such things.
However, it was a proud privilege to have the Vice President of the Republic of India at an event. This event would not have been possible without the support of the two dozen Government departments who looks into the smallest details. This also gives you a feeling that Why not! After all the Vice President is the numero two man in the country of over a billion people.
I am leaving Kolkata this weekend and will miss the Celebrating Calcutta Awards celebrations hosted by Jyoti Khaitan, Sanjay Budhia and Renu Roy.
ess bee

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Kolkata hosts Agyeya Centenary Celebrations

VP Hamid Ansari, Governor, M K Narayanan and Firhad Hakim, MLA
Thursday, February 23, 2012: I was busy with the Agyeya Centenary Celebrations organised by Prabha Khaitan Foundation, in collaboration with Sahitya Academy and Raza Foundation, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (February 21st to 23rd).
About 50 scholars from across the country participated including, Arvindakshan - Wardha, Ashok Vajpeyi-Delhi, Chandrakant Tripathi-Agra, Giriraj Kishore-Kanpur, Kedar Nath Singh-Varanasi, Madhav Chaturvedi-Delhi, Madhukar Upadhyay-Delhi, Mridula Garg-Delhi, Om Thanvi-Delhi, Pankaj Bisth-Delhi, Prayag Shukla-Delhi, Rajendra Upadhyay-Delhi, Ramesh Mehta-Jammu, Ramsaran Joshi-Nagpur, Tribhuvan -Jaipur, Viswanath Prasad Tiwari-Gorakhpur, were in Kolkata for the same and the scholars from Kolkata who participated Kripashankar Chaubey, Shri Krishna Bihari Mishra, Shri Mritunjay Kumar Singh, IPS, Neelkamal, Shambhu Nath, Vimlesh Tripathi and others.
There were three different sessions besides the main function which was graced by none other than the Vice President of India, His Excellency., Shri M Hamid Ansari, Shri M K Narayanan, H.E. The Governor of West Bengal, Shri Firhad Hakim, Minister Of Urban Development, Shri Hari Mohan Bangur, Shri Ashok Vajpeyi, Executive Trustee, The Raza Foundation, Shri Sunil Gangopadhyay, President,Sahitya Akademi, Prof Kedarnath Singh, Shri Om Thanvi, Editor, and myself were there on the dais.
This three-day event took place at the historical premises of the National Library. The National Library, located on a 30-acre of green patch in the city's heart, is one of the largest libraries in Asia and the largest library of India in volumes and for public record under the Department of Culture, Ministry of Tourism & Culture, Government of India.
There were quite a few heated discussions among the scholars at the panel discussions.
I felt happy that Kolkata has hosted such an important historical event in Hindi literature as Kedarnath Singh said, “In the past three centuries the country hasn't seen a Hindi programme of this scale and stature.”
The person I missed in this whole event was Dr Kapila Vatsyayan, who is not only a Rajya Sabha MP and one of the country’s top cultural personality, but also the wife of Sachhidananda Vatsyayan ‘Agyeya’.
She is personally known to me. I have great respect for her and really looked forward hoping she would grace the event. She wrote a letter to me which was read out in the main function. In the letter she wrote about Agyeya's connection with Kolkata, “It will be recalled that Shri S H Vatsyayan came to Kolkata soon after his period of imprisonment in the mid-thirties, to take up the editorship of Vishal Bharat at the request of the late Pandit Banarsidas Chaturvedi. His long and distinguished literary journey as also his editorship, in a manner of speaking, began in Kolkata. My earliest memories go back to this period when he was house guest of my parents for many months in this town.”
ess bee

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Theatre time

The last week was a `theatre week' for me. On the eighth of this month I saw a play Arms and the Man at Kalamandir directed by Naseeruddin Shah based on George Bernard Shaw's popularcomedy. Though, based on a popular work, Naseeruddin's directorial inputs were quite evident.
On February 10th I went to Vidyamandir to watch another play of Paresh Rawal, Krishan vs Kanhaiya,and a day later on Sunday I saw Bratya Basus Ruddha Sangeet.
The three plays reflected three different moods. While Arms and The Man was in English, Krishan vs Kanhaiya was a Hindi comedy and Ruddha Sangeet was based on Bratya Ganer Ruddha Sangeet (The Stifled Music of an Untouchable) - a story by one of Bengal's greatest Rabindra Sangeetsingers, Debabrata Biswas, known by his nicknameGeorge da”.He was even more popular because of his `improvisations' or `melodic excesses' on the established and rigid tune-notations of Tagore songs and also for his inclinations to use Western musical instruments.
In Bratya's version, there was also a scene in which Jyoti Basu, Nirmal Ghose and Pramod Dasgupta's characters were shown. There ere quite a few innuendos on Marxism.
Earlier this week, I had a meeting with the Kolkata Police regarding Pronam members' annualfunction, we decided on the play Natir Pooja directed by Kaushal Ganguly in which Arpita Chatterjee has acted. The play is based on Rabindranath Tagores story. The programme is slated for March 16, 2012 at Vidyamandir.
This week Bratya's theatre group was present at a theatre festival in Kolkata which drew Mahesh Bhatt, Amal Allana and Manoj Vajpayee to Kolkata. I think that after a long time the city has hosted so many theatres within such a short time.
When I went to watch the three plays, I was rather surprised to find that at the Vidyamandir and Kalamandir, mobile phones were buzzing in between when the play was on despite announcement at the start of the event requesting the audience to put their mobile phones in silent mode. During the interval, many people were out enjoying samosas and coffee at the in house canteens, but their extended tea break continued even when the play resumed.
In contrast, during the play staged at Rabindra Sadan, not a single mobile phone rang and everyone had finished their lemon tea and moori badam well in time to be back in their seats before the play resumed.
Another thing I observed was that the audience of Vidya Mandir and Kalamandir, except for few of the front rows, by and large were in a hurry to leave the auditorium while the actor and director were on the dais. In Rabindra Sadan, no one left before curtains fell.
The tickets for Vidyamandir and Kalamandir were priced as donation between Rs 1000 to Rs 2500 against Rabindra Sadan's Rs 40, Rs 50 and Rs 60. Well, someone has rightly said it,Money cant buy you culture.
I must thank a new company in this town Leopard Creations and Maggi for bringing some of the national theatres to Kolkata.
ess bee

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Art auction for a different kind of cause

February 18, 2012: This afternoon I went to the Press Club of Kolkata to attend the inauguration of the charity art auction press conference on Art Auction for Animal Shelter”.  
Animal lovers in the city could soon have a shelter to take their injured, abandoned and distressed four-legged friends to, thanks to an online art auction.
Debasree Roy Foundation, an animal welfare organisation, and The Eye Within, a non-profit organisation promoting contemporary Indian art and artists, have joined hands to conduct the auction that will raise funds for an animal shelter and hospital and Mr Gautam Das heads The Eye Within.
Works by Rabindranath Tagore, Abanindranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose, Jamini Roy, Jogen Chowdhury and Shuvaprasanna, among others, will go under the hammer for the cause.
Those who want to take part in the auction will have to fill in an online pre-registration form. Minimum bids would be announced on February 25. The auction preview will be held on March 3 at the Royal Bengal Room, City Centre, Salt Lake, from 4 pm to 7 pm. Derek O’Brien has agreed to conduct the auction and Sourav Ganguly will also join in the function on that day.
We are dependent on animals. So we must protect them, not out of pity, but because our eco-system would collapse without them,” is what I said at the conference. Our Foundation - Prabha Khaitan Foundation is supporting this auction.
From the Press Club, Debasree and myself went to The Kolkata Tattoo - a show at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium organized by the Kolkata Police for the first time. I met Rashid Khan and the police officials of Kolkata Police (picture).
ess bee

Friday, February 17, 2012

Nobel Chor premier show

With Toni and Barkha
February 17, 2012: There were three invitations this evening, one was the launch of On Tagore by Amit Chaudhuri at the Oxford Bookstore, the other was an invitation from The Consul General of the Russian Federation, Mr Vladimir V Lazarev to a presentation function of the Kaluga region of Russia and Dialogue of CulturesUnited World Foundation followed by a reception at the Galaxy Hall of The Park and finally there was the Premier of Bengali feature film Nobel Chor at Priya.
I decided to skip the first two and went to Nobel Chor premier show. The film, directed by Suman Ghosh (picture), is a work of fiction inspired by the real incident.  
But the way Mithun acted in the film, there is no doubt that the crowds would rush to the theatres.
Sumans direction has proved that simplicity is still the best thing and has its own charm. I met the usual film premier crowd of Kolkata at this premier show.
ess bee

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Rains play spoilsport

February 16: This morning I attended the ASL meeting at the National Library with regard to the Hon’ble Vice President’s visit to Kolkata. 
Last night it had rained and the weather is a little better.
Yesterday, while at P C Chandra's, at the wedding of Bachhawat family, it started drizzling and by the time I reached RCGC, it became very messy. The sudden downpour took both, the guests and the hosts, by surprise and neither were prepared for it and the resulting chaos. Things actually became so bad that I could not get out of my car to attend the wedding and messaged Ramesh Juneja that I was there.
It somehow seems, I was not meant to attend Juneja’s wedding because some months back Ramesh Juneja invited me to the wedding celebrations in Goa but I wasn't able to attend the Goa celebrations nor able to see him or greet him in the reception at RCGC.
ess bee

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

`Art of Bengal' – a great book

With Asish Anand, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, Ina Puri and 
Paula Sengupta
February 15, 2012: Yesterday I was at the ITC Sonar Art Gallery at the book release function of ‘The Art of Bengal' by Delhi Art Gallery hosted by our Foundation – Prabha Khaitan Foundation.
The 464-page volume has essays by Ina Puri, Paula Sengupta and Sanjoy Kumar Mallik. This must-have book for all art lovers is complete with a reference time line and 400 plates of works of art.
One of the co-authors is a personal friend of mine, so I decided to host this event in collaboration with ITC Sonar Bangla
The book was unveiled by santoor maestro Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma (picture) who has been kind enough to come all the way from Mumbai to release the book. 
With Chitrabhanu Majumdar
In fact, Kishore Singh and Ashish Anand from Delhi Art Gallery came down for this event.
The project, commissioned by the Delhi Art Gallery, is divided into different sections that trace art and artists from the late 18th century to 2010. 
Curator Ina Puri, who has chronicled Bengal’s art scene between 1947 and 2000 for the book describes the period as, “It was a very rich period, featuring important painters like Lalu Prasad Shaw, Partha Pratim Deb, Isha Mohammad and Chittrabhanu Majumdar. 
It was also a period peaking in theatre, film and music, so it tries to highlight, to portray the range of art practised in Bengal.”
With Ranjit Mallik
Priced Rs 9,000, the Book will be available at select bookstores by the end of the month, followed by a two-week exhibition starting April 4, when 200 works of art that appear on the pages of the book would be on display at The Harrington Street Arts Centre in Calcutta.
It is indeed too bulky to carry this Book comfortably in the hand but an excellent book as far as the Art of Bengal is concerned.
After the book release, I hosted a dinner in honour of Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma at my residence and invited friends from the music fraternity i.e., Bickram Ghosh, Tanmoy Bose, Ustad Rashid Khan. Among others, Aparna Sen, Gargi Roy Chowdhury, Ranjit Mallik, an Artist Chitrabhanu Mazumdar joined in.
With Rashid Khan, Gargi Roy and Tanmoy Bose
The evening ended quite late and I was really impressed to see the discipline in the classical music fraternity as Rashid, Tanmoy and Bickram, all the three not only touched the feet of Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma and sought his blessings, but also refrained from consuming alcohol in his presence.
Today evening I shall out attending a couple of weddings.
ess bee

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Cigarette butts - deadlier than the terrorists

This week, while in office, I got a call from my home informing me that a fire broke out on the window shades of first floor of our building but the situation was brought under control by the chauffeurs, guards and others who succeeded in dousing it.
Later, I came to know that the fire was the handiwork of someone who had casually flicked a burning cigarette butt from one of the windows above. The smouldering butt fell and ignited a rubber pipe in which live electric wires were encased. This causing a short circuit and the fire.
It could not be ascertained who was behind the discarded cigarette butt, but it left no room for doubt that it was some visitor in the building. Smoking is hazardous in more ways than one and often to others.
My house on Little Russell Street is in an old building. It has a wooden staircase like any other old buildings in the city. These buildings are a veritable tinderbox, a powder keg, that any discarded cigarette butt can cause a conflagration.
After the Stephen Court fire incident, I wrote a strong letter to the co-owners of our building which yielded some results. The messy wires were put in order, but other than mine, no other apartment has fire extinguishers or fire-fighting equipment till date.
The law has banned smoking in public places, but we actually see people not only smoking in public but also casually tossing burning cigarette butts in jammed trash chutes and elsewhere. Disastrous fire incidents like the Nandaram Market, Stephen Court, AMRI and so many other such incidents in the city has hardly had any impact. The general level of awareness regarding fire safety is abysmally low. I shudder to think how many more fires and lives will it take for Kolkatans to draw some serious lessons and act.
Given the city's track record, Kolkatans should be more aware, alert and cautious regarding fire safety. More so, since we live in a city that has so many old buildings with narrow lanes and approach roads. The electrical wirings in these building make a perfect set up for a horror movie.
As far as the public is concerned, the government and its fire department is always the favourite whipping boy. Why can't we the citizens of Kolkata take few small steps in adopting fire safety measures like putting fire-fighting equipment and ensuring that functional fire exits are in place. My building doesn't have one and I am fighting for it. My gut feeling is that I have a long battle ahead.
Not just visitors, the hosts are also responsible for fatal fire incidents. If you invite someone to your house, how they conduct themselves, is your responsibility.
The world over, if one goes by the discarded cigarette butts' potential to cause damage to life and property, it is more dangerous than terror attacks.
So not just health, our government should strictly enforce that all cigarettes are “fire safe” (go out more quickly if left unattended) or Fire Standards Compliant (FSC), as in the United States.
But all these measures would have little impact as long as the general awareness on fire safety remains low. When will we ever learn!
ess bee

Friday, February 10, 2012

Gearing up for Agyeya Centenary celebrations

February 10, Friday: Since Monday I was busy in the office preparing for the Agyeya 100th Birth Centenary Celebrations in Kolkata slated for February 21st to 23rd 2012.
With Srijeet, Mithun da, Ananya and Gargi
The Vice President of India, Hon'ble Mohammad Hamid Ansari ji has kindly consented to be the Chief Guest and I have also invited about 50 scholars and literary personalities and senior journalists from across the country to attend the three-day event.
For organising this kind of events, the desk work is very important and that is what kept me occupied for the last five days. 
With Indrani and Malabika
Amid all this work, I hosted a dinner on the request of my friend Dr Suman Ghosh who is the Director of the film Nobel Chor scheduled for release on February 17, 2012. 
I hosted this dinner as Mithun da, the main character of the film, was also in town.
The film story is based on the Nobel Prize theft. The dinner was hosted at the ITC Sonar poolside. My other friends from the film fraternity also attended the dinner.
As the film had something to do with Tagore, it also gave me an opportunity to display my personal collection on Tagore family like a painting of Tagore by Jamini Roy, hand-written letter by Tagore to his daughter Neeru and a pair of sketches by Gagendranath Tagore.
I have also arranged for copies of Gitanjali for the guests.
My friend, Victor Banerjee, gifted me a hand written poetry of Tagore which I also put on display.

ess bee