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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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ek Mulaqat with Goutam Ghose

January 31, 2013: Ek Mulaqat an ongoing series was held today afternoon at the ITC Rajputana. Thanks to the ITC Rajputana Hotel staff and General Manager, Sunil Gupta, who whole-heartedly support our events and try their best to meet all our needs and requests even the ones that crop us at the last minute or at odd hours.
This time at Ek Mulaqat, ace film director, Goutam Ghose, was in conversation with his daughter and my friend Anandi Ghose. 
Anandi Ghose was a little nervous as she was on to this for the first time. They are both here to participate in the Jaipur International Film Festival.
With Hema Malini and Sharmila Tagore
I, along with Hema Malini and Sharmila Tagore (picture), inaugurated the Jaipur International Film Festival yesterday. If I may make my honest opinion public, I say I have rarely seen such a disorganized Film Fest with utter lack of discipline.
Although the Oscar Award Winner/Director Marc-Andreas Bochert and many other foreign delegates had arrived to attend the fest, the organizers had no clue about their films or what all was happening and where.
With Prem Chopra and Sharmila
I was greatly embarrassed in front of the guests whom I had called on behalf of the organisers on their request. I guess the learning process is an ongoing one. Though I have conducted hundreds of prestigious events yet there are so many things I still have to learn.
Tomorrow I shall be Kolkata bound.
ess bee

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Flight missed

January 29, 2013: Though the Jaipur Literature Festival 2013 is over, the social life in Jaipur is still very hectic. 
Today morning I had another event of our ongoing series Ek Mulaqat with Sharmila Tagore in conversation with Sangeeta Datta.
With Maharaj Gaj Singh
In the evening I went to the Kanota Fort for the inauguration of General Amar Singh Kanota Library & Museum and there I met Maharaja Gaj Singh, Thakur Mansingh and others.
I had a flight booked for Kolkata today at pm from Jaipur and was to return to Jaipur tomorrow by an afternoon flight after attending the inauguration of the Kolkata Literary Meet. 
I wanted to attend the T2 Annual Party today late night. 
With Thakur Mansingh and Pramod KG
It was my idea that after attending the Kolkata Literary Meet, Id take the flight back to Jaipur in order to attend the inauguration of the Jaipur International Film Festival.
But even the most meticulous of plans often go awry. 
I was exhausted and also got late at the Kanota Fort, located on the outskirts of Jaipur, and missed the flight.
ess bee

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Life Apart – book release at JLF

January 28, 2013: Jaipur Literature Festival 2013 concluded today. I dropped into the Writer’s Ball dinner which is a farewell dinner organized at the Kesar Kyari in Amer Fort
I met British writer Aminatta Forna (picture) who released my mother's book earlier during the day at the Amer Fort.
Ira Pande, Urvashi Butalia and Namita Gokhale were very happy with the turnout in the last session of the Literature Festival which was the launch of my mother Late Dr Prabha Khaitan’s book - A Life Apart - which is an English translation of her original work in Hindi Anya se Ananya. Ira Pande has translated it to English.
The release function of the book, an autobiographical account, had a robust presence. Sharmila Tagore and British writer, Aminatta Forna, made a special appearance to release the book adding to the all-women effort. Writer Ambai (C S Lakshmi) was also present along with publisher Urvashi Butalia of Zubaan, Namita Gokhale, Director of the Festival, and Ira Pande.
Urvashi Butalia, sharing her feelings with the audience, said the autobiographical account of Late Dr Prabha Khaitan was something straight from the heart. Namita Gokhale said that it was one of the most honest autobiographies. Ira Pande said that the autobiographical narrative covered all shades of her life’s ordeals i.e., from the beautiful to the ugly.
Others, like Ambai, felt a resonance of her own life with the autobiographical accounts of my mother, as did Sharmila Tagore, who had started reading it.
I feel the English translation of my mother’s autobiography was long due and with the English version many women across India and beyond would come to know the struggles of a self-made lady in India and the social backdrop that shapes our opinion about women.
It turned out to be an event about a woman, by women and largely for the women. The overwhelming number of women in the audience seemed to instantly connect with her life as a woman. I thank everyone for their support.
ess bee

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Samosas, kachoris score over 5-star dinners

With Akansha and Ashok
Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) and the Polo season, both are in full bloom. JLF is quite like a Maha Kumbh of literature where six parallel sessions are taking place at the Diggi Palace Hotel. Everyone around me is involved in some event or the other.
With Journalists Richa and Venu
This time I find that the participation of local citizens in the events have increased noticeably.
I crossed paths with many of the prominent residents of the pink city during different sessions and between sessions. 
Suhel Seth gave me company over samosas and tea.
With Salim Kidwai
One thing that was a big hit at the JLF this time was Rawat ki kachori
Those who have been to Jaipur would know that Rawat is very famous shop in the city that sells aloo pyaz masala kachoris and mirch bada
Many of the people known to me from the literary and film fraternity went gaga over it and other Rajasthani food.
With Namita Gokhale
Starting from Javed Akhtar and Shabana to the authors and publishers – Ira Pande, Urvashi Butalia, Namita Gokhale of A Life Apart (an English translation of Late Dr Prabha Khaitan's autobiography in Hindi Anya se Annaya slated for release tomorrow) were all in for the snacks giving scant attention to the 5 Star formal dinners.
With Rama Pandey, Suhel Seth
I naturally felt elated as the responsibility of arranging these much-in-demand jalebis, samosas, mirchi vadas and kachoris was on me and I ensured that the guests had their fill.
With Timmi Kumar of Clark's Amer
Some of my office staff got busy delivering the same to different five star hotels where my known people friend and authors are staying.
Yesterday evening I went to Mita Kapur's house for dinner which she hosted for the authors and publishers and also to celebrate Namita Gokhale's birthday.
Kiron Soni, DC (Ajmer), Madhukar Gupta, DC(Jaipur)
I met many new and known people from the literary world. During the LitFest, other than the official dinner every evening, there were two to three dinner invitations at various places from different publishers.
I attended the Rambag inaugural dinner and Mita's dinner party. 
Audience at one of the sessions of JLF 2013
I intend to attend the Writers' Ball. I have to skip the rest and spend time with few friends including Rinku di, Sangeeta Dutta at the Kishangarh Room in Rajputana.
ess bee

Friday, January 25, 2013

At the Diggi Palace Hotel

With Author Jeet Thiyal of Man Booker fame

Jan 25, 2013: It is the second day of the Jaipur Literature Festival 2013 and I am writing this blog entry from Room No 618 of hotel Diggi Palace which was once a haveli.
It was built in the 1860s and is now a heritage property. 
The hotel's upkeep is excellent with manicured lawns. With its large leafy garden, the hotel is like an oasis in the heart of Jaipur.
With Pakistani Author Nadeem Aslam
The past two days I was very busy with the Jaipur LitFest attending various sessions, meeting and authors. 
It was more like a mela where you can meet literary personalities from across the world and also many from the glamour world. The journalists were of course all there swarming the fest. 
Diggi Palace has been hosting the Jaipur Literature Festival since last year.
With Sanjeev Bothra and Himmat Shah
I am grateful to the owner of Diggi Palace, Thakur Ram Pratap Singh Diggi and his wife Jyotika Kumari. 
They were kind enough to give me a very comfortable suite with a good sitting area at the Diggi Palace itself and that too at a time when getting hotel accommodation is next to impossible.
With Vinod Bhardwaj and L C Pant
It was very convenient for me, and others known to me, to take a break from the LitFest sessions that were being held at the same venue. It was really nice of them to give me a room on my last minute request at this great place. I am really thankful for that.
ess bee

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Jaipur LitFest 2013

With Shabana Azmi and Javed Akhtar at the LitFest
January 24, 2013: The five-day Jaipur Literature Festival 2013 takes off today. Mahasweta Devi will be the keynote speaker and the Dalai Lama is also scheduled to attend the first day of the LitFest.
With Suhel Seth, Queenie Singh and Madhu
Yesterday night there was a dinner at Rambagh Palace hosted by Satyajeet Krishnan, General Manager, Rambagh Palace and the directors and producers of The DSC Jaipur Literature Festival 2013. 
With Madhu and Queenie
It was a dinner for very selective guests and authors and like last year it was a gala affair with vintage cars escorting guests to the venue.
I met Shabana and Javed Akhtar and had a long adda session with Suhel Seth.
We decided to meet up at the Diggi Palace in the afternoon every day for samosas and tea like we did last year.
With Maharaj Vijit Singh
At the dinner I was introduced to Maharaj Vijit Singh.
also got introduced to former Miss India and model Queenie Singh Dhody and actress Madhu from Mumbai who are Suhels friends. It was obvious that the guests at the dinner were very exclusive. 
With Lakshyaraj Singh
Apart from a few bureaucrats who have an avid interest in literature, I did not see anyone else. I also met Lakshyaraj Singh, son of Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar of Udaipur.
It was an enjoyable evening at the Royal Rambagh Palace with the royalty, great authors and of course amid regal atmosphere.
I am planning to skip the opening of the inaugural session of the LitFest and reach the venue post noon when it would be less crowded.
ess bee

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The shadow of a controversy

January 22, 2013: I landed in Jaipur yesterday afternoon. Later, I went to a private dinner hosted by my friend couple for me. They wanted me to introduce few more prominent citizens of Jaipur.
In Jaipur, after the controversy over staging of a theatre by a Pakistani theatre group at the Jaipur Theatre Festival, yet another controversy, this time involving the Jaipur Literature Festival 2013, is casting a shadow on the LitFest.
The impending visit and participation of authors Jeet Thayil, Ruchir Joshi, Amitva Kumar and Hari Kunzru, who had read out passages from Salman Rushdie’s banned book The Satanic Verses of Koran last year, is being opposed by Muslim groups who have warned the organisers asking them not to allow these authors to participate.
Apart from this, RSS and few other organisations are opposing the visit of Pakistani authors to Jaipur as well. As the LitFest gets embroiled in a controversy. Let's see how it goes.
ess bee

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Artistes in Pink City react on border incident

I arrived in Jaipur on Tuesday evening. The city is gearing up for the Jaipur Literature Festival 2013 (JLF 2013). I find that, since the past few years, January has become synonymous with being in Jaipur. The JLF, polo season, heritage festivals and numerous other events all take place in January.
This year there is also the theatre festival called Bharat Rang Mahotsav (Jan 7 - 17) being hosted in the city by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and the National School of Drama (NSD). This is the 15th such National festival organized by them in India.
I wanted to attend the January 16th evening play called Kaun Hai Yes Gustakh. Ajoka, a theatre group from Lahore, was to stage this play on Saadat Hasan Manto by Pakistani playwright Shahid Nadeem who is known for his commitment to human rights. The play was directed by Madeeha Gauhar.
I heard in the afternoon that the play would not be staged as the authorities had banned it following protests from a group of people in the wake of the recent India-Pakistan border incident. All 24 artistes who were supposed to perform were asked to go back without staging the play.
I was hardly surprised by this move. Last year also the state government acted similarly when Salman Rushdie, who was to attend the Jaipur LitFest, was stopped. Later in the day, when I heard the details, I found the whole affair quite unusual.
Normally, a local government bans such programmes when it anticipates there is going to be a law and order problems. Shiv Sainiks protesting against the play from Pakistan also doesn’t come as a surprise. But what really surprised me was the fact that the entire theatre fraternity was opposed to the staging of this play just because it was from Pakistan.
From the senior most artiste of Jaipur Theatre, Sartaj Mathur, to the youngest ones, all wore black badges or bands to protest its staging. “By letting this show happen, we would have made a spectacle of ourselves. We should not encourage them any more,” he said.
The state government had no option but to ban it especially when a Chintan Shivir is scheduled to take place soon for which the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, and Congress Party chief, Sonia Gandhi, are to arrive soon along with 13 Congress chief ministers and almost the entire cabinet ministers of Congress.
The Pakistani director of the play, Madeeha Gauhar said, “We are all artistes. We carry with us the message of peace and harmony. I am really upset.”
In such situations as these, the artistes, most of whom who have nothing to do with politics, always countenance a show of solidarity with their fellow artistes from around the world. But this time the gruesome border incident of mutilating the body of Indian army man by Pakistan army personnel, has hurt sentiments and created deep schisms that have not spared the theatre artistes.
It seems the artistes have sent across a clear message to Pakistan that “….enough is enough”.
ess bee

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Jaipur polo season gets off on a sad note

January 19, 2013: The polo season in Jaipur, which is on full swing, got off on a sad and tragic note. Two of the horses died in front of our eyes while a match of the H H Sawai Bhawani Singh Cup at the Ramabagh Polo Ground was in progress on Wednesday. Both the horses, Koyal and Pithufa, were part of the team Sahgal Stud which was playing against IPG Rajasthan. It is probably the first time that two horses have died in one match.
Koyal was the first horse to collapse and die four minutes into the game. Doctors tried in vain to revive Koyal which belonged to Rampratap Singh Diggi, owner of Diggi Palace, the venue for the Jaipur Literary Festival. The play was stopped for an hour.
However, even before Koyal's death sunk in, tragedy struck again in the fourth chukker when the Argentine horse Pithufa crashed to the ground. Five minutes later, the horse was declared dead, marking the worst day in India's polo history.
Yesterday evening I attended a dinner of Rajasthan Polo Club annual dinner. I just dropped in for half an hour as I had other pressing engagements. Today afternoon I also went to the polo grounds to watch a very very interesting match between Bank of India and Baria which was a final match under Maharaj Prithi Singh Baria Cup-2013.
Col Maharaj Prithi Singh was born on 6th June, 1911, and died in a tragic TWA air crash near Cairo on 30th August, 1950. He was the son of Lt Col Maharaj Nahar Singhji, brother of the ruler of Devgad Baria, His Highness Sir Ranjit Singh KCSI.
It was H H Sir Ranjit Singhji who introduced the game of polo in Baria in 1906. He made sure that his son, Maharaj Kumar Sobhak Singh and his nephew Raj Kumar Prithi Singh, were taught polo in Baria as well as Mayo College, Ajmer. The cousins were very close to each other and had represented the school in polo in their mid teens. This was around 1925 when the Jodhpur polo team led by Rao Raja Hanut Singh was making waves in the polo world in England.
The cousins, with two other players, formed the Baria Polo team between 1926 and 1931 and earned a name for themselves as an excellent polo team. H H Sawai Man Singhji, the then ruler of Jaipur State, formed a team along with Rao Raja Hanut Singh and Rao Raja Abhay Singh from Baria. He chose Raj Kumar Prithi Singh, Rao Raja Hanut Singh, who and already made a name for themselves in England and played to a high handicap. He helped to train and patronised the team.
By mid-1932 they were ready to take on the world, they left for England early 1933 with 40 top class polo ponies. They formed the famous Jaipur Polo Team, which won all the trophies that were on offer. Prithi Singh played as a forward player in the team which swept England in 1933, a standard of polo that India has never witnessed since then.
Handicapped at eight, Col Prithi Singh soon gained recognition and if the Ward had not interrupted further tournaments, there was strong possibility that he would have attained the highest handicap in the game. He was the Secretary of the Indian Polo Association and his untimely death was a great loss to India and the game of polo. In the history of Indian polo, Prithi Singh Baria was a legend.
In the final match for the cup named after him turned out to be a very interesting match. Samsheer Ali, who was handicap of +6, played superbly netting 4 goals. After many ups and downs in the match the scope of which was 1:4 soon became 4:4 then 5:5 and finally the Bank of India won.
A new range of BMW cars were on display. BMW was the co-sponsor of the match. The polo grounds provides a perfect ambiance in this weather for cheese and wine which was served during the match. To night I shall fly back to Kolkata.
ess bee