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, August 30, 2013

Pandit ji's `home coming'

August 30, 2013: I returned from Jaipur yesterday. The Jaipur trip was mainly for the second Prabha Khaitan Foundation Memorial lecture held at the Marriott on the evening of August 28, 2013. The lecture was delivered by Padma Vibhushan Pandit Ram Narayan and the event organised by Hotel Marriott in association with Siyahi.
With Pandit Ram Narayan
Last Monday when I landed in Jaipur, there was already a buzz in the media and the cultural and social circles about the fact that Pandit ji had given his consent for the proposed visit after a spell of 30 years. Sarangi maestro Pt Ram Narayan's visit to the Pink City was a sort of “home coming” after three decades of self-imposed absence.
I was elated when Pandit ji consented to come to Jaipur to attend the Prabha Khaitan Foundation Memorial lecture series. I had been in touch with him for the past six months to convince him to come to the city and the state from which he had stayed away for a very long long time.
The octogenarian master had last performed in Jaipur in 1952 and only once before that in Udaipur. He left for Delhi and then went on to Mumbai and never looked back at Rajasthan which, he felt, had never recognized his talent.
I am glad that he finally set foot in Jaipur and Rajasthan where he was born in 1927 at Amber village in Udaipur. This time Jaipur received him with open arms as Pandit ji addressed the PKF Memorial Lecture on “Indian Classical Music in World Scenario” at the Jaipur Mariott Hotel. The Rajasthan Government too made an official announcement recently to felicitate Pandit Ram Narayan ji in a big way.
Speaking at the PKF Memorial Lecture
The event was a huge success and attended by eminent artistes and citizens of Jaipur including Dharmendra Kanwar, Mita Kapur of Siyahi, Arjun Prajapati, Rani Vidya Devi, son of Ram Narayan ji Pandit Brij Narayan and others. Pandit ji also engaged in an interactive session with the audience answering many questions posed by them.
Recipient of Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan, Pandit Ram Narayan was the first Indian to put sarangi or `sau rangi' (hundred colours), as he fondly calls it, on the global map as a solo concert instrument in Hindustani classical music. He became the first internationally popular sarangi player. More than that, he brought much respect to this traditional bowed instrument from India which had a low social status because of its traditional link with courtesan music and was looked down upon by many.
Pandit ji has, in his career spanning nearly seven decades, succeeded in elevating sarangi on the international map, igniting interest and research in the instrument across the world, especially in Europe.
With Brij Narayan
I may mention the Pandit Ram Narayan ji is the fifth generation musician in his family and the tradition is being carried on further by his son Brij Narayan who is a renowned sarod player.
I feel very happy that my efforts to bring back to the city one of its great sons-of-the-soil has finally been successful though I missed out on the Vanamahotsava 2013 at the West Bengal Legislative Assembly House gardens on August 27th in which Mamata Banerjee was the Chief Guest and attended by senior ministers and dignitaries. Each year I look forward to this event as I am the vice-president of the organisation.
ess bee

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Madras Cafe special screening

With Shoojit, Director of Madras Cafe
August 25, 2013: Yesterday evening, and few hours ago, I organized a second-day special screening of Shoojit Sirkar's political action thriller Madras Cafe at the Fame South City Mall on Saturday. 
The director, who came to the limelight with his earlier films Yahaan and Vicky Donor, was present at the special screening along with the who's who of Tollywood and other eminent Kolkatans. This time, with Madras Cafe, Shoojit has further raised the bar and I must congratulate him for his sterling effort.
At the end of the show, the guests lavished praised on the film and lauded the director for his awe-some work. I heard many of them saying that it was a “must see” and an exceptional film of international standard that would make the Indian film world proud.

With Indraneil, Shoojit and Barkha
The fact that the movie dealt with the subject of terrorism set against the backdrop of Sri Lankan civil war evinced the interest of quite a number of senior Kolkata police officials who came to see the movie and appreciate it.
Another trivia about the film is that my good friend Shantanu Moitra, who has made a name for rendering immensely popular music for film songs, has once again done a brilliant work with the background music score in this songless film. The use of real bullets in sync sounds has had a realistic impact. No wonder the film has also notched up an excellent 8.1 rating on the popular IMDb listing.
In fact the film has also generated its share of controversy with at least two political parties taking stand against its portrayal of Indian Tamils in the film. A few days ago one of the shows in a Mumbai mall was disrupted by workers of a national political party on the same issue.
With Anand Sahay
Among those who came to see the film were Arindam Sil, Anik Dutta, Toni, Arijit (Dadul), Jeet, Raima Sen, Moon Moon Sen, Bharat Dev Varma, Gargi, Tanusree, Sohini, Kaushik Sen, Sashwata, Pritimoy and others from the Tollywood fraternity, few fashion designers, journalists and corporate friends and others were there too.
The special screenings also give the directors of films a first hand feel of public view about their work and I think Shoojit must gear up to hear more as the word of his excellent work spreads further. Thanks Shoojit for a great show.
In the afternoon went to the newly-launched restaurant, Jhaal Farezi, to have lunch with Madhu and Harsh Neotia. They invited Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi, Paresh Maity and his wife. It was a sit-down lunch and it was good that I could make it since I missed the event at The Taj Bengal today where Javed and Shabana were involved. Also Paresh da's paintings would be auctioned at that event which clashed with the timing of my event - the special screening of Madras Cafe.
With Kaushik Sen
After the screening of the film, we, a group of around 15, went to The Oberoi Grand for dinner where Parambrato and Paoli joined us. Now it is almost midnight and I have a busy Sunday tomorrow.
In fact, the last week was so hectic for me with trips to Jaipur and Delhi and an edition of the Write Circle, Author's Afternoon series of events, visit to the President's house, Shoojit's film screening besides six dinners and seven other functions to attend. I could not keep track of time and day of the week and even forgot to send article to my weekly Sunday column in Hindustan Times for which I am really embarrassed.
ess bee

Friday, August 23, 2013

Author's Afternoon with Javed Akhtar

With Javed Akhtar and Sangeeta Datta
August 23, 2013: Today afternoon was the 10th Edition of the Author's Afternoon with Javed Akhtar as the author-in-the-chair addressing a robust gathering of guests and dignitaries.
Javed was in conversation with Sangeeta Datta but that did not keep others from joining in a free wheeling session that covered aspects of the poet's versatile and illustrious career.
This marked one year of Author's Afternoon in which many renowned authors of India and abroad came down to Kolkata to share their experiences. Javed Akhtar, known widely for his poetry and lyrics, has authored two books, Tarkash in 1994 and then after 18 years he wrote Lava in 2012.
Present among the guests were Arindam Sil, Anik Dutta, Anupam Roy, H M Bangur, Priti Patel, Madhu Neotia, Pramita Malick, Rupsha Dasgupta, Rumpam Islam, K Mohanchandran and others. The discussion ran a gamut of topics from comparison between sonnets and ghazals to the copyright act of the government to Javed Akhtar completing a script and screenplay.
With Shabana Azmi and Javed Akhtar
The Author's Afternoon, started by Prabha Khaitan Foundation in association with t2, Siyahi and Taj Bengal and presented by Shree Cement Ltd has completed a milestone and given its popularity is likely to get many more authors to Kolkata in the coming days.
ess bee

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

At the Desert Hues exhibition

Smt Padmini Narayanan, Governor M K Narayanan, along with other guests and dignitaries, inaugurating Desert Hues
August 21, 2013: Yesterday evening I was at the art exhibition of artist bureaucrat Kiran Soni Gupta, IAS, called Desert Hues. The exhibition of her paintings at the ITC Art Gallery is being jointly organised by Prabha Khaitan Foundation and ITC Sonar. The exhibition would be on till August 25, 2013. 
Welcoming Governor M K Narayanan
His Excellency, Governor of West Bengal, Shri M K Narayanan inaugurated the exhibition in the presence of his better half, Shrimati Padmini Narayanan, artist Jogen Choudhury, Jeffrey K Reneau, Director of American Centre in Kolkata, Krishna Bose, Prof Sugata Bose and many other dignitaries. Dr Madhukar Gupta, IAS, and husband of artist Kiran Soni Gupta, was also present.
It was a very very rainy day indeed in Kolkata and there was a lot of water logging around the city, yet it failed to dampen the spirit and the exhibition took off very well with 41 paintings on display.
With Zubin Songadvala, ITC General Manager, Kiran Soni Gupta(IAS) and her husband Madhukar Gupta (IAS)
Though Kiran has held 33 solo art shows in major cities in India and in foreign countries including New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, Toronto, Tehran, Kandy, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad, this was her first exhibition in the City of Joy and her 34th solo exhibition so far.
In line with the name Desert Hues the paintings were mostly abstract work of art around the theme of desert and Rajasthan. These abstracts are largely based on live patterns of rural Rajasthan done predominantly in oils on canvas, but some of her amazing water colors and acrylics are also on exhibit.
With Prof Sugata Bose and Mrs Krishna Bose
Kiran seems to be a complete departure from the stereotype bureaucrat keeping her creativity and soul alive through her childhood interest which has now fully blossomed into a passion and obsession. She has combined art and administration with great elan.  
Kiran's artwork Poojatime was exhibited at the world famous Le Louvre Museum in Paris in December 2012.
The Governor, M K Narayanan, and artist Jogen Choudhury lauded the works of Kiran Soni and praised her efforts. Prabha Khaitan Foundation has been providing support to artistes from different fields and Desert Hues was an initiative to bring to Kolkata a feel of Rajasthan.
ess bee

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Meeting the President of India

With the President of India,Sri Pranab Mukherjee, and Pt Vishwa Mohan Bhatt
I was in Delhi yesterday August 19, 2013, with a delegation of Rajasthan Forum member artistes to meet the President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee. I had met the President a month ago at a dinner hosted by Rajasthan Governor Smt Margaret Alva in Jaipur.
This was one of the biggest delegations of artistes from Rajasthan in recent memory to call upon the President of India. We were all charmed and touched by the warmth of the Hon'ble President who offered us tea. After that few members from the delegation were taken on a tour of the President's house including the Mogul Gardens which was a very memorable experience for all of them.
At the Rashtrapati Bhawan with Rajasthan Forum delegation
Leading artistes in the field of music, art, literature, theatre, dance, performing arts, sculpture and others, all members of Rajasthan Forum, were a part of the delegation. On behalf of the delegation, Pt Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, along with this year's best child artist, Virendra Singh Rathore, who got the award from the President himself at the 60th National Film Awards, presented the Rajasthan Panchranga Safa to the Hon'ble President of India on the occasion.
Singer Manesha Agarwal presented her Padaro Mhare Des CD and DVD to the President, Padmashree sculptor-artist, Arjun Prajapati, an idol of Gandhi ji to the Hon'ble President. Others presented books and artwork to the President.
Child artist from Rajasthan, Virendra Singh Rathore, who won the best Child Artist Award this year for his role in the film Dekh Indian Circus was also a part of the delegation.
Rajasthan Forum, which is a non-profit umbrella organization espousing the cause and promotion of art and culture, also gave a representation to the President on the embarrassing incident which happened with the child artist and his parents at the 60th National Film Award.
The child artist and his parents, who had gone to Delhi to receive the Award, had a harrowing experience for reasons beyond their control and perhaps due to a glaring oversight and poor management by the authorities entrusted with the conducting of the National Film Awards.
I landed in Kolkata back from Delhi yesterday night itself as Prabha Khaitan Foundation (PKF) is today hosting an art exhibtion at the ITC Sonar Art Gallery.
ess bee

Monday, August 19, 2013

Write Circle - healthy cooking tips

-->August 19, 2013, Hotel Maurya Sheraton: I checked into this property yesterday afternoon. After a late luncheon meet at the India International Centre, towards the evening, I went to the New Friends Club bar for another meeting.
I arrived in Delhi yesterday from Jaipur where another edition of the Write Circle series took place. 
With Abhilasha and Manjri
This time food writers, critique and chef, Abilasha Sethia, who is Kolkata born and brought up, and Manjri Agarwal, the co-authors of the book - Healthy Cooking for Patients with Kidney Ailments – came face to face with food enthusiasts on a rainy day at the Ramgarh Lodge, Jaipur. Write Circle is organized by Prabha Khaitan Foundation in association with Siyahi and supported by Shree Cement.
The duo shared valuable tips with those who turned up on a rainy day to know about how those suffering with kidney ailments too can enjoy food the healthy and tasty way. Abhilasha and Manjri shared recipes and ran the guests through all the do's and dont's of cooking that make it possible to bridge the seemingly unbridgeable i.e., why and how taste should not become a casualty for those who suffer from kidney ailments.
There was a live demo of making salads with fruits and vegetables was given by the authors which also proved to the guests by example their message as all of them relished it. Abhilasha and Manjri have enlisted more than 150 recipes of salads, appetizers, rice dishes and dessert in their book for those with chronic renal impairments and cannot exercise the luxury of having normal food.
I find that the Write Circle series is getting all the more popular as our approach to do something out of the way has clicked with the audience. The earlier editions of the Write Circle series had Saleem Kidwai, Natwar Singh and Jerry Pinto among the speakers.
At the end of the session, guests were also given a copy of the book which I would call a highly recommended collectible item for all.
ess bee

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Just for a cup of tea!

Last week on a rainy morning, I and a friend of mine strolling around Little Russel Street went to a tea shop in that area. I had tea and my friend handed over four Rs 20 note to the server and asked him to keep the change. He looked surprised and asked for Rs 20 more saying that the cost of the bigger cup tea we just had was Rs 50 each.
Recently I got a quote from the ICCR café for tea and cookies for a function at the ICCR which was about Rs 229/- per person inclusive of taxes and service charges. I was shocked as the rate quoted was almost at par with that of the 5 star properties in the city.
Tea, which is a common man's drink across India with few exceptions in South India where coffee is more popular, with this kind of pricing of a regular man's drink is not very common. There was a time when we used to know only about liquor tea and milk tea. Only the elite class differentiated between the leafy tea and CTCs. On the other hand, Indian Darjeeling tea has set various world records for its aroma and price.
During my travels abroad to some of the remote places in off beat countries, I have observed that the moment you introduce yourself as an Indian the name or topic of Darjeeling tea automatically came up sooner or later.
During the past 10 years, Indians have started recognizing the various flavours and flushes of tea although the Europeans and American style brewed fruit flavoured tea is still not very easy on the Indian palate. But tea priced at Rs 50 and tea and cookies at the ICCR at Rs 229 is rather difficult to accept.
I have in my book The Safari written about a similar experience while en route to Ranthambore. I and my friends stopped at a spot called Gangaur 60 kms from Ranthambore where we decided to have tea. I was surprised to find that a cup of tea cost me Rs 80.
The fact is that people are willing to take advantage exploit such situations. This may shock us but should not surprise us. However, I am still trying to figure out how the pricing at ICCR and Russel Street be so steep when there are scores of shops selling it, the same stuff, at much cheaper price and, some of them, at even better ambiance.
We all know we can't compare the prices at market place with those offered amid plush ambiance, for example a plate of plain rice would cost anywhere from Rs 500 to Rs 1000 in five star properties and a plate of potato curry too would cost the same which cannot be compared with the potato available in the market.
Infact, when I was discussing this matter, somebody told me that at one of the shops of the same kind on Russel Street the tea costs Rs 80. I am sure, compared to the overhead expenses of a 5 Star property these so called “morning tea and samosa shops” have no such overhead expenses. Few of the shops sell only tea and samosas the whole day.
Is it what comes with new economy or it is just the name sells.
ess bee

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Independence Day, 2013

Independence Day, August 15, 2013: In Jaipur, the only commitment I had today was to go to the Raj Bhavan to attend a Tea organized by His Excellency, Governor of West Bengal, Shri M K Narayanan and his wife Shrimati Padmini Narayanan at the reception on the occasion of the 67 Independence Day of India.
I was supposed to reach Jaipur on 16 evening as the next event of Write Circle series was scheduled on 17 August. My earlier plan was to be in Jaipur from August 17 to 19. However, I had to change this since I had to be in Delhi on August 18 to make prior arrangements for the President's House visit by a delegation of Rajasthan Forum member artistes on August 19, 2013.

Although I was contemplating rest on August 15 but, at the last moment, decided to take a flight to Jaipur today itself and grant myself a day more to work out things.
ess bee

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Looking forward to a holiday

August 14, 2013: Tomorrow is 15 August, Independence Day, and a holiday to which I am looking forward to as my trip to Bhutan was a short one and I landed in Kolkata very early in the morning. 
With Paoli and Raima at the t2 Food Guide Awards
On Monday (August 12)evening I went to The Park hotel to attend the t2 Food Guide and to give away the awards for the best food outlets in different food categories.
In fact, even the late dinner at 11.30 PM wasn't the last event of the day.
I, along with few friends, went to to Tony's house and by the time I called it a day it was 4 am. Hence, am really looking forwards to the holiday tomorrow.
ess bee

Monday, August 12, 2013

At the Mountain Echoes 2013, Bhutan

With Her Majesty, Queen Mother, Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck
August 12, 2013: Yesterday I wrote a brief article about how the royals still appeal to the masses in one of my regular columns in Hindustan Times. And then, yesterday only I landed at the Royal Kingdom of Bhutan.
With Krishna Shriram
It was a 24-hour whirlwind trip. I went there yesterday by the morning flight and returned to Kolkata today by an early morning flight. I had to get up in the wee hours to come down to Paro where the International airport is located.
People who have been to Bhutan would know that Thimphu occupies a unique place among the airports in the world since it caters to only the Druk Airways being tucked amid mountains.
With Kelly Dorji
The aircraft and pilot both have different specifications and qualifications respectively. In fact, when we were about to land at Thimphu by the Airbus, the pilot's comforting voice assured all passengers not to be perturbed by the tilting of the aircraft and the close brush with the mountain as it flew amid hills for the landing. It is a very normal and only route for the flight but for those who are in for the first time it can be unnerving.
I was there for just one night in Bhutan and hosted a farewell dinner for Mountain Echoes 2013The Bhutan Festival of Literature, Art and Culture - on the final day of the event organised by the India-Bhutan Foundation.  
With Tarun Tejpal
The dinner hosted at Hotel Taj Tashi in Thimphu was attended by guests and VIPs from Jaipur, Kolkata and all over India and of course the who's who of Bhutan. A Bhutanese band playing soft music added to the ambiance.
The Chief Guest was Her Majesty, Queen Mother, Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, who wished everybody peace and prosperity. 
Among others were Amish Tripathi, who wore a traditional Bhutanese outfit, Aparna Sen, Kelly Dorji, Krishna Shriram and other. Also present were the Festival directors Namita Gokhale and Pramod Kumar KG and producer Mita Kapoor of Siyahi.
ess bee