Of public spaces, museums and galleries…

There was a time, when most of our cities had lung spaces, parks, public spaces where we could go to “shoot the breeze”, have a “walkabout”, set up a cricket field or play football.

Cut to today. Most large cities in the country have lost their lung or public places. Delhi still has some inside-locality parks, some large parks and lawns near India Gate. Mumbai has nothing. Calcutta has little to talk about except the one lake and the maidan. Bangalore has one constantly shrinking and being encroached upon Cubbon Park. You get the picture. The story isn’t too different in other places.

So, where would people go? You guessed it right. Malls – the large air-conditioned, non-interesting walking spaces filled with same-old same-old retail stores, cineplexes and food courts. What happens in the malls tells you what people are looking for. The footfalls are high, the conversion to sales (except food, and movies) is abysmally low. Why? Because people are just looking for public places where they can spend time, and not necessarily bunch of money. What better than being in an air-conditioned space (especially in our kind of weather), grab a bite and maybe catch a movie?

What if going to a mall isn’t your thing and you don’t want your kids getting stuck on malls? There actually are some choices in every major city. You might not be able to go there too many times, but even one time each is better than none.

If a city thought about it, places to send folk to would be museums and galleries. Most large cities, or locations of historic importance have museums and galleries. Our country has a bunch of them as well. India’s largest and the oldest museum opened in Calcutta in 1814. And over the past two hundred years, many more have opened. Some are just museums, and some are galleries displaying art of various kinds.

The problem is that people don’t visit galleries or museums. At least most people do not. It might really be about culture and what we perceive to be important for us and our children. But then, concerts do get audience in auditoriums and bar atmospheres. But, have you seen most of the museums in our country except the super famous ones? Exceptions are places like The Railway Museum, Dolls Museum in Delhi, Prince Albert Museum in Mumbai or some of the galleries where the rich and the famous want to be seen at.

A museum is an institution that cares for (conserves) a collection of artifacts and other objects of artistic, cultural, historical, or scientific importance and makes them available for public viewing through exhibits that may be permanent or temporary .

Allow me to name a few places which are either brilliant or hold a tremendous value in terms of novelty.

National Gallery of Modern Art, Bangalore

National Gallery of Modern Art, Bangalore

National Galleries of Modern Art – there are at least three of them. One in Delhi, in Mumbai and in Bangalore. The first two are large establishments, but the one in Bangalore is relatively smaller. It is housed in a much smaller Manikyavelu Mansion on Palace Road. The place is green, serene and beautiful. Besides the permanent exhibits which are worth a visit, the place always has temporary stuff, film shows, talks etc. Entry Rs 10, and Re 1 (for children)

Chitrakala Parishat Gallery in Bangalore

Chitrakala Parishat Gallery in Bangalore

Chitrakala Parishat galleries – CKP, of course. People go there for the annual festival, but when I went we were the only visitors. Besides many others, there is a Roerich gallery and a bunch of Jamini Roys there. Entry Rs 10.

 

Naval Aviation Museum, Goa

Naval Aviation Museum, Goa

Naval Aviation Museum, in Vasco – this is located sort of behind Dabolim Airport in Goa. Some local folk know about this, most don’t. This is a decent sized museum, houses a history of naval aviation and over 20 aircraft.

Government Sculpture museum – in Bangalore, the red building next to Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum. Over 200 pieces, at least 700 years old; all local, primarily from Karnataka. This place has decent amount of footfall though. Entry, Rs 2.

Philately Museum at the GPO, Bangalore

Philately Museum at the GPO, Bangalore

The Philatelic museum – at the Bangalore GPO. It isn’t large, is in a largish hall on the first floor. Get to the philately museum and ask the Deputy Post Master (currently Deputy Post Mistress). The ever smiling lady is delighted to have the museum opened up for you to visit. Did I say “opened up”? Yes, because no one visits it. Entry Free.

Maritime Museum, INS Dronacharya, Kochi

Maritime Museum, INS Dronacharya, Kochi

Naval Maritime Museum in Cochin – located at INS Dronacharya in Fort Cochin. This is again small, but relatively new and very well maintained. Check out Naval guns, beautiful scale models, Radars, Uniforms, Side arms, and a photo history of the navy and a Sea King helicopter. Fantastic. Use google maps to get there because locals aren’t even aware of it. Entry fee, Rs 5.

How many of these have you been to? All these are way more fun than any mall for sure. Do you want to take your kid to the mall every time, or maybe once to these places too? You decide.

Badshahi Angti – Sandip Ray’s latest Feluda documentary

Cover - Satyajit Ray's Badshahi Angti

Cover – Satyajit Ray’s Badshahi Angti

This one is a movie review. But, perhaps would be appreciated more by people who have some familiarity with Feluda – the quintessential detective and a Satyajit Ray creation. The stories originally appeared either in Sandesh (a children’s magazine run primarily by Ray’s family) and then in the annual festive editions of Anandamela. Not too long, these stories have delighted children and adults alike and have created an ardent set of Feluda fans. “da” of course is the abbreviated form of dada, his name is Pradosh Chandra Mitter whose “satellite” (sidekick) is his school going cousin Tapesh.

Ray started turning his Feluda stories to movies with “Sonar Kella” and brought the desert town of Jaisalmer to national limelight and opened up possibilities of tourism. His second of the series was “Joi Baba Felunath” based in Benares. That was that. Later Manikda’s son Sandip started cinematising (a neologism) the series starting with “Bombaier Bombete”, “Kailashe Kelenkari”, “Tintorettor Jishu”, “Gorosthane Shaabdhaan” and “Royal Bengal Rohosyo”. But, you might already know all this.

Start of the chase (on foot) in Lucknow

Start of the chase (on foot) in Lucknow

Sandip Ray’s latest is “Badshaahi Angti” which released in December last year in Bengal and is getting released in the rest of the country. The first bunch of his movies except Tintorettor Jishu and Kailashe Kelenkari (in parts) did no justice to his father’s stories nor his way of film making. His choice for a Feluda in his late twenties was a brooding actor in his late forties. In the last two outings the actor was visibly old, already in his fifties and had developed a paunch. Seriously? His choice of stories, and the sequence has been pedestrian. Gorosthane Shaabdhaan, for instance, is a story with little physical action and does not lend itself to a movie. Royal Bengal seemed like a West Bengal tourism documentary on the Dooars with poor CGI of a Royal Bengal Tiger. The music created no sense of suspense.

The same chase, in the movie

The same chase, in the movie

Anyways, let me to focus on Badshahi Angti and not on his previous juvenile misadventures. This has been a movie about two years in the making based on Felu’s second story and tremendously anticipated by Feluda fans. Felu has yet not become the professional detective, still works at some corporate, does not yet own his Colt .32, Jatayu has not arrived on the scene and Tapesh’ father does accompany Felu and Tapesh in their travels. This is Feluda’s second adventure.

The story is brilliant, based in Lucknow using the prominence of Bara Imambara and its labyrinth, the ruins of the Residency, the Baradari and of course Hazratganj. Ray’s (senior) work weaves the story of a diamond (and other precious stones) ring owned by Aurangzeb, a seth (merchant), an Osteopath and a peculiar Bonobihari babu whose pets are a Hyena, a jungle cat, a rattlesnake, a blackwidow spider, blue scorpions and the like. Towards the end it gets revealed that this gregarious but somewhat menacing Bonobihari Sarkar is the villain of the piece. The story is interspersed with little very interesting tidbits about the town itself which lends a flavour to the story and adds character to Lucknow as a city. The story is about the theft of the ring. Bonobihari babu’s character slowly gains prominence along with his growing menacing behaviour and reaches its peak towards the climax which is full of edge of the seat suspense, fear created by his rattlesnake, some quick fire action, and some shooting by Mahaveer (Seth Pyarilal’s cricket playing, actor and crackshot son).

The movie starts okay but becomes a UP tourism documentary on Lucknow very quickly and has short term memory loss about the purpose of the movie. Most Bengali folk reading this most likely have already sharpened their knives to stab me in the heart.

As usual Sandip Ray’s casting is sketchy and off the mark in parts. The casting coup definitely is Abir Chatterjee who joins the Feluda franchise in the lead character. Good looking and young Abir certainly is going to be around for some more outings. His acting skills are very acceptable, has the tinge of humour and the twinkle in his eyes – all that Felu is supposed to have. The new Topshe (Sourav Das) appears has the always surprised expression which, one hopes, will change with some experience.

Veteran Dipankar Dey plays Tapesh’ father and is wasted there. He would have done a great job as the devilish Bonobihari babu. Then there is the actor who plays Bonobihari babu. This character is middle aged, well built and full of villany. The role is played by Paran Bandopadhyay who is about tottering in his old age. Allow me to single out this man’s continued bumbling movie damaging run in the Feluda franchise despite his acting skills (or the lack thereof). Grandfatherly, Paran Bandopadhyay, should belong to the “Jatra” world with his over dramatized way of acting, introduces frivolity to what should be a character with gravity. Besides whatever else might have contributed to this movie, this individual is the iceberg to the Titanic, the torpedo to the Bismarck and the Zero to the USS Arizona all rolled into one. Rajatava Dutta does a decent job as Ganesh Guha, but again his talent is wasted in the cameo.

Sandip Ray in Lucknow for the shoot

Sandip Ray in Lucknow for the shoot

While music used to play a role to be important enough to be a character (in Manikda’s Feluda), it loses its hold in this movie. Sandip Ray’s music is as lack lustre as Anu Malik’s (minus the yodeling) and seems apt again for an Incredible India documentary. The music fails to create atmosphere, fear or suspense and turns out to be pedestrian.

The CGI (as in the previous outing) is poor and would appear in place in a Hollywood 3rd tier movie from the 80s. There is plenty good quality CGI work done in India now. Why Sandip Ray would avoid that quality is best known to him. The rattlesnake looks almost comical.

But the movie isn’t all drivel. The story is good (no credit to Junior), Lucknow appears cleaner than it is and Abir shows promise. He will develop in the next outing for sure. The dialogues are straight from the original story, and thus tight. The best shot in the movie, also a stand out, is the very last one where the sun glints off “the ring” on Felu’s finger.

It might not be a bad idea to get someone like Anjan Dutta to jump over and start making the Feluda series with Abir, instead of us being subjected to documentaries about different locations in India by India’s famous documentary maker.

Je(s)t Airways has a funny bone!

Some of you might have read this on one of my previous FB posts.

Jet Airways is an amazing airline.

BL21_P3_JET_787279fI recently added my wife and daughter to my Jet Airways FF household program. Yesterday, they called me for verification. Read on (with a spot of patience) to know more:

Jet rep: Sir, Good afternoon, I am calling from Jet privilege to verify your application for Family+ account.
Me: Good afternoon, sure!
JR: Sir, am I speaking to Mr Suhas Dutta?
Me:Yes, ma’am. You are.
JR: You have added your daughter, Miss Dutta to your Family+ account, and I need to verify her details.
Me: ok.
JR: Can you please tell me your daughter’s name?
Me: err, you just told me her name, and you have that on your records…
JR: No sir, this is a verification process.
Me: ok, her name is Dutta.
JR: Sir, what is her relationship to you?
Me: Pretty important
JR: No sir, I mean what is her relationship to you?
Me: Ah, got it. She is my daughter.
JR: Sir, what is her date of birth?
Me: I have already provided that.
JR: No sir, this is a verification call. Please tell me <daughter’s name=””> Dutta’s date of birth.
Me: ok, it is <blah>.
JR: Sir, please tell me the name of the person who introduced <daughter’s name> to family+

I am a slow learner, and I had not gotten the trick yet.

Me: Madam, you called me for verification and informed me that I had introduced my daughter to Family+. I don’t get this.
JP: No sir, this is a verification call, please tell me who introduced <daughter’s name=””> to Family+ for your JPaccount.
Me: I did.
JP: No sir, tell me the name.
Me: <my name>
JP: Thank you sir, I have confirmed the details and <daughter>’s account is now verified.
Me: Thank you so much, may I go now?
JP: No sir, I need to verify the introducer’s details.
Me: Yes, I introduced her, as you are aware.
JP: No sir, I need to verify the introducer’s details. Please tell me who introduced her.
Me: Ok, I did.
JP: No sir, please tell me the name.
Me: That would be <my name>, but didn’t you call me and ask me my name? Are you serious?
JP: Yes sir, I did. But, this is a verification call, no? What is your FF#, date of birth, and email address.
Me: Please look up my JP account, you will find all the details.
JP: No sir, you need to tell me.
Me: okay, they are as follows….<blah, and blah, and blah>
JP: Thank you sir, what is your phone number.

… ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I submit that I am but human.

Naresh Goyal - used to practically own the company (it is listed though) till he sold stake to Etihad

Naresh Goyal – used to practically own the company (it is listed though) till he sold stake to Etihad

Me: Madam, before I answer that, I have a question. Can you please tell me which number did you call to talk to me?
JP: err…umm…<looks it up, I reckon>…sir, I called <XXXXXXXXXX>
Me: Madam, can you please copy that number into your record?
JP: which number sir?
Me: The number that you just told me.
JP: Oh, okay sir. Now your verification process is complete and your account will be active in the next 48 hours. Have a good day sir.
Me: Thank you so much madam, very top of the day to you, and thanks for spreading cheer across the nation. Bye!

After this I was intent on connecting my head to the nearby wall, but Gocha ( Govindraj Kozhipurath ) was walking along with me and he quickly guided me towards a cup of coffee to avoid any damage to the stone wall.