Saturday, April 19, 2008

say "khwa-so" (croissant)

while flying from mumbai to kolkata last friday by an early morning flight, i discovered something about this delicious puff pastry that i had not known before.i love croissants.and it used to be my morning breakfast with coffee during my frequent trips to the midlands in england many years ago.and i have always pronounced it as croi-ssan.i got a bit of education on the low-cost airliner "indigo" when i asked for a vegetarian breakfast.these airliners don't provide you with free have got to buy them.i decided to try a croissant with paneer and mirchi in it. i liked the taste and just two croissants was what the doctor ordered.the croissants came nicely packed with the package containing useful information about the origin of croissant and how it is mistakenly pronounced and what is the right pronunciation.

i had thought that the croissant is a french invention.totally wrong.a courageous and watchful baker in budapest,hungary while working one night in 1686 heard rumbling noises and immediately informed the city's military.the turks were planning a secret attack by tunnelling under the city's walls.the tunnel was demolished and overnight the baker became a hero.when asked what he wanted as reward,the modest baker requested for the sole right to make a special pastry commemorating the incident.he shaped the pastry like a crescent to mock the turkish flag.implied meaning was the the hungarians had eaten the turks for lunch!

as far as the correct pronunciation is concerned,i must admit it is tricky.say it like "khwa-so" with a nasal "o" at the end.indigo made it simpler by providing a how-to-pronounce- guide in different languages.

"leavened variant of puff pastry by layering yeast dough with butter and rolling a few times in succession,then rolling and rolling",croissant, is not easy to make by any stretch of imagination and neither can it be made fast. a competitor to the american doughnuts, croissant is high in calories and fat. the french will swear by their "pain au chocolat", a croissant pastry wrapped around almond paste or chocolate before it is baked. i would love to have it too.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

"bow barracks forever"

having lived in kolkata for many years,when i first heard that a movie had been made revolving around the anglo-indian community,i was intrigued. "bow barracks forever" is all about a small community living behind the bow bazaar police station off central avenue in kolkata. as the name suggests,these dwellings were built during the first world war for the army. later when they departed,civilians moved in to stay there. most of the residents are anglo- indians though iraninans,parsis and chinese also live there.the buildings were not well constructed and as no maintenance was ever done, it has fallen into disrepair. so much so that the structure has became unsafe and the lives of the residents are at stake. the state government declared the complex unsafe for living and plans to demolish it and construct new buildings.the residents suspect the motives of the government as they fear of a nexus between builders and politicians and refuse to quit.they would far rather continue in an unsafe house rather than lose their only shelter by being thrown out into the streets.

written and directed by anjana dutt the film, a pritish nandi production, is basically about the triumph of the human spirit and how a determined person can surmount odds which look impossible to deal is also an attempt to raise awareness about the anglo-indian community and its major concerns today. many of the younger generation have migrated to australia,canada and the usa. the old have been left behind to fend for themselves. it is a 118 minutes movie shot almost entirely in the bow barracks,a red bricks housing block,in a thirty day schedule. the script is very mediocre. there is hardly any story.the music is of an old world kind. beatles,etc. music is by anjana dutt's son,neil. the highlights of the movie are some excellent acting by lilette dubey,victor banerjeee and sabyasachi chakraborthy.the characters are real but their stories are fiction.the anglo-indians are picturised as a happy-go lucky people,having lots of fun,and enjoying their drinking to the hilt. wine making for own consumption as well as limited sale was quite common among the anglo-indians of bow barracks. particularly during the christmas season. the true spirit of the bow barracks is evident here. the youth club of bow barracks organises concerts and parties and everyone has fun-old,young and the kids.

the language used is often profane and has large sexual content.there is the oversexed rebellious housewife(moon moon sen),the badly battered housewife(neha dubey),the foot loose youngster(clayton rodgers),a strong and dignified mother(lilette dubey) and the lovable peter the cheater(victor banerjee) and the wife beater tom(sabyasachi). all these characters play out their roles quite impressively but the weak script and the absence of a strong story makes the movie fall flat. there is even a cameo by usha uthup.the dialogues in bengali had no subtitles and it looked as if the movie was made for a bengali audience.

the rundown paada(dwelling) has about 1500 occupants of about 130 families living on 3 bighas.the construction is 90 years old. a scene where peter the cheater,the saxophonist drunkard and swindler, with his twinkling eyes begs lilette for a kiss on the cheek is superbly enacted and very it or not they are all stuck in bow barracks.there is a paradox.some of them want to get away from hell on earth and are not able to do it for circumstantial reasons.others think it is paradise on earth and would never dream of leaving their abode.while the afternoons are dead quiet with many of the elders enjoying their siesta,the evenings are the exact opposite with the whole place resembling a mela.again an effervescent community life in the midst of a conservative hindu bengali area.

the madrid international film festival which concluded in end march threw up a big surprise.lilette dubey was awarded the best actress award for her role in "bow barracks forever".

anjan dutt's intentions were good.but the drawbacks have been major minuses and have made the film a commercial flop. the anglo-indian community,an endangered species, has given kolkata "music,food and park street". it remains to be seen whether they have the last laugh.