Jim Haynes newsletters

Newsletter No. 651

The 12th Kolkata Film Festival
7 to 25 November 2006

Some years ago, while sitting and talking with The Guardian film critic, Derek Malcolm, at the Edinburgh Film Festival, I happened to ask him which film festival he enjoyed the most. I was surprised by his response. He said the Calcutta Film Festival. When I asked him why, he said that the hosts were super kind and generous and that the audiences in Calcutta were perhaps the most enthusiastic in the world. I remembered this when Antonia Hoogewerf suggested we go to the Calcutta Film Festival…

 

Tuesday, 7th: Cannot sleep, so get up at 2. Slowly shower, shave, shampoo, pack. Call Séamas and Antonia at 3.45 as agreed. Tell Séamas that I will collect him at 4.15 and then pick up Antonia at 4.30. When I go outside at 4, the taxi is waiting for me. When we arrive at rue Monge and rue Lacépède, no sign of Séamas. The driver asks me to guess where he is from and I guess correctly the first time: Lebanon. He and I discuss the Middle East and all the forces driving and dividing the conflicts. He is Christian. I tell him I believe in no religion. I love life, the delightful madness of it all. Get no further in our discussion as Séamas looms into view. Soon we arrive at rue St. Antoine. Antonia is in high spirits and we are on our way to Charles de Gaulle airport 2 and the B.A. flight to London. Much to everyone's chagrin, we are early. I talk with a fellow from India who lives in the 13ème arrondissement and who is flying also to Calcutta, his home, for a short vacation. We also meet a tall attractive blonde from Chicago named Cara who will be flying with us to London and then on to Chicago, her home. This has been her first trip to Europe and she has greatly enjoyed herself. There is also a couple in the queue from Boston. I tell them that Séamas once lived nearby and they talk
We check into the B.A. counter and learn that there will be a departure delay and we are told there will be no possibility of our making the connecting flight to Calcutta. The woman at the B.A. counter insists upon sending our bags to New Delhi. Nothing to do except go for morning coffee and invite Cara to join us. She relates her adventures in London and Paris. Soon we are called and are on our way to London.
      Both Séamas and Antonia are suspicious of B.A. because we do have time to make the connecting flight. We all feel that B.A. have over-booked and that we have been bumped. We go to a desk and make a complaint. But for now there is nothing we can do. More coffee and pastry. Then the flight to New Delhi is called. Antonia manages to send a message to the Fairlawn Hotel to announce our delay. It is a fairly smooth flight. I sit alone in 29E and read The New York Review of Books almost the entire time - dozens of articles.
We arrive about midnight, the same time as another dozen of so flights from various European and Asian capitals. A long queue to clear customs. Then we all acquire rupees and take a taxi to the domestic terminal. There we rest and talk with the couple on their way to Calcutta.

 

Wednesday, 8th: Finally about 7, we are in the air again. This time it is an Indian Airlines flight. In the Editorial page of The Times of India, I read an item entitled Greek God written by Moyna Rajadhyaksha about the actor, Amitabh Bachchan being awarded an honorary doctorate by Delhi University. She talks about a play performed by students at the university in the 60s and mentions a friend of mine, Dolly Thakore, who it seems was one of the main characters. What a funny item to read some ten thousand meters above Delhi on my way to Calcutta. I feel a tinge of guilt for not flying into India via Bombay and not seeing Dolly and Alyque Padamsee. I wonder if either of them will be at the festival. We are all completely exhausted, but excited to be in India. Another taxi ride from the airport to the Fairlawn Hotel in Sudder Street. Traffic is impossible. Greet Violet Smith and Sam, Violet's manager. Antonia and I have room 17, the Shashi Kapoor room, which we also had in February 2005. We have enough strength to have some breakfast. Upstairs for a wee nap and a wash. Then we take a taxi to Nandan Film Center. Begin the accreditation procedures. Meet Soumitra Mitra, who is with the Department of Information and Cultural Affairs for the government of West Bengal. He mentions that he knows the mime, Partha Pratim Majumder, and greetings are passed to me. I wonder how Partha is. It would be great to see him again. We also meet Debasish Halder and he offers to install us tomorrow in the Bengal Club. Our car and driver will collect us late morning tomorrow at the Fairlawn Hotel.
       Back to the Fairlawn for lunch. I walk around to Lindsay Street to see if Nilima Nag and Jhuma Das are at the Weekender shop. I am in luck. They are both there, but Nilima no longer employed. She has a job elsewhere. Both are surprised to see me. We giggle and talk. Nilima reports she and her boyfriend have broken up. I tell them that I will leave a book for them in a few days time. Leave them and go across the street to the pharmacy for some medicine.
Drinks before dinner. Meet Avik Sen. Then see Chiru Sur and we embrace and he introduces me to a beautiful Bérengère, from Paris. Her family name is de Croocq. Also meet an Axelle. Then Séamas, Antonia and I go into for dinner. Afterwards we head for Felicity Ward's flat-warming party. She graduated from Edinburgh University. We bond immediately. What a lovely person she is! She introduces me to a Sarah, who also studied at Edinburgh University. And to a fellow from Hong Kong named Alex. I tell him how I happened to be staying some years ago in Hong Kong. Then meet Charlotte and Julian, a young married couple from London. What a sweetheart Charlotte is with one of the best laughs I have ever heard. I keep wanting to make her laugh. Julian has a job in a television studio (a sound man I think), but he is up for a job as a news reader. (Later when I see him again I learn that he got the position.)
Very late we go out to find a taxi. Chiru's neighborhood, so he knows where to find one. We wait a while at a carrefour, but nothing passes. I do see two policemen standing nearby, so I go over and give them chocolate sweets. They accept them with a big smile and thank me. It must bring us good luck because shortly afterwards we find a taxi and speed back to the Fairlawn and our beds.

 

Thursday, 9th: Breakfast at Fairlawn with Antonia and Séamas. Upstairs to quickly pack and get ready to move to the Bengal Club. The car and driver collect us at 11.30. I pay our bill at the Fairlawn and we say our fond farewell to Sam. Tell him that we will pass to see him and Violet many times over the following two weeks. Our car and driver is waiting for us. The driver is Raja. On the front and rear windows a large printed sign with our three names in large letters announces us. Very impressive. It's a short ride to the Bengal Club. Antonia and I quickly are assigned Room No.7 - which is a large suite (living room, breakfast nook, large bedroom and bathroom and a terrace over-looking a green lawn below). At first there is no room for Séamas and after a phone call to Nandan, he is assigned Room 2. It is also impressive. We are also assigned a young lad to look after our needs. Antonia and I have Firooz and he is a sweetheart. We both like him. The woman at the front desk is named Audrey Gomes and I tell her that I have a friend in Paris with the name Gomes. There are only 15 guest rooms in the Bengal Club, so we are lucky to have secured two of them. Later someone tells me that the British ruled India, Burma and Singapore for 200 years from The Bengal Club.
Séamas and I go to Nandan to try to get a film programme and other information. Not a lot of information is available. More is expected tomorrow, when the festival formally opens. We do get a list of parties and it seems there is one every night and many days at lunch as well. We go to Lindsay Street and I leave a book, White Washing Fences, for Nilima and Jhuma. Antonia earlier said we are to join her and a friend at the roof top restaurant. I remember the place from last year and find it without a problem. She is there with Avik Sen. Later Bérengère and Ségolène ask if they can join out table. Ségolène reports she is teased a lot since her better known Ségolène was selected to be the Socialist candidate in the 2007 presidential election in France. I excuse myself and go to bed early. Not feeling too well. Antonia and Séamas dine in Park Street and return to the Bengal Club late.

 

Friday, 10th: We elect to go to the breakfast room for our morning coffee and toast, etc. The fellow who serves us looks like Roger Federer. We all read the morning newspapers and begin to study the film festival brochures. Later we go out and Antonia and I take out 200 euros from an ATM machine - which is approximately 10,000 rupees. We make our way to the Oxford Bookshop across the street. The Bengal Club is perfectly located - only 100 meters or so from The Park Hotel, the Oxford Bookshop and Park Street (the main street in Calcutta). I go up Park Street to order several pairs of reading glasses from Lawrence & Mayo. The woman testing me discovers that today is my birthday, but I tell her that everyday is my birthday. Séamas and I walk to find a photocopy place, but the electricity is off, so we must come back later. Antonia, Séamas and I purchase a few items in the Oxford Bookshop. Back to the Bengal Club to rest. Antonia and I have lunch at the Club and I eat one of the hottest peppers I have ever consumed in my life. Smoke comes out of my ears. Later, Antonia's friend, Paras Nath Dwivedi, passes and Antonia asks him to arrange our tickets to New Delhi next Monday, the 20th. Paras is excellent at getting things done. He will also arrange a car for New Delhi and the trip to Rajasthan. We get a message that David Turner has arrived and is staying at the Fairlawn Hotel.
Our driver takes us to Nandan for the opening ceremonies and the screening of the film, Adam's Apples, a Danish film. The ceremony is an hour of speeches in English and Bengali. Among the speakers, there is Shri Gopalkrishna Gandhi, the Governor of West Bengal, Shri Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya, Mayor of Kolkata, Shri Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Chief Minister, West Bengal and the Director of the Kalkota Film Festival, Nilanjan Chatterjee. All very pleasant. The film itself is a so-called black comedy. It is very subtle and I find that I am enjoying it. There is a woman sitting in the row in front of us. Her name is Luisa Prudentino. She is from Italy but lives in Paris in the 13ème. She speaks Chinese and is looking after the Chinese film-makers at the festival. She is also staying in The Bengal Club. Afterwards there is a fellow sitting along the same row down from us and learn that he is from Poland. I want to ask him about Krzysztof Zanussi, but do not. Later that evening, I learn it was Zanussi. He and I were on an Edinburgh Festival jury together back in 1989 and we gave the First Prize to an Indian film entitled Piravi, directed by Shaji. It would be great to meet him one day. And I would like to see the film again.
Meet David Turner in the interval and tell him about the party at the Rotari Sadan, a short walk from Nandan. After the film screening a bunch of us walk around together. Dive into the room and start talking with people. One of the first people I meet is a fellow named Hajo Schomerus. He is from Köln and he is the cinematographer for a film entitled Magic Eye. It is an Albanian/German co-production. Talk briefly with Tivi Magnusson, the producer of Adam's Apples. Congratulate him on the fine film. People are handing me food and drinks. I decide to go out to the garden in the back. Join a queue and talk with a Times of India journalist. His name is Ashok Chatterjee and we exchange email address information. We have a nice talk in the queue. But when I go to find a place to sit down, I lose him. Never see him again the rest of the night. Nor the rest of the festival. Join a table and meet Marcin Oginski, from Warsaw, who tells me he has two films here. I promise to see them. (Alas, never manage.) Tell him that I made a Guide Book to Poland. Tell him about Stash Pruszynski and how he managed to board a train at Warsaw Central Station in the late 50s and travel to Paris without a ticket, passport or money. Suggest to Marcin that he dine in Stash's The Radio Café in Warsaw and give Stash my best wishes. Tell him about my many trips to the Warsaw "Jazz Jamboree" in the 80s. Also meet a fellow from Berlin, Thorsten Trimpop. He has directed a film here entitled The Irrational Remains, his debut feature film. Arne Birkenstock, also from Köln, has a film here entitled 12 Tangos - Adios Buenos Aires. Tell everyone at the table about the film I saw in Edinburgh entitled Black Sheep. And no one has seen it or heard of it. I spot David Turner circulating and talking with everyone. He tells me that he has managed to meet someone who has promised to get him a Delegate's pass. Good for David. (And he succeeds and ends up seeing four films every day.)
Near the end of the evening meet Susan and John Mantosh. Antonia and I talk with them and we like them immediately. John says that he and Susan will be hosting the closing party on the 17th and it sounds like it will be wild. (And it is!)
      I elect to have an early night but Antonia and Séamas decide to continue. Very late Antonia comes upstairs to get me out of bed. She wants me to go down to the restaurant in the Bengal Club and celebrate my birthday with Chiru, Bérengère, Abhijit Bose, and a woman named Ruma who is a friend of Chiru's and who is, I think, a journalist. After we close the restaurant, we move back to our suite and continue. Mr. Bose was once married to a great beauty from Istanbul. Alas she recently re-joined her ancestors and is buried in Istanbul. Mr. Bose is the Honorary Turkish Council General in Calcutta. He tells us he has three beautiful daughters and that he, too, wants to be buried in Istanbul next to his wife. Very late everyone leaves and Antonia and I fall into our beds.

 

Saturday, 11th: Up at 9. We elect to have our breakfast in our rooms. I order bacon and eggs, toast and jam, coffee and fresh juice. The newspaper, The Statesman, is delivered to our room. Now we have to study the film schedule and decide which films we will see. There are so many to choose from.
      Antonia and I drive to the Oberoi Grand Hotel to leave a note of welcome for Stanley Cohen. He arrives from Bombay today about Noon. Antonia arranges for a car and driver to pick him up at the airport. We purchase some medicine from the pharmacy in Lindsay Street and then head for the Calcutta Club where we have been invited to lunch. Our host is The Eastern India Motion Picture Association. I meet R.H. Kampani and his two sons. One son, Bhavesh, is in the travel business. They seem to be our hosts. And thank them for the warmth of their hospitality. Talk with Ignacio Ortiz, from Mexico, who says he has a film here at the festival. Meet a Cuban director, Juan Carlos Creamata Malberti, and tell him that Pablo Armando Fernandez is an old friend since the early 60s and that I have co-published a book of his poetry (with Howard Aster's Mosaic Books) entitled Parables/Poems. Tell him that I will try to see his film, Viva Cuba!, but alas I fail to do so. Talk with Sibel Guvenc, from Toronto. She has directed a short film entitled In the Penal Colony, based on Franz Kafka's short story. Tell her about the two Kafka productions I produced in London in the 60s - one with Tutte Lemkov and one with Steven Berkoff. Not sure if I tell her that I know a relative of Kafka's, Eski Thomas, the wife of the film producer, Jeremy Thomas. (Alas I fail to see Sibel's film as well. Later we exchange email messages and she promises to send me a DVD of her film.) Talk with Subhasis Mukherjee, who is the coordinator of the oldest film society in India, based here in Calcutta. He invites me to the opening film in the Globe cinema tomorrow. Meet a director from Germany who has a film screening this afternoon in Nandan 1. Her name is Britta Sauer and the film is called Love Games.
      Antonia and I decide to see Love Games in Nandan 1. It's a bizarre film, but I enjoy it. We spot Chiru Sur and the lovely Bérengère in the cinema.
Later in the afternoon, we drive to Sudder Street and check our email in the cyber café. I have more than 50 messages. Many people send me "Happy Birthday!" email messages. Thanks, gang.
Taxi to Nandan and see the end of an Indian film and 80% of a Mexican film. The Mexican film is called Mezcal and is directed by Ignacio Ortiz. I like the film, but the cinema is so cold that I am forced to slip out. Find a taxi and ask the driver to take me to Park Street. By chance, see a sign The Kenilworth Hotel and ask the driver to stop. The party tonight is at another Kenilworth Hotel down the street. But I do meet, David Purdey, the proprietor, and we talk briefly. Later I learn from Antonia that they are friends. Walk a hundred meters down the street to the new Kenilworth Hotel. And another party. Meet the host, Mr. J.K. Sen, who is in the jewellery business and who is a film lover. Talk with a fellow named Dibyendu Chakraborty about the film festival and the wonderful hospitality that is so freely given to all the Delegates every day and every evening. I am introduced to Gaurav Dutt. He is Special Inspector General of the West Bengal Police. He is a lively character. He introduces me to a bunch of Bombay film people. One of the women is a great beauty and we talk for a while, but I never learn anyone's name. Nevertheless I invite them all to come and dine when they are next in Paris. Soumitra Mitra introduces me to his son, Souparno and says that we are all invited on Saturday night to see a theatre performance. Souparno will drop off information for us at The Bengal Club. I also learn that his son will go to a school in England very soon. The photographer, Prashant Arora, who took lots of photographs at the Calcutta Club luncheon now shows me the photographs and asks me to sign the ones he took of me. It is another delightful evening with lots of delicious food, plenty of drink, and many warm, friendly people.

 

Sunday, 12th: Late sleep-in. Get up at 11. I go to Nandan alone and meet Alekandra Biernacka and we have a simple lunch in the Delegates Lounge. She is with Polish television in Warsaw. I tell her how much I like Warsaw and Poland. Later I see the Zanussi film, Persona Non Grata. I like it I am pleased to say. Straight forward story-telling. Also meet and talk briefly with Rosa Carrillo from Mexico City. And we exchange addresses.
Arrange to meet Stanley in the Delegates Lounge and kick myself for not making it the steps of Nandan 1. But all's well that ends well. We find each other and I take him to meet Debasish Halder to get his Delegates Badge and his press information. Stanley tells me about his adventures in Bombay. Just as we are finishing, a young couple arrive in the office to get registered. They are from Mexico. Gustavo Loza is the director of the film, To the Other Side. His attractive girlfriend is called Carolina Coptel. I promise to see his film. (And I do.)
Antonia and Séamas have gone to have tea with Sona and Saugata Banerjee. I wish that I could have gone with them because I enjoyed meeting Sona and Saugata recently in Paris. But I am badly organized. I think Stanley would have enjoyed meeting them as well. Stanley and I go to see the end of the film, 7 Colours in Nandan 3. We stay in the same cinema to see the documentary, Nazi Gold in Argentina. Chiru Sur and Bérengère join us. It is an amazing documentary. Maybe a bit over the top.
      The Saturday Club party tonight. Our hosts are Sadhana & Shanti Aggarwal. Meet and talk with Zanussi about our jury duty in Edinburgh.
Later in the evening sit and talk with Nilanjan, the Director of the Kolkata Film Festival, about this year's festival and next year's. Tell him that I would be pleased to organize a retrospective of Dusan Makavejev's films. He suggests we stay in contact and that I should send him some DVDs of Dusan's films. Séamas joins us. We talk about the Berlin, Cannes and Edinburgh Festivals. Séamas also promises to send tips and suggestions to him.

 

Monday, 13th: The Polish film, Solidarity, is at 9.30 this morning, but I cannot get into action to see it. Still I do remember my first visit to Poland in October 1981 and the excitement in Warsaw in those dramatic days. When someone in Solidarity heard that I was driving to Prague (with Katherine Hilliard and Danial Topolski), we were asked to deliver a letter to Havel. And we did it!
But do manage to see Gustavo Loza"s film, To the Other Side (Al Otro Lado) at 11. Again I am pleased to announce that I greatly enjoyed it. It is three stories shot in Mexico, Cuba, Morocco and Spain. A simple story of poverty forcing families to break up and the fathers "to travel to the other side" to help feed and support those left behind. Gustavo not only directed the film, but also wrote the story and screenplay as well as produced the film. He did a great job. Later when I see him, give him my congratulations.
Antonia and I go to the Delegates Lounge and have a modest lunch. The Danish producer of Adam's Apples, Tivi Magnusson, joins us briefly. We talk about the film and where it has been successful. It did well in Germany but not well in France. He tells us that one of the actors in the film, Mads Mikkelsen, has a major role in the new James Bond film that is opening world wide in the next few days. Tivi and I have met before but I cannot remember where or when. And I forgot to ask him…
Antonia and I head for Sudder Street and the cyber café. I have a message from Karolina Blåberg to call John Calder in Paris as soon as possible. Go next door and call Karolina and we speak briefly. No one answers at John Calder's number in Montreuil. See Séamas and Marcin and go with them to see Marcin have a second fitting for a new suit. Then back to the cyber café and read (and erase) more email messages.
Back to the Bengal Club to shower and rest. Paras has another meeting with Antonia. There is a party at the Park Hotel tonight. We walk the short distance to the hotel. Our hosts tonight are Santosh Rungta, President of the Bharat Chamber of Commerce, and Mrs. Rungta. We are warmly welcomed when we arrive. See Stanley straight away and Antonia suggests we go to Mainland China for a quiet meal. Séamas elects to stay at the Park Hotel party. We three go outside and find a taxi and soon we are devouring one of the best Chinese dinners ever. Especially the cracked spinach. Antonia and I go back to the Park Hotel and Stanley goes to his room at the Oberoi Grand. Most of the people have left the party, but Antonia, John Mantosh and I have a long talk about Europe, Poland and Krakow. I walk back the short distance to the Bengal Club, but Antonia stays to dance the night away.

 

Tuesday, 14th: Up at 9 and have breakfast on our terrace with Antonia. The Bengal Club is so nice I could easily imagine staying the rest of my days in our suite. (Earlier Mr. Bose said that a friend of his did spend the last ten years of his life in our rooms.) Try to reach Sanjeev Prakash's friends, the Beris, because I wish to introduce Stanley to them and them to Stanley. Call Sanjeev's cousins, Deepika & Vijay Jaidka. No luck. Talk with Antonia and Séamas about staying here in the Bengal Club two more days and maybe having our Sunday dinner party in our suite. An attractive idea. I am elected to go to the administrative offices in Nandan and see what can be arranged.
Our driver, Raja, takes me to Nandan and I talk with Soumitra Mitra. He calls the Bengal Club and says that if it is impossible for us to stay longer at the Club, he will fix us up somewhere nice. That we are not too worry. I also promise to see Soumitra perform in Brecht's The Good Woman of Setzjuan this Saturday night. In the drive back to the Bengal Club, our driver tells me his daughter is 1 years old today. I pass 1,000 rupees and tell him to buy a present for her from the three of us. Report the good news to Antonia. She goes out to have her hair washed. I sit in the Club's library and read Indian news magazines. At 1, return to the room and meet Antonia and Stanley. They discuss travel plans after Calcutta. I call Rajiv Beri and make plans to meet him tomorrow morning with Stanley.
Downstairs at the reception desk, Madame Gomes gives me good news. We can stay at the Club until Monday, but we might have to change rooms our last night. Séamas can also stay, but will be moved upstairs to another room. Stanley, Antonia and I have a quick lunch Flury's a very nice restaurant in Park Street. Then he and I walk to collect my glasses. One pair is ready. Back to the Bengal Club and we take our car to Nandan to see the film from Venezuela entitled The Caracazo. It is a "dramatized documentary" about riots in Caracas and around the country in 1998 (I think). A very curious film. Very pro-Chavez. The film is directed by Roman Chalbaud and he and I talked briefly at the Calcutta Club. I sit next to a doctor who is a local cinephile and he and I chat about the festival and the films we have seen and liked and not liked. He is very well informed.
We drive to Chaplin Cinema and I drop Stanley off at his hotel. The film, The Irrational Remains, is running when I get into the cinema. It is about young people wanting to escape the DDR when the wall was still up and there was an East Germany. I like it, but it is difficult to follow because I have missed the beginning. Slip out. See the young woman from Canada who made the Kafka film, Sibel Guvenc, and she tells me that Antonia and Séamas are upstairs sitting in the front row. Go back upstairs and sure enough, they are there. We agree to meet at the Fairlawn at 6 for tea.
I walk to Sudder Street and check more email messages. Walk across the street to the Fairlawn and sit with Avik, Bérengère and a fellow named Jim (who is a clergyman from Seattle). Talk with them a bit about urban life and religion. Bérengère has lost her return Air France ticket and it seems she cannot get another. A long complicated story involving her father who is an Air France pilot. (Later I learn that her father sends her money to fly to Paris.) Antonia and Séamas arrive and report they liked Thorsen Trimpor's film, The Irrational Remains, about the young kids desire to escape the DDR. The 12 Tangos film was not shown as announced, but will be screened on Friday afternoon.
I suggest we go to the Bengal Club because Paras will be waiting. And sure enough he is there when we arrive. In our room, Paras and Antonia make elaborate plans that involve Stanley. Then Stanley telephones to say he will make his own arrangements. Paras agrees to go suit shopping with me tomorrow afternoon. Antonia will come with us. Paras departs and Antonia has her daily bath.
The Biddhannagar Film Society hosts tonight's party at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. It is another glorious affair. We meet a poet, Lomak Das. He is from Calcutta and a delightful fellow. I also meet a film-maker, Jibanananda Sabbaghern (I think) and she asks me to see her film, Portrait of a Cinematographer, tomorrow at 18.30. (I want to see it, but in the madness of so many films and so much to do, I fail to find it.)

 

Wednesday, 15th: Stanley will be picked up at 10 by Rajiv's driver. They will then collect me and we will drive to their gallery, Sanskiti, in Alipore Road. I am up at 8.30 and have breakfast alone. Read The Statesman and there is an article about a book launch for William Dalrymple's The Last Mughal at the Taj Bengal about the life and times of Bahadur Shah Zafar. This must have been a glorious evening. Damn. It would have been great to have attended.
Stanley arrives and we ride in the bright morning sunshine to meet the Beri brothers and to see their collection of contemporary Indian paintings and sculpture. After the introductions, we talk about Sanjeev Prakash. It is Sanjeev Prakash who introduced us last February, 2005. Then a long tour around the gallery. Stanley sees five paintings he likes. Sanjeev Beri's wife, Ambica, arrives and she seems to be the best informed. She and I did not meet last year because she was in New Delhi. Rajiv's son, Rajat, appears, but his second son, "Pops" is still in bed.
Then it is back to the Oberoi Grand. We meet Antonia and have a modest meal by the pool. Afterwards Paras takes us to a tailor he knows in Grant Street. I get a suit and two shirts. Stanley gets two shirts. Then Antonia and I go to the cyber café and check email and there is a panic message from Karolina Blåberg telling me to call John Calder in Paris. Call Karolina in Paris and she gives me John's telephone number. I dial the number, but no one answers.
      Drinks in the Fairlawn with Avik, Bérengère and Jim, the clergyman from Seattle. Jim flies home to Washington state in the wee hours.
Later go to Nandan 1 with Antonia and we see the short film, Exoticore. A very bizarre short film. The main feature that follows is Black Swans. A handsome boy and a pretty girl meet on a beach in Southern Spain. Instant erotic passionate love. It can only end badly. So Antonia and I slip out and return to the Bengal Club. Later I am told it does end badly.
There is a party tonight at the Taj Bengal Hotel. Encounter a fellow with a young girl when we arrive. I ask if he is one of the hosts and he replies in the affirmative. I thank him for his kindness. He asks me where I am from. I reply that I live in Paris. His young daughter smiles and says that she loves Paris, that they were recently there. His name is Gautam Halder and he is a film-maker. I give them a copy of the Chicago Tribune article and invite them to dine when they are next in Paris. He gives me his card and welcomes me to Calcutta and to the party tonight. Go and get a plate full of delicious food and share a large table with some Russians. Chiru introduces me to a woman named Subha. Tell her that I have a good friend in Paris named Shoba. This Subha is a school teacher and she spent a year in America on a Fulbright scholarship and seemed to have enjoyed the experience. We have a good clang and spend a long time talking. Also meet her husband, Dhrubajyoti Nandi. He is Vice President of Dunlop India.

 

Thursday, 16th: Antonia returned to the hotel in the wee hours. I get up at 8.30 and quietly order breakfast and read The Statesman. Our lad, Firooz, reports he has someone ill in his family and leaves for home this morning. Antonia and I give him a few thousand rupees before he departs. Our new lad will be Santosh. Go out to Park Street and collect the second pair of glasses. Check out the toy shop on the corner to see what they might have for Stanley's son, Paul. They have some small rubber animals that I think Paul might like. Séamas has returned to the Bengal Club. Antonia is up and dressed. We three drive to the Oberoi Grand to collect Stanley and drive North to College Street. Stop to show Stanley the Indian Coffee House and Stanley jokingly says let's buy it. At least, I think he is joking. We continue to the Star Theatre for a luncheon given by the Priya Entertainment Group. We are greeted by a beautiful young woman in a sari who leads us upstairs. Food is typically Bengali and delicious. Talk with one of the hosts. His name is Mrityunjoy Chatterjee. A young journalist interviews me and says afterwards that he would like me to come into the studio on the weekend for a live interview. We thank our hosts and walk downstairs but cannot find our driver.
I call John Calder in Paris. He is rushing out the door to catch a train to London. But he says I must take the next flight to Paris and deal with Emile-the-Rat. Call Michel Puéchavy and he says I do not have to rush to Paris. Then Antonia and I call Jean-Pierre Cahen and he says there is no need to panic or to rush to Paris. I begin to feel a bit better.
Antonia and Séamas decide to see the Spanish film, Iberia, by Carlos Saura. I elect to have a quiet bath and will join them later.
Taxi to Nandan and go to four cinemas looking for the Carlos Saura film. Later I learn that the screening was cancelled and they saw a delightful film in cinema Rabindra Sadan.. I see instead the Indian film, Kathaveseshan, in Nandan 2. We meet in the inside lobby of Nandan 1 to see the short film, Teddy Bear, followed by the Tajikistan/Iran co-production, Sex and Philosophy. Highly stylized, beautiful to look at but full of hot air. And very silly.
At 8 in our own Bengal Club, there is a party hosted by Mr. C. K. Dhanuka and Mrs. Aruna Dhanuka. When I enter the Club, I bump into an actor from the film, Kathaveseshan, and we speak briefly about the film. Also see Subha, the delightful woman I met last night at the Taj Bengal party. We continue our dialogue. Stanley introduces us to Alka Nag, a young woman who began her life in Calcutta, then lived in Delhi for a year and nine years in Bombay. Learn that she is a friend of Sushmita Sarmah and that she met Stanley in Bombay. She is a film-maker and back in her home city of Calcutta to make a new start. It is suggested that we all go to the Bengali restaurant, Kewpie's. Antonia, Sanjeev Prakash, Martin Lehberger, Karolina Blåberg and I dined there last year and really enjoyed it. Some of us travel in a taxi and some in Alka's car as we drive the short distance to the restaurant. We have the same round table as last year. Food is delicious, but much like our lunch earlier today. This year we are Stanley, Alka, Antonia and Séamas and myself. Later we return to the Bengal Club where the party has more or less ended. We see Chiru Sur and Bérengère and Felicity Ward. And join them. They all go to the Park Hotel for a drink. I go upstairs and call Jesper, my wonderful son, in New York City and leave a message on his answering machine. Then call John Flattau and we talk about Paris and my legal problems with Emile-the-Rat. Then call Michel Puéchavy, my lawyer, and he says there is no need to rush back. Earlier Antonia and I call Jean-Pierre Cahen and he says the same thing.

 

Friday, 17th: Antonia returned late - again in the wee hours. She loves to stay up late. I am up at 8 and order breakfast in the room. Read The Statesman and have bacon and eggs, toast and marmalade, fruit juice, and coffee. Scribble a few notes about days past and days to come. Antonia gets up and says that she will go to the Oberoi Grand right after her breakfast to take Stanley for a wee tour of the city. I decline her invitation to join them. I slowly dress and contemplate the day. Séamas arrives and suggests we go to Sudder Street to check email and to shop. Downstairs I ask Audrey Gomes to call the tailor to see if my shirts and suit is ready. She kindly does it and I learn that they will be ready tomorrow at 11 a.m. as promised.
Go out and purchase a bag of animals for Paul. Then we taxi to Sudder Street. There are email messages from Jesper, John Flattau, Jodi Poretto in New Orleans, Dora Puszta in Budapest, and many bookings for the Sunday dinners. We next check on shirts for Séamas, then walk to Lindsay Street and there Séamas contemplates buying a coat. I go into Weekender and say hello to Jhuma Das and she introduces me to her boss. Séamas buys a new watch band and we have a long talk with the proprietor about the need for visas when one travels. His son lives in Nice.
We walk to the Oberoi Grand and no sign of Stanley or Antonia. Séamas goes out to check on something and then decides to go for a swim. I sit in the lobby and read the Financial Times, a newspaper someone has abandoned. A group of elderly people traveling from the U.K. hover about. A woman from the West of England and I talk about the group of people she is traveling with. It seems there is someone from Edinburgh in the group. So I ask that my best wishes be passed to her.
Antonia and Stanley arrive. It seems they had a delightful morning together. They had a visit to the Marble Palace, which they both enjoyed. More travel arrangements are discussed. Stanley says he needs some pajamas. I offer him a pair I have brought with me from Paris that are too small for me. I purchased them in Edinburgh and have never worn them. At a table next to the pool, Stanley and I have pizzas, Séamas has a duck, and Antonia has an assortment of pakoras.
After lunch, Séamas and I walk to Grant Street to see if by chance any of my stuff is ready to collect. No luck. We are told nothing is ready now, that we have to wait tomorrow at 11 to pick up the things. I decide to take a taxi to the Bengal Club and Séamas decides to go to the Oberoi Grand.
I rest a bit. Antonia arrives about 16.30 and we discuss going to see the film Milk and Opium at 5.15. But we are both exhausted, so it's decided to nap instead. I ask Antonia to call Paras and ask him if he can bring my clothes when he comes to see her at 7. There is a knock on the door and it is a driver taking Stanley to the airport. He drops off a set of headphones and a book for Antonia. Then Paras arrives with all the clothes: a new suit, four shirts (2 for Stanley) and my own clothes I left for copying. Hooray for Paras!
Shave and shower. We drive to John and Susan Mantosh's party at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club. We are all supposed to be pirates tonight. John Mantosh greets us when we arrive and a pirate hat is placed on my head. Garlands of flowers around necks. Antonia is led away to have her hands hennaed. Séamas gets a tattoo.
Meet a fellow at the bar named Joel Palombo, from New York City, and he has directed Milk and Opium. Tell him that I almost attended his film earlier this afternoon and apologize for not making it. We discuss it and he promises to have a DVD of the film sent to the Bengal Club. (Alas it never arrives.) Meet a young couple from America, Sam and Laura. Two newly-weds who have recently moved to Calcutta. Meet a fellow from Calcutta who attended Boston University and who now seems to be the Chief Customs Officer in Calcutta. Lots of people take photographs. See lots of people I know after one week at the Festival. Talk a lot with Lomak Das. Tonight is the last night and everyone is happy and everyone is tired. As we are headed out to our car and the ride back into town, John and Susan hand us gift bags. It is an extremely kind and generous farewell. Just before we get into our car, see Dibyendu Chatraborty. He and I met and talked at the Kenilworth party. Now we are meeting again. He says he hopes we have enjoyed our visit to Calcutta. Yes, we have!

 

Saturday, 18th: The 12th Kolkata Film Festival is over! It has been superb in every way. I have enjoyed every minute. I did not manage to see as many films as I would have liked. But I managed to meet so many wonderful individuals. Derek Malcolm is right. It is one of the best film festivals in the world. And so much hospitality from so many people. I hope that I can be there again next November.
Early up and have breakfast alone once again. Antonia begins to stir at 10. We open our gifts that John and Susan gave us last night as we were leaving. They are very kind and super generous. My bag contains a beautiful necklace (which I give to Mary Bartlett when I am home in Paris), a purse and a bizarre elephant. Thank you, John. And thank you, Susan. There is a funny sms message from Stanley in New Delhi regarding the pajamas.
Séamas passes and I agree to go with him to the Oberoi Grand at 11.30. We see Marcin in his room and he gives us the address of a shoe shop where he purchased a pair of hand-made shoes that he reports he finds "the best he has ever had".
Outside we encounter Gaurab Pandey and his friend, Joanna, from Bremen. Gaurab studied film-making in Paris for two or three years and speaks fluent French. We find the shoe shop and Séamas cannot find a pair he likes, but I end up buying one pair. In the taxi back toward the Oberoi Grand, we spot Paras in a car next to us and exchange waves and smiles.
Lunch on the side of the swimming pool in the Oberoi Grand. We are Antonia, Marcin, Séamas and myself. Delicious. Serene. Delightful.
Check email again in Sudder Street and no matter how many I erase, more arrive. There are 500 messages in my inbox.
Tonight we dress and head North to see Soumitra Mitra perform in Angshumati, an adaptation of Brecht's The Good Woman of Setzuan. We have allowed plenty of time in case we get lost. I have been told the theatre is very near the Star Theatre in North Calcutta. Traffic is impossible tonight, but we manage to get up to the Star and are more or less on time. But we cannot locate the theatre. Then someone tells us it is in South Calcutta. We turn around and zoom South. We stop and ask dozens of people including police, taxi drivers and people on the street. Now we are very late and no idea where the theatre might be located. I feel terrible and blame myself.
In the end, we give up and go to a jazz concert at the Princeton Club that is sponsored by the Alliance Française. I sit in a corner and talk with Felicity Ward. Felicity is such a lovely person. I tell her my theory regarding one on one conversations. Then what happens when another joins and what results when two join. I explain my circle game to her. Later she introduces me to her friend, Lilly Peel who is a journalist with The Statesman. Séamas talks with a friendly looking fellow sitting next to him who is an astronomer. He and I exchange smiles, but we never meet. His name is Dr. Debiprosad "Debi" Duari. After the jazz ends, Chiru suggests we all go back to his home for a drink. We (Antonia, Séamas, Sumita Basu (a BBC producer), Felicity, Chiru, Bérengère, Lilly and Massimiliano Gattei from Anacona, and myself) pile into our car and drive the short distance to Chiru's apartment. Chiru shows me a copy of my book Everything Is! that I gave him 18 months earlier. Now it has a second inscription. This time Alyque Padamsee has written a message to me to remind me of various past adventures. What a great character he is! It's a lovely evening and a fitting end to the festival. But, then, we have our Sunday night party tomorrow night in Park Street.

 

Sunday, 19th: Lazy morning. Over breakfast, read The Statesman and a by-line jumps out at me. An article entitled Song of the Road by a friend in Paris, Mimlu Sen, and her life with Paban, who is a great singer and musician in the Baul tradition. I wonder if she is somewhere in Calcutta right now. Antonia up early and goes to a Catholic Cathedral to celebrate mass. This morning we pack our bags and are moved upstairs to room 11. We will miss our suite, but we have had a good run. It is more modest, but still fabulous. We call a few people and invite them to our party tonight. It will be once again on Sanjeev Goenka's large terrace in Park Street. The same place as last year. Last year was a big success. Can we do it again?
Antonia and I walk down the street to Big Max and order the food for tonight's feast. It will be Chinese. We compliment them on the wonderful food and service they provided last year. Then it's Sudder Street once again and the cyber café. I manage to read all the messages in my inbox. Séamas goes out and purchases a small bag for me. I cannot get everything into my suitcase. We say goodbye to Sam in the Fairlawn and ask that our best wishes to passed to Violet. Antonia will be coming back to Calcutta and will stay a week in the Fairlawn in early December. Learn from Sam that David Turner has moved to the YMCA Hotel. Antonia and I will walk around there to leave an invitation for David for tonight's fête. But when we go out into Sudder Street, lo and behold, we encounter David himself. Also tell him that I have decided to sell my atelier. He thinks it might be a good idea. A new beginning. Of course I go back and forth: to sell or not to sell; to move or not to move.
Back in the Bengal Club, Paras passes to discuss travel plans with Antonia. We learn from the Broadway Hotel in Old Delhi that we have a double room for Antonia and myself and a single for Séamas. That's good news. We call Nelima and tell her the good news. Alas she will not be in Delhi while we are there. She is leading a conference on documentary film-making and returns the 30th of November.
About 8, Antonia, Séamas and I walk the short distance to Sanjeev Goenka's apartment. We are the first to arrive. No sign of Sanjeev. But slowly people begin to arrive and it is another successful Sunday night party. (I wonder how it is going in Paris with Mary cooking and Paul performing the host's role.) So many nice people. Julian and Charlotte. And the fabulous Felicity Ward. Soumitra Mitra's son, Souparno, comes with a friend and we have a long talk. And many others…The food is delicious once again.
Wander back down the street around midnight and fall into my bed. Antonia will come in later. She is a Night Bird.

 

Monday, 20th: We fly to New Delhi today. I am going to miss Calcutta/Kolkata. It is an amazing city full of delightful individuals. I understand why so many people fall in love with the place. Quickly pack. Give lots of rupees to lots of people. Buy chocolate for Audry Gomes and thank her for being so warm and kind to us three. A lazy morning. Then we are off to the airport. The usual madness on the road. We say goodbye to our driver, Raja, and press lots of rupees into his hands. A pretty good driver. He has taken us everywhere we wanted to go. Maybe a bit excessive with the horn. But to be a driver in India one needs (a) good brakes, (b) a loud horn and (c) good luck. Still we have not seen many accidents. And drivers are fairly tolerant of one another. No cursing of one another. No violence.
We quickly check in for our flight with Air Sahara and go inside to wait for the call to board. Alas we are running late. No explanation given. Finally we are on our way. We arrive above New Delhi and are forced to circle for a while before we can land. And then we are on the ground. We collect our checked baggage, find a taxi and soon are speeding into Delhi. We have a date with Stanley Cohen and Sushmita Sarmah at the Sheraton Hotel to dine in the famous Bukhara restaurant. We ask our driver to wait for us while we quickly check into the Broadway. We are offered a choice of two rooms: one newly decorated and one not. We cannot stand the newly decorated one. It screams. The undecorated one is quiet and restful. Back into the taxi and back into New Delhi. We soon arrive at the Sheraton. We meet Stanley and Sushmita and then the long wait begins for a table. We go for a drink and to our horror, the bill is almost what we will eventually pay for the dinner.
When we finally do get a table, the lamb is delicious. Well worth the wait.

 

Tuesday, 21st: Breakfast downstairs. Telephone Varun, Nelima Mathur's son, and we agree to meet at the British Council at 13.30. I want to go to the British Council to see if I can locate Milly Gentleman and Jo Johnson and maybe a few other friends. Milly is the International Herald Tribune's "man" in India. Her husband, Jo, is the Financial Times guy. I would also like to say hello to Helen Mehta. Maybe meet Gaye Facer. I arrive at the British Council and learn that Helen Mehta is out and will arrive about 1. Talk to an associate of Helen's named Ann Bell. Learn that William Dalrymple will be talking at the British Council about his new book, The Last Mughal. On the 9th of January. Damn. It would be good to hear his talk and to meet him again. We have a number of friends in common including Ann and Chris Thompson in Edinburgh. And Sylvia Whitman in Paris. Go upstairs and use a computer and find the telephone number for UNICEF. Later I manage to call and learn that Alan Court is not there, that he has been away for some time. No luck finding a telephone number for Milly or Jo. Call Gaye Facer and the number I have is no longer any good. I think about calling Sanjeev Prakash's mother and inviting her out for a meal or a tea, but the number I have for her is no good. Helen Mehta arrives and we meet. She is nice, but busy. She asks about Chiru and Antonia and requests that her warm wishes be sent to them. I give her a brief report about our activities in Calcutta. While waiting for Varun, I talk with a young woman waiting to take an exam. Her name is Deepti and she has a job with G.E. We have a nice long talk and then she goes in to take the exam. Varun arrives and we drive to Khan Market in South Delhi and have a Thai lunch in a new place called The Kitchen and catch each other up to date. I tell him that I want to see his documentary about the taxi-rickshaws and he promises to get me a DVD to take back to Paris. Use a cyber café to check if I have any email from lawyers in Paris. Then purchase a New Yorker magazine.
We go to the Imperial Hotel to meet Antonia and to have tea. Varun and I have chocolate milk shakes and they are delicious. Later Antonia, Stanley Cohen and I have a Thai meal in the Imperial Hotel. Antonia's new driver, Ram Vir, takes us to the airport to collect her sister, Patricia Wheatley-Burt, and P's friend, Simon Watson, who are flying into Delhi tonight from London. We collect them and deliver them to the Imperial Hotel, see them into their room and then Antonia and I ride back to the Broadway Hotel.
(At some point, I read an article entitled The Building of New Delhi by Khushwant Singh, son of Sir Sobha Singh, the builder credited with giving shape to much of the architect, Edwin Lutyens' blueprints. The article is printed in Swagat, the Indian Airlines magazine, and is taken from a speech delivered the 1st of August 2006. I had the great pleasure to spend a week with Khushwant Singh in 1962 when he attended the Edinburgh International Festival Writers' Conference which I co-organized (with John Calder and Sonia Orwell). Later I meet Khushwant again in Bombay when I made my first visit to India in 1977. The first paragraph of his speech/article says a lot: "When I was brought to Delhi at the age of three or four from my village - Hadali - there was no New Delhi. And now, having lived here for most of the 92 years of my life, I can't find my way about the town. So that really sums up what has happened to Delhi. The story of the building of New Delhi starts precisely on December 12, 1911, when King George V and Queen Mary came to Delhi…" and the capital was moved from Calcutta to Delhi. In the same magazine, there is an article entitled, My father, my hero by Shashi Kapoor. Antonia and I shared several days with Shashi Kapoor last year in Calcutta when his theatre company, Prithvi, organized a tour of India for the Footsbarn Theatre Company. About a week later we met again in Delhi at another Footsbarn performance. Thank you, Maneesha Dube, Managing Editor, Swagat Magazine for these two superb articles.)

 

Wednesday, 22nd: At breakfast, talk with a fellow from La Rochelle in South West France. His name is Laurent Millet and he is a film-maker. He is traveling around India shooting with a small video camera. Later back in my room, I call Nelima's husband, Pramod, and we discuss having dinner together tonight. I ask if there is an Foreign Correspondents Press Association Club and yes there is and he is a member. I ask if he can get Milly Gentleman and Jo Johnson's telephone numbers and minutes later I am talking with them. Learn that they have a son, William, and that their daughter, Rose, is in top form. They ask if I would like to dine with them in their home tonight. There is nothing I would like better. But I have agreed to meet Pramod, Varun, Antonia, Patricia, Simon and Séamas at the Foreign Press Club tonight for a meal. I ask them if they would like to dine with us. They say that they will meet us for a drink. Hooray!
Séamas and I go out to ride the metro to Connaught Place. When I was here 18 months ago, there was only one line. Now there are three and it is continuing to expand. We meet at Wimpy's in Connaught Place. Varun wants to see the new James Bond film and a screening is starting in fifteen minutes at a cinema nearby. I know that Antonia has expressed a desire to see it, so by the time we get her on the phone and she has refused our offer, it is too late to go to the cinema nearby. Instead we drive to South Delhi and I am terrified by the traffic. We manage to make the screening with seconds to spare. And to my pleasant surprise, the film is superb. No stupid car chases, beautifully acted and directed. It is truly delightful. Then we three have another mad car ride to The Big Chill in Khan Market where we have three milk shakes to go. Varun finds us a taxi and we have another mad car ride to the Broadway. Quickly wash and dress and back downstairs for a ride to the Imperial Hotel where we collect Patricia and Simmie. Then to the Foreign Correspondents Club of South Asia for drinks and dinner. We find Pramod, Varun, Milly and Jo all sitting together. More delicious talk. Then Milly and Jo slip away. The rest of us have a feast. Very late, we leave Pramod, Varun and Séamas and we drive back to the Imperial where we deposit Patricia and Simmie. Antonia drives me to the airport. Warm embraces and I head inside for my B.A. flight to London and then on to Paris. Goodbye India. It's been very nice, thank you. See you next year perhaps. Who knows what the future may bring?

 

Thursday, 23rd: Our flight departs about 3 in the morning. I manage to get some sleep. Not much really. But some nevertheless. We arrive about 7 at London's Heathrow. The beautiful young woman who flew from Delhi is also flying to Paris. We chat briefly. Her name is Iris and she is from the West of France, but living in India. She could be a fashion model. She tells me she has a job in fashion. She goes to Paris to get a visa for India and then will fly back straight away to Delhi. I tell her to be sure and be early at the Indian Embassy. Two hours later we are in the air again for Charles de Gaulle. Sit next to an interesting Aussie, Howard Whitton from Brisbane. He is involved in a number of global projects in an attempt to eliminate corruption and bribery - a truly uphill undertaking. We exchange cards. He wants to build a harpsicord and I tell him about Wolfgang Zukermann who is living in Avignon and running an English-language bookshop there.
Taxi home. Very tired, but as always, so good to be home. Much to be done. Today is Thanksgiving in the USA and I will be going to Peter Cyrus' home today for a feast. Call Mary Bartlett and Paul Allman and we agree to meet in the metro at Alesia and ride to Peter's together. Mary, with help from Barbara Sherman and Trish Nickell, will cook the annual Thanksgiving blast here next Sunday. And Lenny Jensen will carve. He is an expert. Dave Szafranski will serve. India seems so very far away and I am only back a few hours. Séamas returns next week and Antonia in mid-December. Not sure when David Turner will be back in Paris.
Now I have to deal with Emile-the-Rat and fighting this crook to keep from losing everything and becoming a pauper. We all know there is no justice in the world…

 

 
Jim Haynes
December 2006

Atelier A-2,
83 rue de la tombe Issoire,
75014 Paris

 

 

 

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