Jim Haynes newsletters

Newsletter No. 674

The 13th Kolkata Film Festival
5 to 22 November 2007

13th Kolkata Film Festival

      Monday, 5th: I manage to get up at 7.30 and shout to Lucia and Brian Maeda in the basement to get up and to get into action. They fly to L.A. this morning. Make a pot of coffee for everyone. Finally they are out the door and on the way to the airport. Quiet day at home, pack for India and the early departure tomorrow morning. In the evening there is a vernissage for Andrzej Krauze. He is from Poland, but lives in London. His drawings are superb. It is great to see him again. I also meet Richard Adams from London and dear friend Bernard Holtrop. Afterwards Bill Bandas, Andrea Kasarsky, Antonia Hoogewerf and I dine at the Golfe de Naples. Then we walk Bill and Andrea to the Theatre de Nesle. Antonia and I ponder going to see Judy and Me, but good sense prevails and we go home for some sleep.

      Tuesday, 6th: Another early start. Up about 4.15. Quickly get into action. Coffee, shave, shower, shampoo. Don Todd joins me for coffee. David Lucas and Kelly Bourke are sleeping. They will be guarding the atelier while I am away A taxi has been ordered to take us to Charles de Gaulle and it is out front at 5.30, waiting for us. We drive through central Paris and head first to Charles de Gaulle 1. Don's flight to Vancouver via Frankfurt/Main leaves before mine. After he is deposited, the taxi delivers me to CdG2. I am early as I knew I would be, but it is nice to share the ride out with Don. Sit and read The New Yorker and ponder how the next two weeks might unfold. Ask the Air France fellow when I check in at 8.30 if Captain Prakash Bapat will be our pilot to Mumbai, but he does not know. Clear passport control and purchase two bottles of whiskey to take to Calcutta. Find the appropriate gate and await the call to board at 10.45. Suddenly the entire crew arrives and sits next to me. I ask someone about Captain Bapat and am told he is in Bombay. Once on board, discover that I have three seats to myself in row 58. A fellow a few seats back passes briefly to chat. He lives in the 14th arrondissement, a few streets away from me. He is French, but he does not like France. I love France far more than he does. I end up watching three movies: two Indian films whose names I failed to note and Casablanca for the 10th time. Maybe more. When we finally reach Mumbai, we have to circle for 45 minutes in order to land.

      Wednesday, 7th: It's after midnight and it's hot. 32 degrees centigrade. I feel terrible that dear friend Sushmita Sarmah has to wait for me. Clear passport control and go to collect the two bags I have checked. Everyone slowly but surely finds their bags and I continue to wait for mine. Ask a fellow also waiting if I might use his cell phone to call Sushmita. He passes it to me and I tell her I am inside and waiting. I apologize for being late but she says it is not a problem. Finally I spot my bags on another carrousel. Bizarre. Outside see Sush and she is with someone. She introduces Tom Jones from Brighton. After we have embraced, we go outside in the hot stifling heat, pile into a taxi and speed toward her apartment. She does not live very far from the airport. On the way, conversation turns to the fact that Séamas McSwiney has been visiting. Now he has departed for Goa. We talk about Brighton and Tom's new life in India. He says that he thinks he will stay here forever. We soon arrive and I am introduced to her sister, Lona, and to her boyfriend, Bumpy. We sit around and talk and talk. I give Sush a copy of Throw a Great Party. Very late I excuse myself and fall into bed and a deep sleep.
      Everyone over-sleeps. Lona is up and out first. I am up next. The cleaning lady, Chaya, makes coffee for me. Finally Sush and Bumpy come alive. After Bumpy departs to his office at MTV and a series of meetings, Sush and I go out to try get me some rupees and an Indian sem card for my mobile phone. We hop into an autorickshaw and ride to the Vodaphone office in S.V. Road. All seems to go OK. We are told that my phone will be working in three hours. Sush has a meeting she must attend. I decide to return to her apartment and rest a bit.In three hours time, I still do not have a mobile phone that functions. Damn. But I have had a good rest and Chaya has spoiled me with delicious things to eat. Maybe I should steal her away to Paris…
      In the evening I find an autorickshaw and speed to Shashi Kapoor's Prithvi Theatre. There is a season of musical theatre. I have a meeting tonight with Dolly Thakore and then later we will meet Alyque Padamsee at a club called Escape. I immediately see Shashi sitting at a table in front of the theatre. He and I talk briefly. Sit quietly and wait for Dolly. Shashi's delightful daughter, Sanjna, walks up to me and welcomes me to the theatre. And shortly afterwards, Dolly arrives. After our embrace, it is time to go inside the theatre. The performance tonight is called Aisa Kehte Hain. It is in Hindi. Directed by Manav Kaul. Dolly has a favorite seat and we are almost the first ones in the theatre. Dolly tells me I missed something wonderful yesterday evening entitled JAZZ. It was in English and was a history of jazz. Damn. This performance is extremely difficult to follow. At the interval, Dolly suggests we slip away. She has an early morning shoot and she does not think she can stay up late.
      We are driven to Escape and talk all the way about her son, Quasar who is a theatre director and his theatre activities, about Indian cinema, (I mention Water, Black, Page Three), about the film, Mittal vs Mittal, she is currently shooting (it deals with marital rape). Dolly tells me about Deepa Mehta, who directed Water, and who later directed a film entitled Fire which resulted in fundamentalists threatening to burn down cinemas because it was about a lesbian relationship between two sisters-in-law and showed Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das kissing. We also discuss the Calcutta Film Festival. I give her a copy of Throw a Great Party and tell her that I suspect she does not need this book, but she might find it amusing nevertheless. We arrive at Escape and up we go. It is a loud disco. But a private party tonight for Rohit Verma, a fashion designer. I am introduced to dozens. All Bombay's Beautiful People. And then Alyque Padamsee and I are embracing. What an interesting character he is! We have known each other nearly forty years. Dolly fairly quickly excuses herself and heads for her bed. Alyque dances a lot with a number of exceeding beautiful young women. And then I am introduced to one of the most beautiful of all and it is Alyque's daughter, Shazahn. She wants to be involved in Hindi cinema. Shortly thereafter, I tell Alyque that I am tired and that I will return to my host's home in Santa Cruz and bed. He is concerned that I might not know the way, but I assure him that I do. Go outside, find a taxi, and shortly thereafter I am delivered to Pioneer Heritage Residency. I have easily directed the driver up Linking Road to Shastri Nagar.

      Thursday, 8th: I'm one of the first up once again. Lona and Bumpy are out fairly quickly. Another morning with Sushmita. Talk with Dolly and with Alyque on the telephone. Alyque invites me to dine in his home tonight. I accept with great pleasure. Sush says she will help to get my mobile to function. We return to the Vodaphone office and they say that we have to go to Nokia and have the phone un-blocked. Nokia send us to a small mobile phone repair shop only meters away. We are told to leave the telephone and to return in three hours time and all will be put right
      Sushmita has to go to her office for a meeting, so I suggest she drop me at a café on the way and I will sit and read the superb novel, babyji by Abha Dawesar, until it is time to collect the mobile phone. We hail an autorickshaw and speed to a café Sush happens to like. It is called Basilico. I drink several iced coffees and devour this provocative novel. Time Out in New York says "Captivating…Steamy…A sweet and exciting gust of fresh air." (When I am back in Paris, I finish the novel and notice that Abha Dawesar writes a thank you to Giles Gordon in the acknowledgements. Giles was a dear friend of mine for almost fifty years until his tragic accident, falling down steps in his home in Edinburgh. I write Abha a message that I loved her novel and that Giles was a friend. She warmly replies.)
      Take an autorickshaw to the mobile phone shop, pay 300 rupees (about $7) and find the phone is un-blocked and functioning. Return to the apartment. Once again Chaya prepares something for me to eat. Once again it is delicious.
Babyji by Abha Dawesa, Anchor Books, 2005
Babyji by Abha Dawesar
Anchor Books
      Early evening and Sushmita returns and I tell her my mobile phone is working. After congratulating me, she takes me out to Shastri Road and S.V. Road, puts me in a taxi and I head for Alyque's residence. Arrive about 45 minutes later. We sit and have a good long talk - just the two of us. We discuss marriage and I suggest the institution needs an overhaul. Suggest it should be like a property lease - limited to six years. Then if both parties wish to continue, they re-new the lease for another six years. And why should it be limited to two parties? Why not a dozen? Alyque laughs and says he agrees. He gives me a book entitled a double life - My Exciting Years in Theatre and Advertising (published by Penguin India). And I give him a copy of my little book Round the World in 33 Days. Anand Patwardhan arrives with an attractive woman. Her name is Shashi Mehta and she is a clothes designer. Gerson Dacuhna arrives. I do not know him as well as I would like to do. I know that he and Fershid Bharucha are friends. He was with UNICEF in Brazil for a while. He is a poet, an actor and involved with a Foundation called AGNI whose aims are to improve life in Mumbai. Talk turns to local and national politics. Both Alyque and Gerson feel frustrated by their inability to create major changes in Indian society. Dolly Thakore arrives. She is so wonderful! We move a few meters to sit at a table loaded with delicious Indian cuisine. It has been a great evening, but now it begins to get late and Dolly has to get up for another early morning shoot. She lives nearby, so will walk home. Alyque insists upon sending me home in his car. His driver also takes Anand and Shashi and they are dropped somewhere on the route to Linking Road. Alyque's driver takes me to my destination. I thank him and go upstairs and bed. The apartment sleeps.
a double life - My Exciting Years in Theatre and Advertising by Alyque Padamsee with Arun Prabhu, published by Penguin India
A Double Life
by Alyque Padamsee
Penguin Books India

      Friday, 9th: Lazy and quiet morning. Well, not so quiet. Fire crackers explode from time to time because of the Diwali celebrations. Bumpy gives me a CD that he likes. Raghu Dixit is the musician and he is from Bangalore. (I am listening as I write these words.)
      Lunch at Trishma in the New Link Road with Sushmita, Bumpy, Lona and their friend from England, Nick Smith. Bumpy wants me to try the crab and garlic dish. We all ask him to order for everyone. He does and he gets it just right. We stuff ourselves and it is all extremely delicious. Especially his crab suggestion. Bumpy insists upon treating us all for lunch. I tell them it is on me when they come to Paris. Maybe Lona will come in December.
      Bumpy, Sush and I taxi to the apartment. We collect my bags and Sush comes with me the short distance to the domestic airport. I am early, but I prefer to be early and to lazily make my way to the departure lounge. Read babyji and wait for my Jet Airlines flight to be called. Plane leaves at 5, on time, and we arrive two hours later.
      Lots of improvements in the Kolkata airport. Manage to collect my two bags fairly quickly. There are two men holding a sign that says Kolkata Film Festival. When I go up to them, they check my name off a list and welcome me. I am given a small folder containing Kolkata Film Festival programme and a letter of welcome. They seem disappointed that Antonia is not with me. I report she will arrive on another flight in a few days direct from London. Out we go into the hot steamy evening and I am put into a small jeep. Just the driver and me. We drive through Diwali celebrations. Everyone is in the streets.
      We drive to the Bengal Club. At the desk, I ask about Audrey Gomes and am shocked to learn that she recently died. I cannot believe it. I am told that her sister, Gilda, will be at the reception desk in the morning. I was looking forward so much to seeing Audrey. I ask if Yorgos Tsemberopoulos is staying in the club and am told he is not. Nor is he expected. Damn, I wonder where he is.
      Go up to Room 9 and begin to put my things away. My passport, plane ticket, euros, and Visa card go into the room safe. Read the Letter of Welcome addressed to all the Delegates from Nilanjan Chatterjee. And begin to explore the Programme. Call Subha Nandi and tell her that I am in The Bengal Club and ask when we can meet. She tells me that she is boycotting the film festival because of political problems. But we can meet nevertheless. She gives me Chiru's mobile number and I call him. He is out celebrating Diwali and asks if I would like to join him. I thank him, but say, wisely, that I will stay in the Bengal Club and have a quiet and restful night. We shall meet tomorrow. I ask him about Felicity Ward and Lilly Peel and the other young university students from Britain that I met last year. Am told they have all returned to the U.K.

      Saturday, 10th: Today is my birthday. I have had a good night's sleep. And today I learn that Norman Mailer has left life. He and I met in 1962 when John Calder, Sonia Orwell and yours truly co-organized the first Edinburgh International Festival Writers' Conference. There were 70 novelists at this conference including Henry Miller, Lawrence Durrell, Khushwant Singh, Mary McCarthy, William Burroughs, Alek Stefanovic, Niccolo Tucci and Norman Mailer. We were all together for one week. And what a fantastic week! Norman Mailer and I met again on a number of occasions. Including once in Cannes when he was the President of the Jury and we had a private dinner with Sally and Wynn Chamberlain. Just the four of us. Norman and I also met at another Edinburgh Book Festival. We corresponded over the years and he seemed to like to get my newsletters. A great writer has left us.
      Breakfast in my room. Then go downstairs to talk with Audrey Gomes' sister, Gilda. Learn that Audrey died in August. She has two sons, one of whom is adopted. I tell Gilda how much I liked her sister, how sad I feel about her sudden departure from life.
      It is time to introduce myself to the other delegates staying in the Bengal Club. I excuse myself from Gilda and begin to introduce myself. There is U. Radhakrishnan, the secretary of the Federation of Film Societies of India, Jindra Markus, a film-maker from Amsterdam, Vijitha Gunaratne, a film-maker from Sri Lanka but who also lives in Sweden. And two others from Sri Lanka who are not staying at the Bengal Club, but who are staying in a hotel nearby. They assisted Vijiitha on his film. Their names are Kasyapa Gunaratne and Si ri mahipala.We pile into a bus and slowly make our way to Nandan. Nilanjan Chatterjee welcomes us upstairs in the conference room outside his office. We fill in forms and are asked to report to Soumitra Mitra's office to get our Delegates badges. It is great to see Soumitra again. I ask him about his wife, Moonmoon.
      Back at the Bengal Club, decide to get my eyes checked at Lawrence & Mayo in Park Street. It is the same nice woman who checked me last year. I end up ordering three pairs of reading glasses.
      Tonight is the official opening of the 13th Kolkata Film Festival. Beautiful dancers in amazing costumes greet all those attending the opening. Inside the large Nandan 1 auditorium delegates and other guests have the first two rows reserved for us. I decide to sit on the front row so I can stretch my legs. Yorgos Tsemberopoulos comes over to greet me. He arrived last night and they put him up in the Oberoi Grand Hotel. It's not The Bengal Club, but it is very nice. And much more luxurious than the Bengal Club. There are lots of short talks. We learn that there are approximately 250 films from all over the world that will be screened in some eleven cinemas over the next seven mornings, afternoons and evenings. (And, of course, superb dinner parties every night!)
      The best talk is given by the Governor, Gopal Krishna Gandhi, as he drew a parallel between life and black & white films and said that as in the latter, there were many gray areas in life. After all the talks, many on the platform come down to meet the delegates in the first row. Both Yorgos and I meet Governor Gandhi, shake his hand and we thank him for his remarks. He smiles and welcomes us to Calcutta. I am blissfully unaware of the Nandigram violence taking place just outside the city.
      The opening film is The Violin, directed by Francisco Vargas Ouevedo. Made in Mexico, it's a joy to listen to the Spanish dialogue. Beautifully shot in Black & White, the film holds one's attentions to the very end. Violence is always very near the surface. It is amazingly relevant to what is going on right now just outside Calcutta.
There is a party in the Calcutta Club after the opening screening. . End up sitting at a table on the open-air terrace with R.H. Kampani and with his grand-daughter, Nidhi Kampani. She is a sweetheart. Learn that she is a fashion designer and will be moving to Mombai. She designed the costumes for the film, Black. I tell her that I saw the film in Calcutta in 2005 and found it delightful - especially the sets and the costumes. Yorgos Tsemberopoulos joins us and I introduce them to each other It's a fun start to the festival.

     Sunday, 11th: The Sunday Statesman is delivered to my room. I read about the violence taking place and why Subha Nandi feels a need to protest. A complete text of Governor Gandhi's statement is published. It ends with these words: "Enough is enough. Peace and security should be restored, without any delay, from where they have been evicted from Nandigram." Strong words. Necessary words.
      After breakfast in the Bengal Club, make my way to Nandan 1. Upstairs outside Nilanjan's office, talk with his young assistant, Sudeep Bhattacharjee. He is terrific. Ask him to recommend a few Indian films that I must see. He recommends four. Sudeep thanks me for all the help I have given Nilanjan and the Kolkata Film Festival. I tell him I am a big fan of the Kolkata Film Festival and that I will do all I can to help them. There is a lunch party at the Calcutta Club given by EIMPA. I go over with Jindra Markus. Begin to meet lots of people: A couple from London. Her name is Suzanna Taverne and his name is Marc Vlessing. He has brought the film, Dostoyevsky's The Gambler, directed by Karoly Makk. Meet briefly Michel Spinosa, from Paris, who has directed the film, Anna M. Also there is a fellow from Warsaw named Michal Kwiecinski and we chat briefly. Talk longer with a film director from Colombia, Luis Fernando Bottia. He has a feature film in the festival entitled Juana Had Hair of Gold. Talk with the photographer, Prashant Arora, who I met last year at this very same party. He gives me a superb photograph he shot of me last year. Talk as well with Katherine Batliner, a young film maker from Vienna. She has a short film here entitled Dernière (which I never manage to see).

photo copyright Kolkota Film Festival (detail)
Jim at Nandan 2

      At 15.15 I go to Nandan 2 to see the Iranian film, Offside, directed by Jafar Panahi. What a delightful film. So subtle, so tender and at the same time, a very political film, highly critical of the way women are treated in today's Iran.
      In the evening there is another party in the Kenilworth Hotel, hosted once again by Mr. J. K. Sen of the Senco Jewellery Centre. Talk with Chiru, with R.H.Kampani (who tells me that he is also on the Nepal Tourism Board), and with R.H.'s younger brother, Manbendra Kampani. Talk also with the two delightful young women from Berlin, Caroline Kirberg and Judith Angerbauer (who have brought a short film entitled 14 to the festival), with Yorgos Tsemberopoulos, with Michal Kwiecinski, talk with Jiban Sen (and thank him for last year's and this year's party), talk with Moonmoon and Soumitra Mitra. And talk with a fellow who was once the Director of the Kolkata Film Festival, but do not get his card or his name. At the end of the evening, I find a pair of glasses that I think belong to Caroline Kirberg or Judith Angerbauer, so put them in my shoulder bag to give to them tomorrow.

      Monday, 12th: Today is a major strike. Up at 7 and have a coffee. Read today's Statesman and wonder what is in store for us. After the breakfast feast, I wonder if I can get to Nandan to see the film, Luise ist 14 (Fourteen is the English title), made by the two fabulous young women from Berlin. The strike prevents my being able to get to Nandan for the 9.15 screening. And it is the only scheduled screening.
      At 11.15, I see a bit of three films: The Gambler, directed by Karoly Makk, Free Zone, directed by Amos Gitai, and Penumbra, directed by Vijiitha Gunaratne. I now would like to see all three films in their entirety. Still what can one do when all three films are screened at the same time?
      At 13.00, I lunch with Caroline Kirberg and Judith Angerbauer upstairs outside Nilanjan's office. They are so bright, so attractive. I apologize for missing their screening. I produce the found glasses and they do not belong to them. (Later Caroline and Judith give me a DVD of their film and I watch it when I am home in Paris. It is a sweet and tender story of teen-aged angst and a search for love.) Talk with Pacho Bottia from Santa Marta, Colombia and with a young couple from Chili. Also talk with Katherine Batliner. Yorgos and I talk about John Flattau and about his nephew, Kostas Papacharalampous.
      At 15.00, go to see Back Door, directed by Yorgos Tsemberopoulos. I have seen the film before in my room in Paris via a videocassette. But now on the Nandan 1 large screen, it is a different experience. Made in 2000, the film is set in Athens in 1966 just before the military seized power. We see all this through the young thirteen-year old Dimitris who has to grow up fast when his father collapses and dies on his own building site. This period in Greek history is captured in all its madness, told through the microcosm of this family.
      In the evening there is a party in the Park Hotel. The hosts are the Bharat Chamber of Commerce. The Park Hotel is a short distance from the Bengal Club. One can walk there in less than five minutes. The strike is still on, but am able to stroll over early. Meet a number of people including K.K. Khemka. One of his positions is Honorary Consul General of the Phillippines. Talk with another co-host, Pavan Poddar. He attended the University of California at Berkeley. We have an immediate rapport. For some reason, talk to him about my People to People "travel books". (I posted him a copy of Poland.) I see Marcia Bezerra from Rio de Janeiro and ask her if she lost a pair of glasses at the Kenilworth Hotel party and she did. Tell her I have found them and will give them to her tomorrow at the Bengal Club party. She expresses joy and wonder. Load my plate with delicious food and find a round table. Sit with Suzanna Taverne and Marc Vlessing. Yorgos Tsemberopoulos joins us. Discover that Suzanne and Marc are warm, intelligent and attractive. M.P. Sukumaran Nair sits with us as well. He has directed a film entitled Drishtanthan that will be screened on Wednesday at 19.15. Enamul Karim Nirjhar also shares our table. He is a young architect from Bangladesh and he asks me to be sure and see his film, Aha! I promise to do so.
      Yorgos, Suzanna and Marc decide to continue talking with a late night drink somewhere, but I bail out and head for my bed.

      Tuesday, 13th: Up at 7.30 for morning coffee and a quick read of The Statesman. Then a bacon and eggs feast at 8. I have missed the bus again. Decide to go to Nandan via taxi. The driver does not know the way and he cannot understand or seem to accept my directions. So it is a crazy ride. Go upstairs and sit in Nilanjan Chatterjee's office and we discuss the festival. He thanks me for my contributions to this festival and says that he wishes me to contribute to next year's festival with my suggestions. And that he expects me to be again in Kolkata for the 14th festival. I assure him that I will do all I can to help make the festival an even bigger success next year. Go out to the Media Centre to check my email. Jindra Markus sits next to me. Visit briefly with Soumitra Mitra. See Marcia Bezerra and give her the lost glasses. Talk with Michal Kwiecinski about Warsaw and my many trips to Poland.
      The two Berliners are on the front page of the daily news bulletin.
      Yorgos Tsemberopoulos has a press conference at 14.00 and I sit and witness the questions and his answers. Afterwards congratulate him for a job well done. I am told to pass by the office upstairs to collect some expense money. Do so and it is given to me.
      At 17.15 see the Indian film, Ek Nadir Golpo (Tale of a River) directed by Samir Chanda in Nandan 2.. A delightful film about the relationship of a father and his daughter. As soon as it ends, I rush to see the 19.15 film in Rabindra Sadan. Miss the short, Showtime. But I make it in time to see Luis Fernando Bottia's film, Juana Had Hair of Gold, and find it delightful. The actress, Xiomara Galeano, is superb. Luis himself is someone I like immediately. One of the many benefits of attending the Kolkata Film Festival is the opportunity to meet and to bond with wonderful individuals from all over the world. It is nice to know I have a new friend in Colombia. His film is opening in cinemas in Colombia while he is here. I hope it does well there and in other cinemas in the world.
      There is another film at 17.30 that I would love to see on a big screen. It is Gabriela Moraru's documentary, A World of Paradox. Gabriela is a dear friend and I recommended her film to the Kolkata Film Festival. Again it is a film I have seen in Paris in my room on a DVD
      Tonight's party is at the Saturday Club, hosted by Mr. S.S. Agarwal. The Saturday Club party last year was great fun and it is the case again this year. I have several rum and cokes and dance to a Latin beat with Judith Angerbauer. What a lovely lady she is!
      Probal Sircar drives Yorgos and me to the Bengal Club and to the Oberi Grand. We discuss the strike and the strikers' attitude, (mainly intellectuals from Calcutta) to the Film Festival. And what our attitude should be to the strike and to the Festival. Should the film-makers support the strike? It is a very complicated issue, not black and white, very nuanced. I do not see why the festival or the film-makers should suffer for something we did not cause. And know nothing about. Yogos thinks that maybe a room could have been provided by the festival for strikers to explain the situation to the delegates. But passions could have gotten out of control. The state government has obviously mishandled the situation and a tragedy has unfolded with loss of lives and tragic repercussions. People reading this will have no idea what I am talking about. In short, as I understand it, a chemical company wanted to build a new plant and the state government (controlled by the communist party) wanted to provide land that was being farmed by small land-owners. When they refused to leave, thugs were used to force them off their land. And the current impasse ensued. It is so sad.

      Wednesday, 14th: Call Neelima in Delhi and tell her that Antonia and I will fly late Monday morning, that we will see her Monday afternoon. Taxi to Nandan. No one in the office. Talk with two lovely student volunteers. Watch last 30 minutes of a film, Climates, directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan. It is a love story set in Turkey. Beautiful.
See Sudip Bhattacharjee and he orders tickets for Antonia and me for next Monday to fly to Delhi. Sudip is a major asset to Nilanjan and the festival. I would love to invite him to come and stay some weeks in Paris with me. (Later, at a party, I meet his lovely wife. Her name is Soma.)
      The delegates are invited to lunch today by CINETEL at the Technician, but I forget and do not join the party. Sit outside Nilanjan's office and wonder where everyone is. Talk with a young woman who looks a like the actress from Bottia's film. Her name is Anna Pesonen and she is a Finnish journalist studying in Calcutta. I tell her that she looks like the heroine in the film, Juana Had Hair of Gold, and she smiles because she also saw the film last night. She did her degree on Bollywood cinema. I tell her that I have been to the Lahti Writers' Reunion eight times and that I am a big fan of Finland. Give her the Chicago Tribune article and invite her to come and dine when she is next in Paris Talk with a fellow named Kartik Singh. He is from America, but lives in Paris. He has a short film here entitled Saving Mom & Dad. It was screened on Sunday. We exchange contact information.
      Wander into Nandan 1 and see the film, Vitus. It is a little jewel. Vitus is a young boy who reads encyclopedia in kindergarten and is a child prodigy. Warmly directed by Fredi Murer, it deserves a wide distribution. A feel-good film.
Go to the Media Centre and check email. Get a message from Antonia that she is on her way. She has been in London celebrating her wonderful mother's 80th birthday. Antonia contributed to the celebration by printing her mother's many poetic gems written to family members over many years. A beautiful book.
      Back to Nandan 1 and manage to see Claude Chabrol's acid indictment, The Comedy of Power, with Isabelle Huppert playing a Magistrate investigating corruption in the corridors of power in Paris. A modest master piece.
      M.P. Sukumaran Nair's film, Drishtanthan, is supposed to be screened tonight at 19.15 in Nandan 3, but the print has not come from another festival. There is also Pascale Ferran's Lady Chatterley at 19.15. A wonderful film that I saw and enjoyed in Paris (and recommended to Nilanjan and the festival.) Earlier today, the film, The Way I Spent the End of the World directed by Catalin Mitulescu is screened. It is also a film I recommended
      When I arrive back at the Bengal Club, I am told there is a small package for me upstairs. It is from Dr, Chittaranjan Misra who I met at the Harold Pinter Conference in Lyon earlier this year (23 & 24 March). A magazine entirely in the Orissan language with 4 photographs of Antonia, Séamas, and yours truly at last year's Festival. All taken by Antonia and I think were taken from her web site.
      Tonight I feel like a co-host because the party is here in the Bengal Club. Mr. C. K, Dhanuka of South Asian Petrochem, is the real host. Meet and talk with Juergen Fischer, Consul and Deputy Head of Mission from Germany. It turns out he speaks Swedish because he was posted for three years in Stockholm. I exchange a few words with him in Swedish. I see the two Berlin beauties, tell him about them and their film and then manage to introduce them to Juergen. I leave them to chat away in the German-language. Soumitra Mitra invites me to breakfast in his home on Saturday morning. I accept with pleasure.
      Delicious food again tonight. Ice cream with chocolate sauce for dessert. Sit outside under the stars with Chiru, with Michel Spinosa, with Caroline and Judith. And a beauty from France that Chiru has invited.

      Thursday, 15th: Coffee as always at 7.30 with The Statesman newspaper, followed by breakfast at 8. Leave a note for Antonia who arrives today from London that I have five films I have to see and give her the times and places in case she arrives and wishes to join me. Find a taxi and ride to the Oberoi Grand Hotel and collect Yorgos. We walk the short distance to the New Empire cinema where his film, Take Care, will be screened at 9.30. It's a knock-out film dealing with passion and a desire for fame in today's Athens. Produced in 1990, it subsequently won many prizes at film festivals. Yorgos and I find a taxi and rush to Nandan 2 to see his film, Sudden Love, that starts at 11.15. We make it. Another winner! This film deals with love at first sight between two already married people. Elini is in Athens and Grigoris lives in Paris. They arrange to meet in Lisboa and the fireworks begins.
      Learn that a hurricane headed for Calcutta today turns North at the last minute and poor old Bangladesh is hit and several thousand people are killed. Lucky Calcutta, unlucky Bangladesh.
      Antonia has arrived from London, but her bags are somewhere in the Middle East. We decide to see Jindra Markus' documentary, Emotional Nomads in Nandan 3 at 15.15. It is a delightful home movie, very self-indulgent, but ultimately fun. And meaningful. There is a search for love among a group of musicians and the repercussions that follow.
      Then at 17.15, there is the movie, Aha!, made in Bangladesh by Enamul Karim Nirjhar. I think this is the film's first screening. Lots of stories and an amazing mix of characters all connected to Mr. Mallik who lives alone in his run-down mansion until his daughter returns from the USA to live with her father. There is pressure to sell his property to a real estate developer. And there is pressure of a different kind on his daughter, Ruba. I like the film and hope it does well.
      Then at 19.00 in Nandan 1, Michel Spinosa's film, Anna M. It is my fifth film today and I am a bit shell-shocked. But I like Michel and this is the only screening. So I find my seat and the film begins. Alas I cannot take it. The story is too close to something that happened to me. An attractive woman, in this case Anna M, in my case I shall not say, becomes obsessed with a married doctor. And she makes life hell for him. The memory of my story drives me out of the cinema.
Find a taxi and make it back to The Bengal Club. Rest a bit. Then Séamas arrives. He, Antonia and I find a taxi. We call       Chiru on the way and collect him at Nandan and head for John and Susan Mantosh's party at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club. Their party last year was one of the best of the festival. And it is one of the best of this year's festival as well. John is a perfect host. He walks around and makes sure everyone is having a good time. The two beauties from Berlin fly away tonight. (Or very early in the morning.) This is their last party and their last day in Calcutta. John and Susan have gifts for all the Delegates from abroad again this year. Yorgos reminds me he has a conference tomorrow afternoon. We pile into the bus and ride back into the city.

      Friday, 16th: The young lad brings coffee at 7.30 and bacon and eggs at 8.30. Antonia slowly comes alive and has her breakfast at 9.30. She and I discuss shopping. And dinner on Sunday evening at Mainland China - the restaurant where she, Stanley Cohen and I had a great dinner last November. I can still taste the cracked spinach dish. I go out, find a taxi and take it to Nandan.
      At 11.15 the film-maker, Sergej Stanojkovski, and I have a date to talk with some students. Sergej and I met last year at the Calcutta Film Festival. He is from ex-Yugoslavia, from Croatia I think, attended Film School in the Czech Republic, and now lives in Dusseldorf in Germany. We meet the students and they take us to a classroom somewhere behind Nandan. Their professor has not arrived yet. But I suggest we start. Sergej encourages me to begin. I produce a quick biographical report of my past life and activities. The professor, Gautam Gupta, arrives and joins us on the front table. Then Sergej gives us his life and achievements. This is followed by a series of questions and answers directed at each of us. It's a very stimulating affair and it reminds me how much I like being with students. Give everyone my Chicago Tribune article including Gautam, the professor.
      At 17.15 in Nandan 2, we go to see The Grave Keeper's Tale, directed by Chitra Palekar. Antonia and I stay about half into the film, but I am tired and elect to return to the Bengal Club and rest.
      There are two films that I have recommended to the festival that are screened today. One is the short film, The Apologist, directed by Guy Shahar and the other is The Yacoubian Building, accurately based on the novel by the same name written by Alaa Al-Aswani. The film is directed by Marwan Hamed. Two superb films.
      Tonight, Mr. Pawan Kumar Ruia of the Ruia Group hosts the party at the Taj Bengal Hotel. And it is a great party Not sure why, but I enjoy every minute. Have a long talk with three young lads: Nishan Sarkar, who is somehow related to Dhruba and Subha Nandi, with Abhishek, whose father is Aloke Kumar and who is an associate of Dhruba Nandi, and with Suraj Sachbeb, a school friend of Aloke. We four talk for some time. Talk also with Amos Gitai, a film-maker from Israel, who has five films in the festival. Of course we talk about Dahn Ben-Amotz. Learn that Amos lives part of the time in Paris. Séamas and I invite him to attend one of our Sunday dinners. The food is delicious tonight as well. After I have a plate of Indian cuisine, Séamas suggests I try the Burmese. I do and it is extra special. Out host, Pawan Kumar Ruia, is the Chairman of the Ruia Group that includes Dunlop India. He is very warm and hospitable. One of his beautiful daughters has a birthday and at the end of the party a delicious cake is produced and we all congratulate her. Jindra takes a lot of photographs.

      Saturday, 17th: This morning we have a breakfast date with Moonmoon and Sumitra Mitra. Antonia and I start the day with coffee. Sumitra calls to say that he is sending a car for us. We slowly get dressed and ready to go. The front desk calls to say there is a car downstairs for us. It's a beautiful day. Their home is not that far away. There is another fellow having breakfast with us. His name is Goutam Haldar and he is a noted film-maker. He and I were introduced at the Bengal Club party. Breakfast is fun, but not sure what we eat. Sumitra leaves Calcutta today to attend another film festival in Siliguri that will screen some of the films we have been watching. Moonmoon is not feeling well this morning and will not leave the city. Soumitra gives me a CD of Rabindranath Tagore's poetry read by himself in Bengali. After a bit, it is time for us to depart. We thank our hosts for the morning treat and for another festive time here in Calcutta. Sumitra says that not only must I come again next year, I should plan to stay longer and travel a bit with him. OK, why not?
      We are dropped back at Lindsay Street and Antonia goes to check on her mobile phone connection. I go next door to the shop Weekender to see if the young student, Jhuma Das, is there and to ask her about Nilima Nag, the other young university student who was so sweet to me in 2005. I saw them both in November 2006, but am not lucky this time. (I will write them a letter when I am back in Paris.) Antonia and I walk around to the Fairlawn Hotel to say hello to Mrs. Smith and to Sam. They are both there. We sit with Violet and exchange news and gossip with her. Antonia tells Sam that she will be back in Calcutta in early December and re-confirms her reservation dates.
      We take a taxi to The Bengal Club. I call Subha Nandi and she is just about to have a class. But we do talk briefly. I tell her that I am organizing a dinner party tomorrow night in Mainland China and that I would like her and her husband, Dhruba, to attend. She replies that she thinks they can come. Call Pramod in New Delhi and tell him that we have booked a flight and will depart Calcutta late Monday morning. Call the writer, Nabaneeta dev Sen, and ask her if she is free to dine on Sunday evening. She says that she thinks so, but would like to bring her daughter with her. Of course. Neelima calls from New Delhi and we talk about our arrival on Monday.
      At 15.15 Antonia and I attend the Al Gore film, An Inconvenient Truth, in Nandan 3. The film is certainly an important wake-up call for everyone. I wonder if the world will heed its warnings and if we will do anything about it. Or is the planet doomed?
      At 17.15, we go to see The Grave Keeper's Tale directed by Chitra Palekar. Antonia likes it. But I am tired and want to leave.
      We go to The Bengal Club to rest until it is time to go to the closing party. Tonight it is at the Hyatt Regency.
When we finally arrive at the Hyatt Regency after a bus ride of total madness, meet K.K.Khemka at the front door. He is on his way to another party. But it seems he has had a look at my web site because he makes a comment about it. What a nice man!
      Mr. Sundeep Bhutoria of Ess Bee Group is our host. It is an amazing party tonight, but I much more enjoyed last night's party at the Taj Bengal. I think the arrangements tonight and a far larger crowd make it difficult to move about. I talk briefly with Aloke Kumar and his son, Abhishek. And this is very enjoyable. I never get into the spirit of tonight's party and cannot even find the hosts to thank them.
      Very late at night I find myself sitting on a low brick wall next to an attractive woman. Her name is Heena Gorsia and she is involved with a school. She over-hears my telling someone that I will not be traveling back into central Calcutta in the bus, but will find a taxi instead. She says that she and her husband, Raju, will be pleased to drop me in their car because they are driving soon to their home. Thank them and ask if they can take one or two others. Yes, it is not a problem. Talk with Séamas and Antonia. In the end, Antonia elects to stay and Séamas will ride in with us. Séamas is dropped near Sudder Street. Me at the Club.

      Sunday, 18th: Antonia and I have a slow start this morning. And then after her breakfast, she goes to the catholic church nearby. Begin to make a few calls to see if we can reserve Mainland China tonight for about a dozen guests. Unfortunately Nabaneeta dev Sen and her daughter cannot come. And Sam Guha, from the British Council, also is not free. But we will have about a dozen guests. I remember to call reception and ask for a car and driver to take us to the airport tomorrow morning. I am assured a car will be ordered. Then they tell me that we must change rooms. Someone has reserved room 9. Jump into action and start moving our things to room 10. It's actually the same room Antonia and I had to move to last year. It was also on a Sunday night. Our last night in the Bengal Club last year and again this year. Antonia returns to find I have completed the move. And she remembers she likes this room because it has a lovely open-air balcony. We agree to meet in thirty minutes for a meal in Flury's. I go to the music shop in Park Street and purchase five Satyajit Ray DVDs. I saw many of these films in the Cameo Cinema in Edinburgh in the late 50s, early 60s. But maybe it is time to see them all again.
      Antonia and I have a snack in Flury's in Park Street. I have a green Thai curry. It's hot and delicious. Then we find a taxi, with difficulty, and go to Suddar Street. There we visit with Violet Smith and Sam at the Fairlawn Hotel
      Antonia, Séamas, Jindra Markus and I find a taxi and drive to China Mainland in Gurusaday Road. We are warmly welcomed. Antonia and I get a menu and order a vast amount of food for our guests. We rave about the cracked spinach. When Stanley Cohen, Antonia and I dined here last November, it was the cracked spinach dish that we most enjoyed. Our guests begin to arrive and we introduce everyone to each other. We are eleven: Sona & Saugata Banerjee, Subha & Dhruba Nandi, Deepika & Vijay Jaidka, Jindra Markus, Chiru Sur, Séamas McSwiney, Antonia and yours truly. The food is as wonderful as we remembered it to be. Conversations flow along with the wine. It's a great evening. When I pay the bill, I learn that two containers of the cracked spinach has been put into a bag for me to take away. What a kind thing to do.

      Monday, 19th: This morning Antonia and I fly to New Delhi. We are both up early. After coffee, we both refuse breakfast. Later we kick ourselves for not having it. I get an SMS text message from Sam Guha to say that he is stuck in traffic and cannot make it to the Bengal Club before we depart to the airport. Then it is time to depart The Bengal Club
      Smooth flight to Delhi. We exit the airport and find our driver straight away. Heavy traffic, but we soon arrive at our destination. After greeting Dolly and Mr. Kapoor, Antonia and I go downstairs to see Neelima and Pramod Mathur. We have coffee and a long talk. They have re-arranged their busy schedules in order to be able to attend our dinner party tomorrow night at the Indian International Centre. On Wednesday, Pramod and their son, Vinod, are flying to a location to shoot a film. Then shortly after that, they are flying to China to participate in a film festival.
      Upstairs again and we call Sanjeev Prakash. We arrange to met him in a restaurant he likes entitled Gulati in the Pandara Road Market. Mr. Kapoor orders a car and driver for us. And off we go. We arrive first, so wander around the market a bit. It is full of restaurants, but only at Gulati is there a waiting list. Then we are given a table and we order a soup and wait for Sanjeev. He is soon with us. Lots of talk about Calcutta and our dinner party tomorrow. Also talk about Paris, mutual friends Karolina Blåberg, John Calder, Sheila Colvin, Séamas McSwiney, and of course talk about Bergen and Sanjeev's future plans.

      Tuesday, 20th: Tonight Sanjeev, Antonia and I are hosting a dinner party at the Indian International Centre Annex in Committee Room 3. We arrange with Mr. Kapoor to have a car and driver and head off to have lunch in the Imperial Hotel. Sanjeev is supposed to meet us so we can purchase the booze for tonight and take it to the Indian International Centre. Lunch is magnificent and the Imperial Hotel is fantastic. We check our email. Antonia sends a message to Bhaichand Patel to invite him to join us tonight. Lots of conversations with Sanjeev, but he is stuck in his neighborhood. So Antonia and I go to a place and purchase the whisky, vodka, wine and beer. I put it all on my Visa card.
      Back to the Kapoor's home to rest and to get ready for tonight. About 7 another car and driver are ordered and we head for the Indian International Centre Annex with two cartons of booze. Antonia rightly complains that the room has no ambiance. Sanjeev volunteers to go and purchase candles and flowers. When he returns, Antonia changes the lighting and presto the place looks great. People begin to arrive. Mark Tully is one of the first. Then Neelima, Pramod, and Varun. Next comes Dileep Padgaonkar. He and I take up our conversation as if we were last talking only a week ago. A celebrated photographer, Raghu Rai, arrives. And he, of course, knows Neelima and Pramod. Aruna Vasudev arrives. Jo Johnson comes but his wife, Amelia Gentleman, had to fly to Mumbai today. Sanjeev's mother, whose nickname is Gogo, is next. Bhaichand Patel arrives. The women are out-numbered. Nevertheless we have a success. Everyone is talking. All seem happy to be here and to be meeting each other. I see cards being exchanged. Bhaichand suggests Antonia and I dine at his home tomorrow night. We thank him, but report I have to go to the airport about 21.30 to take a flight to Paris. He suggests we come early and have a drink. We accept.

India's unending journey by Mark Tully, Rider - Random House
India's Unending Journey
by Mark Tully
Rider/Random house

      Wednesday, 21st: Tonight I fly to Paris. We telephone Sanjeev and he suggests we go to his place and have lunch together nearby. Another car and driver is ordered and we drive to Sanjeev's home. Talk briefly with his wonderful mother. Then we three go for lunch in an area called Saket. Afterwards I try to purchase Bhaichand Patel's book, but Om Book Shop does not have it. I hope that means they have sold out and their re-order has not arrived in the shop. Nevertheless do purchase four books by Mark Tully. Give one to Antonia and one to Sanjeev and keep two for myself. They are surprised and pleased.

      Late afternoon we return to our Delhi home to rest and to pack. We order a car and driver to take us to Bhaichand Patel's dinner party and then to drive me to the airport. We thank Dolly and Mr. Kapoor for their hospitality and pay our bill.
      We are early at Bhaichand's superb apartment (opposite the Ambassador Hotel) and sit in his back garden terrace. Tables are set for about 25 guests. I sign a copy of my little book, 33 Days, and pass it to Bhaichand. Ask him if I can beg a copy of his book, Chasing the Good Life - On Being Single. A copy is produced and he passes it to me after signing it with a short dedication. It is published by Penguin India. I mention that I was a friend of the founder of Penguin, Sir Alan Lane, and his wife, Lettice. This book contains 28 essays by various writers in India in praise of the single life. I discover that I know four of them - including Dolly Thakore, Khushwant Singh, Radhika Jha and Aruna Vasudev - who I met last night.
      People begin to arrive. Antonia and I are introduced. Lots of interesting people, but I am forced to watch the time. Our driver will be out front at 21.30. Suddenly it is time to depart. We thank our host and say goodbye to the other guests. Outside we find our car and driver and the drive to the airport begins. This trip to India is rapidly nearing its end. Give my mobile phone and most of my rupees to Antonia. We talk about our trip and how she will pass the next month traveling about India. It has been once again superb in every way. It is truly a fabulous country filled with amazing individuals. I could easily imagine myself living the rest of my life in India. I know that Antonia constantly contemplates it.

Chasing the Good Life - On Being Single edited by Bhaichand Patel published by Penguin/Viking
Chasing the Good Life
- on being single
edited by Bhaichand Patel
Penguin/Viking

We arrive at Delhi International Airport and Antonia walks with me as far as she is allowed to go. We embrace and I wish her happy trails. She will travel around India another month. Inside it is total madness. Discover I am flying on an Air France flight. Dozens of international flights seem to be departing at the same time. Manage to check in at the Air France counter surprisingly quickly and even quickly clear passport control. Sit by gate 8 and read babyji. What a delightful book! And then the flight is called.

      Thursday, 22nd: Suddenly it is announced we are about to arrive at Charles de Gaulle. airport. The flight has been smooth and painless. Manage to get a lot of sleep. Talk with the couple next to me just before we land. They have been traveling around India for two weeks. They live in Port Royal in the 5th arrondissement: We discuss the strike and wonder how we will make it to our homes. I almost ask them if they would like to share a taxi, but in the end do not do so. We land just after 6, quickly manage to pass through passport control, and also find my two checked bags fairly quickly. Outside manage to get a taxi and we are on our way. All seems well. Then after a few minutes we hit a traffic jam. After that it is slow going all the way to Tombe Issoire. Almost four hours later, we arrive. During the trip, talk a lot with the driver. He and I really get to know one another.
      Lots of post, e-mail messages and telephone messages greet me. It is always the same. Discover I have a new microwave. (Later learn it is a gift from Kelly Bourke.) I loved the trip to India, seeing all those old friends and meeting many new ones. But it feels great to be home again. Call Paul and Mary and we discuss meeting in Alesia to take the 38 bus to chez Peter Cyrus tonight for a Thanksgiving treat.
      Again see lots of friends at Peter's dinner party. It's cold. Winter is here. I miss India, but still it is good to be home.

 

 

Jim Haynes
December 2007

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

 

 

 

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