Jim Haynes newsletters

Newsletter No. 704

The Kolkata Film Festival
(and another trip to Bangkok)

November 1st to 22nd, 2009

15th Kolkata Film Festival banner

 

Sunday, November 1st: Mary Bartlett and Paul Allman fly to Cairo this afternoon and will be back in Paris on the 11th. It rains all day. Amelia Viney, a student at Cambridge University, arrives from London to interview me for her research on the 60s. Eric arrives with 80 apples for the dessert tonight. Begin to pack for the trip to Bangkok and Calcutta. Antonia, who is the Sunday dinner chef tonight and who made her wonderful Boeuf Bourguignon yesterday, arrives late afternoon to add the finishing touches. A group of us cut and chop, core the apples, and generally assist Antonia with tonight's dinner preparations. In the end we are 56 happy diners. Antonia has made us all very happy again!

Monday, 2nd: Up early. Coffee and shower. Lunch with Galina. A taxi arrives at 3 to take me to a studio for more After Eight sound recordings. Go to the Village Voice and purchase a New Yorker. In the evening, dine with Sheila Colvin, John Calder and Antonia in Bofinger. Taxi home and go straight to bed.

Tuesday, 3rd: 3rd: Spend the morning doing last minute things. Say goodbye to Yara Tomer and Nancy Stevner. Yara will guard the fortress while I am away. Taxi to the airport. Kick myself for not taking the RER; it would have been faster and cheaper. An Air France official asks if I would like to accept a cash payment and fly tomorrow. I am tempted, but refuse. Soon board and we are off. Turbulence all the way. Maybe I should have accepted the cash and flown another day. It is so rough that I truly worry about the Boeing 747's ability to handle and withstand it all. It further underlines my hesitation to fly again. And I have been pondering a trip to New York City in December.

Wednesday, 4th: The last few hours are smooth. Bright sunshine greets our arrival. A smooth landing. All the passengers clap, all happy to be on the ground again. I say goodbye to the super sweet elderly couple from the South of France who are on their way to Hanoi. We three chatted in French and I filled in their Vietnamese landing card for them. They spoke no English.
A blast of hot air greets me as I exit the plane. A seemingly never-ending walk lies ahead. Then a massive queue. Quickly fill out the entry (and exit) document and join one of the queues. I am asked a few questions, photographed, find my bag and head for exit 3. Yvan's lovely wife, Guk, is waiting. So good to see her. She reports Jesper is a bit under the weather and she has come alone. We stroll to her car and are soon speeding toward the city center.

In the evening, we have a delicious intimate dinner. We are only four: Guk, Yvan, Jesper and I. Jesper is busy and excited about his big photographic exhibition in Stockholm that opens the 12th of November in the Lydmar Hotel.

Thursday, 5th: Awake early after a great night's sleep. Have breakfast with Yvan outside in the garden. Toast and coffee for me. Yvan has tea and toast. Guk up and out early to take her father to the hospital for an eye check-up. I tell Yvan that I will have a quiet morning resting and reading. He promises to pass in the early afternoon with some lunch from a local traiteur.

Thus it unfolds: a delicious veggie lunch. We agree to meet in the early evening and go to an exhibition of a photographer friend of his from the North of England. Guk returns. Later she and I take a taxi to the Skytrain. We collect Yvan and ride one stop. Find another taxi and ride the short distance to the gallery. It is called Serindia and the exhibition is "Tibet Outside Tibet". The photographer is Luke Duggleby. We are introduced. Yvan introduces me to lots of his friends. Meet the gallery director, Shane Suvikapakomkul. Also meet the writer, Tom Vater, and his amazing wife, Aroon Thaewchaturatt. She is a photographer. Talk with Douglas de Weese, an American-Japanese from Oregon. He and I first met the 7th of October 2004 when he attended the Frankfurt Book Fair for Yvan's (and Peter Charlesworth) photo agency, On Asia. I found him a place to stay in Frankfurt and he attended my party at the Künstlerkeller.

Jesper Haynes' exhibition at the Lydmar hotel in Stokholm, ©Jesper Haynes, 2009
invitation for the Jesper Haynes' exhibition at the Lydmar Hotel, Stokholm, Sweden
Later Yvan, Douglas and I slip out and go to dine in Chinatown at Soi Texas. Yvan and I stop at the restaurant across the street from his home to order items for Guk's surprise dinner tomorrow night.

Friday, 6th: Yvan and I have a long lazy breakfast again outside in the garden. Guk has a lunch date, so rushes out. Tonight we are planning a surprise birthday party for her. I sit and read the Ryszard Kapuscinski's book, Travels with Herodotus. A great writer and a dear friend. It is very sad that he is no longer among us.

Yvan returns with another delicious veggie lunch. Guk has gone out shopping. Yvan and I continue to plot and plan the surprise dinner party tonight for Guk's birthday (which was the 2nd of November). We will go to the English Club for drinks. I will fake an upset stomach. They will take me back to a dark and empty home. They will enter and everyone will jump out of the kitchen and sing happy birthday. While we are at the English Club, dozens will gather, the food will arrive, etc. And it comes to pass with no hiccups. Guk is truly surprised. We have a great evening. We are about fifteen guests. I meet Jesper's girlfriend, Takae Ooka and she is super sweet and super lovely (as I knew she would be). Also meet Panu Burusratanapant, an old friend of Yvan's, who edits Thai Esquire magazine. He has an issue with a photograph of a local actress that Jesper has done for him. Jesper has shot a lot of photographs for Panu. Meet again Bob Halliday, an amazing character, who is a genuine renaissance man. Tell him he looks great and he does! We talk about the upcoming Kolkata Film Festival and his recent operation. What a delightful fellow he is!

Travels with Herodotus, by Ryszard Kapuscinski
Travels with Herodotus, by Ryszard Kapuscinski

There is a fellow from France named Gerard Courcoux, who is a jewelry designer. And Thierry Herve, who spends half the year in Formentera and half in Bangkok. (I think he and I talk about Ellen Coupé.) And the amazing Thai women: the unbelievable Nym Punlopruksa (journalist and author of many books), Jenny Nilrungsee, who studied in Australia, and is now the Managing Director of Amarin Printing, Thailand's largest printing firm. Plus Peter Charlesworth's wife, Khun Tic. And On Asia's office manager, Khun Nat, is present. There are two other women: Mariko, Japanese-American and married to Seth Mydams, and Jane Wilson, who lives nearby, works for UNAIDS, and leaves early tonight because she flies to Timor at the crack of dawn. Also meet Arnaud Dubus and his wife, Pi Noo. He is the correspondent for Liberation, Le Temps (Geneva) and others.
Towards the end of the evening, Douglas De Weese appears with a lovely woman whose name I do not remember.
All in all, a very fun party and a complete surprise for Guk.

Jim Haynes and Bob Halliday, photo©Jesper Haynes, 2009
Jim Haynes and Bob Halliday, photo by Jesper Haynes

Saturday, 7th: Yvan is up and moving about. It is 9.30. Get up and go downstairs to find a completely clean space, no sign of a party just a few hours earlier. Have another delightful breakfast in the garden with the International Herald Tribune. Guk and Yvan has been invited to dinner tonight and the hosts, Graham and Rampai Braddick, have said I am welcome as well. Because Jesper and Takae are so busy getting ready for his Stockholm photographic exhibition, I decide to go with Guk and Yvan. Pass a quiet day reading and writing email messages.
Early evening we depart. Guk drives expertly through the heavy traffic and we arrive at an amazing house. The men, Graham, Arnaud Dubus, and John Palumbo are all married to Thai women. John is from America and is with EGCO, a power company. He is married to Kai and has two children, Nong Anh and Max. Arnaud is with Pi Noo. Our host's wife is Rampai. Graham has been the Director of Language Schools and is now planning to accept a new position either in Cairo, Glasgow or elsewhere. Tell him that Glasgow is wonderful.
We have a delightful evening, eat delicious Thai food and slip away home not too late. Guk is an excellent driver.

Jim Haynes by Prashant Arora, photo ©Prashant Arora, 2009
Jim Haynes, pohto Prashant Arora
Sunday, 8th: A lazy morning. I am the first up followed shortly afterwards by Yvan. Jesper calls and I tell him that I do not need the Dell laptop, that he does not have to come over with it. Wish him good luck with his exhibition in Stockholm and that I will see him on the 18th when we are both once again in Bangkok. Pack slowly.Another wonderful breakfast in the garden with Yvan. Guk goes out to get medicine for me to take with me to Calcutta. And then it is time to find a taxi and head for my flight to Kolkata. Give my key to my atelier in Paris to Guk and Yvan, just in case they arrive and Yara is not at home. It's been great again staying with them.
Soon I am zooming to the airport. Check into my Kingfisher flight, clear passport control, purchase two large bottles of Finnish vodka and walk to the departure gate.
Flight time is two hours and twenty minutes. Smooth flight. It is dark outside when we land. I am greeted by two men from the Kolkata Film Festival and clear passport control fairly quickly. See an attractive young woman on her own, wearing a T-shirt that proclaims Little Miss Sunshine. I kick myself for not talking with her. I am introduced to Mr. Sunil Kapoor, who is my driver. And away we go into the night. I wonder if Little Miss Sunshine needed a ride into town. It would have been fun to have someone to talk with and she did look very sweet and lovely.
We arrive at the Bengal Club. Greet many staff members I recognize. Tell Mr. Kapoor that I do not need him anymore tonight. Go up to the massive suite, Room 7, that Antonia and I shared in 2005. Put my passport and some cash in the room safe. Go out to the Oxford Bookshop and purchase Cal Calling, the monthly what's on and a few items. See a fellow buying lots of books and DVDs and wonder if he is here for the film festival. (Later get his card and learn that he is Gary Meyer, co-director of the Telluride Film Festival. If I had spoken to him, we would have had a dinner together.) Contemplate going to the Fairlawn Hotel or somewhere to dine, but in the end go back to the Bengal Club and have something to eat alone in their Chinese restaurant. It is superb! I wonder how dinner is in Paris. Galina is cooking tonight.

Monday, 9th: Big breakfast feast alone in my room. Read the two morning newspapers, The Statesman and The Telegraph. Shave, shower and shampoo. Mr Kapoor drives me up to Nandan. No one about. Am told to return in the afternoon. Return to the Bengal Club. Elect to have another cup of coffee in Fleurys in Park Street.
Up to Nandan, the West Bengal Film Center, in the early afternoon and this time Nilanjan Chatterjee is in his office. So, too, is Sudeep Bhattacharyya, Nilanjan's bright assistant. Introductions are made to Joy Bimal Roy, whose father, Bimal Roy (1909-1966), is being honored this year with five films. Plus a documentary made by Joy Bimal Roy. I also meet Ratnottama Sengupta, who is an Arts Editor with The Times of India. I ask her to pass my best wishes to Dileep Padgaonkar, who is a friend and who was the editor of The Times of India. She tells me that Dileep has an article in today's paper.
Give a copy of Man on Wire to Nilanjan. He says now we need the 35 mm print. Wander over to collect my Delegate's Pass. Sit before the troika: Prakash Pradhan, Nitindra Gangopadhyay and Debasish Halder. They welcome me. We joke about this year's festival and lack of parties. I tell them that I will organize a party. Soon have my Delegate's pass and folder.
Go downstairs and stick my head into Soumitra Mitra's office and he is talking on the telephone. He motions me over and passes the phone to me. It is Obhi Chatterjee's wife, Kaberi, in Brussels. She thanks me for sending the film to the festival and says they will arrive Wednesday. They, too, will be staying in the Bengal Club.
Ride back to the Bengal Club. Ask someone to get me today's Times of India and read Dileep's obituary of Claude Lévi-Strauss. It is excellent. Go to the Club Bar and order a juice. Talk to a couple at the next table from Australia. They are doing research in Calcutta. When I get up to leave, pass by a table with four locals and tell them that the Bengal Club is wonderful. They smile and thank me. Walk to my room and encounter J.P. Mallik, the Food and Banquet Manager of the Bengal Club, and tell him that the Bengal Club is superb.
In the evening call Chiru Sur and he comes to the Bengal Club. We have a superb dinner in the main restaurant in the Club.

Tuesday, 10th: Antonia Hoogewerf is to arrive today from the North of India. It is also my birthday. Tonight the 15th Kolkata Film Festival opens with the film, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, directed by Mark Herman. After the opening film, we will cross the street to the Calcutta Club for a dinner reception.
Quiet day. Spend a lot of time reading "Happy Birthday" messages sent via email. Also the After Eight commercial went out last night in Great Britain and Ireland. Bob Kingdom sends the first email message that he saw the ad and found it "cool". Receive 600 messages. Many are bookings for the Sunday dinners; these are being handled in Paris by Yara Tomer.
Antonia arrives. We have tea and catch each other up with our news and adventures. What a lovely friend she is! Séamas McSwiney has also arrived. Dress and head to Nandan early. Séamas is shooting a documentary with his new camera. See Barbara Lorey de Lacharrière, my neighbor in the 13th arrondissement in Paris. She introduces us to her friend, Maria José Branco, who is from Lisboa. There are the official opening speeches. Then the film. The title says it all. A Second World War setting, a German officer is transferred with his family to the East where he is put in charge of a camp of prisoners. The young nine-year old son is destined to meet a nine-year old prisoner. Tragedy looms.

invitation to the opening party  of the 15th Kolkata Film Festival
invitation to the opening party of the 15th Kolkata Film Festival

Not a cheerful beginning to the festival. We cross the street to the opening party in sunned silence. See lots of people I know, including the Brazilian beauty, Djin Sganzerla, and meet Andre Guerreiro, her boyfriend. Djin and I met last year. She is super nice. They are both actors and she is the daughter of Rogério Sganzerla. Also meet Helena Ignex, a film director from Brazil and the wife of the director, Rogério Sganzerla. They are all with Antonio Urano, a Brazilian film distributor. Rogério Sganzerla, who died in 2004, is being honored this year here at the festival with six of his films. Find a table outside and pull them all to the table. Lots of new people and lots of familiar faces. Meet Hannah Fisher from Toronto. And meet Peter Raymont, from Canada. He has produced and directed over 100 documentary films. See the wonderful Dhruba Nandi. We make a date to dine in Mainland China. Am introduced to Gary Meyer and tell him that I almost spoke to him earlier in the Oxford Bookshop. We talk about Telluride Film Festival and I tell him about my one visit to the festival. We also talk about Tom Luddy and Bojana & Dusan Makavejev. Barbara and Maria join the table. Barbara tells me that the director, Caroline Link, is attending the festival, but we do not meet. See so many people, talk to many. It's a great beginning. Séamas shoots away with his new camera.
Very late manage to get a ride back to the Bengal Club. Antonia and I are very tired.

Wednesday, 11th: This morning we have promised Djin and the Brazilians we would see The Red Light Bandit in Nanden 2 at 9.15. The sound seems to be extra loud. There is a certain Hellzapoppin feel about the film. Totally crazy. I don't see the Brazilians around to talk with them afterwards.
At 11.15, up to Nandan 3 to see Peter Raymont's A Promise to the Dead: The Exile Journey of Ariel Dorfman. Filmed in the USA, Argentina and Chile in late 2006, it brings back the terrible events in Chile before and after Augusto Pinochet.
Go into Nandan 1 and see the last half of Kazan's On the Waterfront with Marlon Brando. Not sure how many times I have seen this film, but it is always worth it.
In the evening there are three movies I want to see. But William Dalrymple is reading at a bookshop tonight and I know that Antonia is a big fan, so arrange for us (Antonia, Séamas and myself) to attend the reading. It is in a bookshop called Crossword. The reading has started when we arrive, but we slip upstairs and a seat is found for me. To my pleasant surprise, I see Mimlu Sen and her fellow, Paban Das Baul, are performing with William. He has a new book entitled Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India. When the reading is over, I go up to Mimlu and she is completely surprised to see me and Antonia. I say hello to Paban and to William. Antonia purchases a book and has William sign it. We tell Mimlu that we are staying in the Bengal Club and suggest she calls us to arrange to have a meal or tea before she and Paban fly off to Delhi on Monday.
Antonia, Séamas and I go upstairs to the coffee bar, order three iced coffees and sit and talk. Then we wander about the bookshop. I purchase a set of Hitchcock DVDs to give to Sudeep and a copy of the Economist for me. (The cover features the wall coming down 20 years ago. My how time flies! And how different the world is today.)

We walk next door to the Forum and our dinner date in the Oh Calcutta restaurant. A big table full of approximately 16 people. Everyone is introduced. The guests of honor are Obhi and Kaberi Chatterjee. Their film, Shyama, was shown this afternoon in Nandan 2. Séamas and I were responsible for getting it into the festival. But Obhi is not very happy about the screening. They are happy to be in Calcutta for the festival and are very determined to get another (and better) screening. Séamas is going to devote time and energy helping them. They are an attractive couple. His father, Jayanta, is also dining with us tonight, as well as a number of friends. One man, Faruck R. Haidar, who lives is Britain, is extremely friendly and talkative. (Later he pays for everyone's dinner and refuses let anyone contribute to it.) Oh Calcutta is a great restaurant. I remember fondly the meal we had here last year with Alyque Padamsee and others. This year it is just as good or better. I cannot remember everyone sitting around the table, but there is a fellow named George Varugis and his wife, Dipali Bhattacharya. They are living in Russell Street, very near the Bengal Club. They have a house guest from Dhaka staying with them, the singer Shama Rahman.

Obhi Chatterjee, photo Rights Reserved
Obhi Chatterjee, photo R.R.

When I mention that I would like to purchase some of her CDs, she and George say that they can drop some into the Bengal Club for Antonia and me. (And they do!) Also at the table are Gautam Haldar, a film director, and his wife, Chaiti Haldar. A young handsome actor visits and we are introduced, but I don't remember his name. And there is a fellow named Anirudh Chari, who writes for the The Statesman. Somehow he reveals that he knew Graham Greene. He is a bit of a dandy and very right wing, but Antonia and I find him fun.
Very late we are dropped back at the Bengal Club.

Thursday, 12th: Today is Chiru Sur's birthday. Also Hannah Fisher's. After breakfast, go downstairs to get a letter from Ashim Ghosh, the assistant manager of the Bengal Club that will state I am staying in the Club. This is needed to get a local mobile telephone. Antonia and I head for Sudder Street and a small photo shop that will provide a SIM card for Yvan's Nokia. This takes about thirty minutes. Antonia calls her bank in London to arrange something and she is very happy with the woman she talks with in the bank. We walk around the corner to the Fairlawn Hotel and visit with Violet Smith, the proprietor, and with Sam, her right hand man. Violet is as feisty as ever.

We taxi to Nandan. Sit outside Nilanjan's office and have a long talk with Jacob, the grandson of the Hungarian film-maker, Márta Mészáros. Give Sudeep the boxed set of Hitchcock films. Also talk with Sekhar Das, who tells me he has made a film entitled Kaler Rakhal (The Understudy), based on a Nilanjan Chatterjee short story. I ask if I can see the film here at the festival and he says it is not in the festival. But he gives me a DVD and says I can watch it when I am home in Paris.
Wander down to the computer rooms and discover I have hundreds of Happy Birthday greetings.
Decide to collect my expense money. Spend the entire afternoon with Marianna Panayotopoulos. She, too, is waiting for her expense money. She is the wife of the Greek film director, Nikos Panayotopoulos. He has seven films in the festival. Learn from Marianna that my old friend, Renos Mandis, is acting in two of them. We end up getting our money fairly late and I ride with her to her hotel, the Oberoi Grand, because I do not wish her to travel alone with so much cash on her. She flies to Athens in the morning. I ask her to pass my greetings to Renos and she promises to do so.

Kaler Rakhal (the Understudy) a film by Sekhar Das
Kaler Rakhal (the Understudy) a film by Sekhar Das

In the evening, Antonia and I dine with Subha and Dhruba Nandi in one of my favorite restaurants in the world, Mainland China. A very fun meal, just the four of us. We discuss hosting a closing dinner party. Dhruba promises to assist us in finding a place to have it. After dinner we drive to spot near the river that Dhruba likes. He loves Calcutta. They are two delightful people, charming and intelligent. Great company. One of my principal reasons for attending the film festival every November is to re-connect with many delightful people. Friday, 13th: Breakfast on the terrace with Antonia. There is a 9.15 screening of Athens-Istanbul by Nikos Panayotopoulos that I would like to see. Antonia says she would like to see it as well. It is in the New Empire Cinema, near Sudder Street. We both really like the film. We decide to drive to the Old Kenilworth Hotel to ask the proprietor, David Purdy, if he could possibly host our closing party. He is there. We meet the mother of his new baby, and he shows us around. It might be possible to have the party here. We return to the Bengal Club.
Then we meet Dhruba at Mainland China to see their basement facilities. I like what we see, but Antonia wants air and light. It is too claustrophobic for her. We agree to continue our search.
Back to Nandan and make an attempt to see I'm Tired of Killing Your Lovers, directed by Nikos Panayotopoulos in Nandan 2. But it is packed. No place to sit and I do not want to stand with many others. Sad because my friend, Renos Mandis, is in this film.
I do go to see Maati-O-Manush, a feature film in Bengali with English subtitles in Nandan 2 at 17.15. It is directed by Sisir Sahana. It's English title is The People and the Soil. The story evolves around a dumb village girl who attempts to live a normal life, but her social ostracism by the superstitious bigots ends in violence. They blame her for every misfortune that befalls the village. Afterwards I tell Sisir that I really liked his film.
In the evening, Antonia goes to a concert in the New Kenilworth by a group she knows called "Black Coffee". Afterwards, she, Séamas and I meet in the Bengal Club and walk the short distance to dine in Fire and Ice. We have pasta and pizzas. Then walk back to the Bengal Club for an early night.

Saturday, 14th: Antonia wants to see No One Writes to the Colonel, a film directed by Arturo Ripstein, based on a Gabriel Garcia Marquez story that is in Nandan 1 at 9. I want to see Dying in Athens, another Nikos Panayotopoulos film, that will be screened at 9.15 in Nandan 2. We have a quick breakfast and agree to meet in the computer room after the screenings.
I am knocked out by Dying in Athens, a truly wonderful film that promotes my idea of love. A married university professor, who loves his wife, but has a mistress who he also loves. He later starts an affair with one of his students who he also loves. His wife learns he is dying, tracks down the mistress and the young student. She tells them her husband is dying and they all three make a pact to make his last days warm and tender. By doing so they become close and loving themselves. Very tender and very moving. A film the world should see.
We are invited to lunch by CINETEL, a welfare trust that supports in various ways film technicians. We (Antonia, Barbara, Maria, Séamas and yours truly) pile into our jeep and ride out to a studio. When we arrive we are rushed on stage to say a few words. Share a table with Dr. Imre Lazar, the cultural counselor in the Hungarian Embassy in New Delhi. Ask him if he knows Andras Török and Andras Barabbas and, of course, he does. Meet and talk with lots of people.

Dying in Athens, a film by Nikos Panayotopoulos
Dying in Athens, a film by Nikos Panayotopoulos

And then it is back to Nandan. I go up to Nandan 3 and see two documentaries, one Remembering Bimal Roy by his son, Joy Roy. Find a seat on the front row next to Joy. He is invited to say a few words before the screening. He is very articulate about the film and his father. And then the film begins. It is, as I suspected it would be, a tender and loving portrait. But Joy cannot stay to the end of the screening. He must slip out to catch a flight to Bombay. We say a hurried goodbye and he is off. (We have since exchanged email messages in Paris.) The second film is entitled Bharati Devi - A Beautiful Heart by Sharmila Maiti. The film-maker tells how she accidentally met the actress at the airport, how they became friends and how she then decided to make a documentary about her. Again a loving portrait of a famous Indian actress. (She and I also have exchanged email messages.)
Check my email afterwards.
Dine in a Chinese restaurant called Tung Fong, just off Park Street, with Antonia, Dhruba Nandi, and his friend, Malay Ganguly. Of course it is wonderful. Lots of talk about The Advertising Club of Calcutta as a possible location for our Tuesday party. We have more or less decided this will be the spot. Dhruba insists upon paying for our dinners.

Sunday, 15th: I want to see I'm Tired of Killing Your Lovers by Nikos Panayotopoulos in Nandan 2 at 15 h 15 today, so elect to have a lazy morning. Ride up to Nandam about 10.30 with a new driver. Then, after checking email, return to the Bengal Club. Have lunch in our room with Antonia, Barbara and Maria.
When I go to Nandan 2 at 15h15, find the cinema completely packed, no seats anywhere, people standing everywhere. There is no way I can stay. So, disappointed, I go and check my email messages.

Later in the afternoon, Antonia and I meet Mimlu Sen and Paban Das Baul outside Nandan and we go to the Hindustan Hotel for tea. Mimlu gives me a copy of her first book, Baulsphere. It has been published by Random House India. Mimlu signs it: "To Dearest Jim, With lots of love and for being the first to encourage me to write." She also gives me a movie script she has written. We have coffee and tea and delicious cakes. They are flying tomorrow to stay with William Dalrymple outside New Delhi. Learn that Mimlu now has a home in Montreuil. Tell her that I attempted to find her recently without success. Antonia asks how did we meet. And Mimlu relates how she met Jack on the plane from India and managed to bring him to Tombe Issoire when he was suffering from hepatitis. That was in the 70s. Mimlu tells me about a writers' conference that William Dalrymple is organizing in late January in Jaipur and suggests I attend. Antonia suggests I would really like Jaipur.
Back to Nandan to have tea with the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Shri Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. We see lots of people we know and I invite them all to the closing party on Tuesday in the Advertising Club of Calcutta.
A bunch of us sit in the Bengal Club Bar and talk: Séamas McSwiney, Antonia Hoogewerf, Barbara Lorey, Maria Branco, Hannah Fisher, Paul Holmes. Talk with an Indian who is sitting alone. Dr. Satish K. Trehan gives me his card. He has a Robert Frost quote on it: "two roads diverged into the woods and I took the less traveled by and that has made all the difference." Tell him I once heard Frost read. The bar closes, head for my room and bed.

Baulsphere, a book by Mimlu Sen
Baulsphere, a book by Mimlu Sen

Monday, 16th: After a quick breakfast, rush to Nandan 2 to see Edge of Night by Nikos Panayotopoulos. Another winner! Set in contemporary Greece, it is a gritty love story. I like it.
Go across the street to the Calcutta Club and manage to get R. H. Kampani's office telephone number. Within a minute, he and I are talking. I tell him about the party tomorrow night. He says he will be there. Cross back to Nandan and see Sudeep. Tell him about the party. Ask Sudeep to invite Nilanjan and all the delegates. See Hannah Fisher and tell her about the party. Check my email messages and get a message from Bob Flynn in Edinburgh.
Taxi to Bengal Club. Antonia returns and we have iced coffee and prawns on toast.

Back to Nandan 1 in the pouring rain to see A Woman in Berlin at 19.00 hours. It has been cancelled. Damn. I want to see this film because I read the book and found it devastating. Directed by Max Faerberboeck, I am curious to see if the film can match the power of the book. I picked up a book mark at Crossword Bookshop: "Never judge a book by its movie." J.W. Eagan (I must write Rainer Kölmel to see what he thinks of the movie, A Woman in Berlin.)
The film in Nandan 1 has been replaced by the Turkish film, Autumn. Directed by Ozcan Alper. A bizarre love story. Interesting, but rather slow. The rest of the evening unfolds with Antonia and I meeting Dhruba and Malay. They take us to the Advertising Club where we will host tomorrow's party. Dhruba drives to Lindsey Street and drops the two of us at the restaurant, Rooftop, with its superb view overlooking all Calcutta. The chicken and garlic fish dishes are also superb. Paul Holmes arrives just as the restaurant is closing and we transfer ourselves to the Park Hotel where we have drinks in the atrium. Turn in after midnight.

A Woman in Berlin,  a film by Max Faerberboeck
A Woman in Berlin,
a film by Max Faerberboeck

Tuesday, 17th: Today is the last day of the 15th Kolkata Film Festival. It has passed so quickly. Tonight Antonia and I will host our end of the festival party in the Advertising Club of Calcutta.
At 15.15, I go to Nandan 3 to see Delivery by Nikos Panayotopoulos. Again the cinema is packed. But I manage to get a seat on the front row. Chiru sits near me. I get to see 80% of the film, but because I have to urinate, I am forced to fight my way out of the crowded cinema. After the relief of the pee, I do not feel like fighting my was back inside the cinema. (Later I ask Chiru how it ends.) I learn that A Woman in Berlin will be screened in Nandan 1 at 19.00 hours, but I have to be in the Advertising Club to help Antonia get ready for our party, so cannot see the film.
I do manage to see most of the film, Skin, in Nandan 1. Directed by Anthony Fabian, it is based on a true story. A South African/UK co-production, the film is shot in South Africa about a black child born in the 1950s to white Afrikaners. Needless to say, a tragic tale. Maybe in today's South Africa it would have a different ending. One hopes so.
Our party is a success. Of course it rains. But not heavily. Still we are forced inside. Food is delicious. Lots of people come. Michal Kwiecinski gives Antonia and me a signed copy of Andrzej Wajda's book, My Films, as well as a DVD of his last film, Tatarak (Sweet Rush). I tell him that I saw the film in Lodz Film School in May with Wajda in the audience. Obhi and Kaberi Chatterjee join the fun. Séamas continues to shoot with his new camera. Barbara and Maria and Paul attend. Dhruba and Malay also. Mr Kampani attends and tells me that his brother has an apartment in the building. Chiru Sur of course. It's a fun party…
Home to Bengal Club very tired. Go to sleep straight away.


Delivery, a film by Nikos Panayotopoulos
Delivery, a film by Nikos Panayotopoulos

Wednesday, 18th: Get up very early. This morning I fly to Bangkok. My last day in Calcutta, I suspect, until next November and another Kolkata Film Festival. It is not for me to comment, as an outsider, but elections are coming up in Bengal and the Communist Party has been in control for the past 32 years. No one believes they will be re-elected. The future direction of the film festival is up in the air. It will surely change, but in ways it will be difficult to predict. After an early juice and coffee, close my bag and begin to say my "good-byes". First a warm embrace for Antonia who will remain in India another month before she returns to Europe. It has been fun to share another film festival with her. Séamas will also stay longer in India. He will attend Bumpy and Sushmita Sarmah's wedding.
Go downstairs and the car has not yet arrived. Then before I can panic, it does. Mad drive to the airport. Thank Mr. Kapoor and press lots of rupees in his hand. Quickly check-in at Kingfisher and go upstairs to clear passport control and to await boarding. The flight leaves on time at 11.15. I sit next to a young couple from Australia. Smooth flight. We arrive late afternoon. Stand in the passport control queue behind an extremely attractive young woman from Switzerland. Find a taxi and am soon on my way to Guk and Yvan's home. Jesper is there when I arrive. He is relaxed and feeling pleased after his successful exhibition in Stockholm. Yvan and Gug are in my atelier in Paris. Also Jenny and Takae. The women will fly to Bangkok tonight and arrive tomorrow. Yvan stays in Europe to assist his father.

Jesper suggests we dine with his friend, James Nachtwey, in a restaurant called Suda later tonight. Sounds good to me.
And the place is amazing. Needless to say, the food is delicious. Especially the chicken wrapped in banana leaves. James is a photographer who lives in New York City and Bangkok. He and Jesper have become good friends. Jesper talks on his mobile with Thomas Nordanstad. He is the fellow who curated Jesper's show in the Lydmar Hotel in Stockholm. James also had a successful show there, curated by Thomas. Apparently Thomas is with friends in a bar only a few hundred meters from us. We agree to meet them.
The scene when we arrive is completely wild. A walking street filled with bar and beautiful bar girls. This is the Thailand that attracts sex tourism from Europe and other parts of Asia. I don't think I have ever seen so many attractive and smiling young women. They all seem to be having a good time. The men certainly are. One woman, every time she passes me, gives me a lovely back massage. I meet Thomas and he is a delightful character. Also meet others, including a Thai actor, whose name I cannot remember. I am getting tired, so Jesper takes me home. We drop James on the way.

Jim Haynes and James Natchwey in Bangkok. photo ©Jesper Haynes, 2009
Jim Haynes and James Natchwey in Bangkok. Photo by Jesper Haynes

Thursday, 19th: Strange to be here in Bangkok and not have Yvan around. Get up early before Jesper. He gets up and we have a modest breakfast together. Coffee and toast for me. Tea and toast for him. Guk, Jenny and Takae will arrive in the early afternoon on an Air France flight from Paris. We elect to have a take-away dinner tonight and stay home and let people come to us.
It turns into a dinner party. Food is ordered from across the street and people arrive. Some people I know. Many I meet for the first time. There is Elena Broms (who is from Sweden, but who lived in Jesper's St. Marks apartment and whom I met years ago there). She is now with one of the big five star hotels in Bangkok called Dusit Thani. She suggests we all have brunch there tomorrow late morning. Everyone agrees. Thomas Nordanstad is with us. Others include Gerhard Joren (a Swedish photographer), Steiner from Norway, and the three charming ladies: Guk, Jenny and Takae. Fun was had by all.

Friday, 20th: Wake up feeling a bit ill. Tonight I fly to Paris. Not really looking forward to it. But everyone from last night's dinner has been invited to Elena's hotel from brunch. Not sure I feel up to going to brunch. But what the hell, why not? Guk wants to drive there, but there is a strange sound in the engine. So we decide to take a taxi.
The Dusit Thani is a major luxury hotel. The food is displayed in such a way that it all looks glorious and delicious. And it is. I load my plate modestly. Truly fantastic. Not everyone from last night's dinner is present, but many are. Of course Jesper and Takae, and they look after me.
Afterwards Nym and Guk want to explore a bicycle market. Jesper, Takae and I join them. But I am feeling more and more that I must be in bed and near a toilet. We find a taxi and are soon back at Yvan and Guk's home.
In the afternoon I feel rotten. I suppose I was foolish to have had the brunch. I wonder if I should try to delay my flight to Paris to tomorrow night. The medicine seems to help, ut I wonder if will be OK on a twelve hour flight.
In the end I decide to take the chance and to fly tonight. Jenny Nilrungsee will drive me to the airport. I tell everyone that this is not necessary, that I can take a taxi there, but they have decided. In the end, it is Jenny in her car, plus Guk, Jesper and Takae. It is a smooth ride to the airport, but I still feel shaky. And very nervous. We met one of Guk's friends with Air France who arranges a seat upstairs in the 747 with plenty of leg room and near the toilets.

Takae Ooka in Bangkok, photo ©Jesper Haynes, 2009
Takae Ooka in Bangkok. Photo by Jesper Haynes

She also gives me a pass to the Air France guest lounge. Everyone is very concerned. I thank Jenny, Guk, Takae and Jesper for all they have done for me. Make my way through passport control and slowly head for the Air France VIP Lounge. My mobile rings and it is Jesper wanting to know if I am OK. I assure him that I am. And I hope that I am.
In the Air France Lounge, sit at a computer and write a number of messages to friends. And then the flight is called. Soon on board and in my seat. Two people on each side on me, a woman on my left and a man on my right. No one in front of us. They make no efforts to communicate, so I respect their silence. Sit quietly all the twelve hours. Very unlike me not to exchange words with my seat companions. Don't read, don't eat or drink, just try to sleep.

Saturday, 21st: It has been a smooth flight, the complete opposite to the flight from Paris to Bangkok. We land at 04h30. Make my way through passport control and then head for the baggage reclaim area. Finally my bag appears. Join a very long taxi queue. And am soon on my way to Paris. It is light out when we arrive in front of 83 rue de la Tombe Issoire. The driver is from Vietnam and when he learns that I have just returned from Bangkok, he urges me to visit Hanoi. Maybe next time…
Inside, it feels good to be home again. Hundreds of email messages plus lots of post and telephone calls to deal with. Yara gets up and we have coffee and talk about tomorrow's dinner. And the last two Sunday dinners. I thank her for taking care of the atelier. She tells me that Cecily Niumeitolu was extremely helpful while I was away.
Jacqui Thau, who has flown from Portland, Oregon, to cook this Sunday's dinner, arrives to continue her preparations. We are meeting for the first time and I find her to be delightful. (Five people have joined her from Portland.) She spends the afternoon here and will return tomorrow morning to finish the dinner preparations.
In the evening I have been invited with Paul and Mary to Cathy and Yves Monnet's home for a Thanksgiving feast. I still feel very shaky and wonder if I should not go straight to bed, but I think of Cathy's stuffing and gravy and decide to take the risk.
Meet Mary and Paul at the 38 bus stop in Alésia. We soon arrive at Cathy & Yves Monnet's home in the rue d'Hauteville. And it is a feast. After dinner, jet lag and tiredness hit me and I thank Cathy and Yves and slip out. Find a taxi eventually and am soon in bed.

Saturday, 21st: Get up early and continue with the washing. Jackqui comes over and continues with her preparations for tonight's dinner. Mary Bartlett comes over to assist Jacqui. Sunshine all morning, but rain in the afternoon. Sixty-two people are very happy. Jacqui has a triumph! She has produced a winner! She asks if she can come again next year, in say six months or so. My answer is a firm "Yes!" (Even my neighbor, Susi Wyss, endorses this when she has some left-overs.)

Notes: The first draft is finished the 9th of December 2009. I am scheduled to meet Cara Black later this afternoon. Her many novels, all set in various arrondissements of Paris, are well worth reading. I highly recommend them.
The second draft is now finished and I suspect this is it. It is one week later, the 16th of December. Séamas returned to Paris. He attended Bumpy and Sushmida's wedding. He lost his new camera somewhere in India. Now he is in England and will soon fly to Kenya. Antonia is back. She and I dined in one of our favorite restaurants, Caruso, last night. She will help make our New Year's Eve party in the Swan Bar a success again this year.
Allan Brown wrote a profile of the 29th of November Sunday dinner (with a photograph by Alastair Miller) that was published in the Sunday Times on the 13th of December. My commercial for After Eight chocolate mints continues in the IK and Ireland.
Visitors continue to arrive: Yen Ping Chan, Steven Gove, Yvan Cohen, Angela Bartie & Andy Perchand, Sheila Colvin & John Calder.
And telephone calls and email messages: Sanjeev Prakash calls from New Delhi, John Flattau calls from New York City, Stephanie Wolfe Murray calls from Edinburgh…
It looks like an exciting end to 2009. And 2010 promises to be as wild and crazy as any in the past.
Hold on to your hats everyone!

 
   
   

 

Jim Haynes
December 2009

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

 

 

 

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