Jim Haynes newsletters
Newsletter No. 704
The Kolkata Film Festival
November 1st to 22nd, 2009
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
| 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.
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
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.)
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.
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.
Jesper suggests we dine with his friend, James Nachtwey,
in a restaurant called Suda later tonight. Sounds good to me.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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