Jefe's House

Tag: hiralal sen

Bose and Lafont, Together Again

by on Apr.25, 2019, under Film/TV, On the Road, Shaheb Cafe

young lafont

Father Eugene Lafont, SJ

It’s been an exciting day. On the way to our show tonight I got a call from the director of Acharya Bhavan (literally “Influential Teacher’s Building”), the home of Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose (1858-1937), India’s Father of Modern Science who, like Tesla, was light years ahead of Marconi. His home is now a museum full of artistic, architectural and scientific wonders. Bose, in addition to being good friends with Rabindranath Tagore and a host of other luminaries around the world, was a student of Father Lafont (1837-1908) whom I lectured about 2 weeks ago at St. Xavier’s College, one of the ten best colleges in India. Acharya Bhavan has invited me to reprise the lecture at Bose’s house. I’m thrilled and honored (but never speechless).

Sr Jagadish Chandra Bose

Sr Jagadish Chandra Bose

The lecture, Science City: How Father Lafont Brought Pop Science to Kolkata, will be at 2:30pm on Friday, 3rd May.

This won’t be merely an introductory recap of Lafont’s biography, but based on my own research which aims to separate fact from folklore. Legendary Belgian Jesuit Father and St. Xavier’s founding faculty Eugene Lafont was not only J.C. Bose’s professor and lifelong friend and colleague, he was also instrumental in popularizing science to lay audiences in Kolkata with his theatrical flair. Bose had the same abilities and they sometimes “performed” together in some spectacular demonstrations. Lafont inadvertently helped give birth to India’s record industry as well as, perhaps, its film industry. The lecture is a detective story of sorts, tracing my journey to learn about the connection between Lafont and pioneer Bengali filmmaker Hiralal Sen.


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Big Night in North Cal

by on Sep.30, 2018, under Film/TV, On the Road, Shaheb Cafe, Theatre


Yours Truly with Jadavpur University’s retired film professor Sanjoy Mukhopadhyay who brought me here tonight and has been helping me a lot in my research.

I went to a panel discussion this afternoon held at the Gandhi Seva Sangha (basically “Gandhi Service Club,”) a nonprofit charity in northwest Kolkata, to hear a lecture on one of my research subjects, filmmaker Hiralal Sen, and his cousin, the prolific writer and folklorist Dinesh Chandra Sen. I had been invited by my new friend, retired Jadavpur University film professor Sanjoy Mukhopadhyay who is a walking encyclopedia of Bengali film history and an expert on Hiralal Sen.


The Gandhi Seva Sangha with posters of Hiralal Sen (left) and Dinesh Chandra Sen promoting the day’s lecture.

My intention was to lurk in the audience, take notes, shoot video of the speakers and get their remarks translated later (my Bengali is vastly improved but I’m not that good), but they had other plans for me.  I was shocked sitting in the audience at the start when the host took the lectern and announced my name. It caught me completely off guard. He then announced me as an honored guest and Hiralal Sen researcher from the United States who would be making a formal statement (excuse me?) and joining the panel onstage (why did no one tell me this?  I would have dressed a little better.)

I was humbled to be in the company of such esteemed Bengali film scholars and felt like a complete dilettante in their presence.  Then just before we started, they asked each panelist to rise one by one and presented each of us with a scarf the color of the Indian flag, a personalized trophy and several books as gifts.

I should point out too that the Gandhi Seva Sangha, as a nonprofit charity, kicked off the event with a very special awards ceremony.  Each of us panelists were given envelopes containing financial aid awards to hand to deserving high school students in the area as their names were called and they came up onto the stage.


Acharya (means teacher or professor) Dinesh Chandra Sen Research Society India, the group that organized this event.

I have no idea how they got a trophy made with my name on it so quickly when this event was planned on their calendar far in advance of my arrival in India.  It had to have been a last minute job, for which I am in their debt.


I can’t complain about my misspelled name. I’ve mangled many a Bengali name over the years so I had it coming. Karma, you know.

I’m never at a loss for words so the speaking part was easy for me when my turn came. I greeted the audience and told them a little about myself in Bengali, then explained my research goals and my long interest in Hiralal Sen.

I was humbled and honored by the experience, and I also met a lot of scholars who came to me afterward offering to help me find the things I’m after.

What a terrific night.

Mine is not an official US Department of State website. The views and information presented are my own and do not represent the Fulbright Program or the Department of State.






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