Jefe's House

Tag: kolkata

Lecture in Kolkata

by on Mar.05, 2019, under Film/TV, On the Road, Politics, Shaheb Cafe, Theatre

In case you’re in the neighborhood I’ll be doing some standup comedy, I mean giving an academic lecture, at the US Consulate’s American Centre in Kolkata on 3/26.

(click the pic to enlarge it if you actually want to read it)

Vande Mataram

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Jatra With Me

by on Feb.11, 2019, under On the Road, Shaheb Cafe, The Press, The Sixth Boro, Theatre

tapasi eyes

Jatra star Tapasi Moon

I’m thrilled to share this piece Drexel University asked me to write for their website. It’s only one small part of my Fulbright-Nehru research but the first that any of it’s been published (hopefully this is just an appetizer). I’m honored that they took interest enough to have asked me for it.

Yours Truly backstage with actors Subhayu Mukherjee, Dibakar De and Tapashi Moon.

Yours Truly backstage with actors Subhayu Mukherjee, Dibakar De and Tapashi Moon.

Ashok Banerjee and Biswajit Majhi

Ashok Banerjee and Biswajit Majh

Timir Mondal and RJ Jayee

Timir Mondal and RJ Jayee

Light board operator Atanu

Light board operator Atanu

 Tapashi Moon, Bengali film star Dulal Lahiri, Ruma Dasgupta and Subhayu Mukherjee

Tapashi Moon, Bengali film star Dulal Lahiri, Ruma Dasgupta and Subhayu Mukherjee

Full article on Drexel University’s website here.

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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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CISF’s Daring Rescue in Bangalore

by on Dec.02, 2018, under On the Road, Pophood, Shaheb Cafe

Yours Truly with CISF Officer Ravindra Pratap

The Absent-Minded Professor with CISF Officer Ravindra Pratap.

This week I left Kolkata to spend a week in Bangalore working with the highly acclaimed Bangalore Little Theatre  (affectionately known as BLT) where I will catch some of their new plays, accompany them to a rural area where they do theatre education outreach to economically disadvantaged schools, and where I will teach a one-day playwriting workshop to BLT members.

My Indigo Airlines flight was on time, and finally during my flight I got to have one of my much anticipated Indian delicacies, the Indigo Airlines chicken junglee sandwich and a cup of Darjeeling tea. If you haven’t tried one, you haven’t lived. You think I’m kidding.

The trouble began after I landed at KIA (Kempegowda International Airport).  I grabbed a luggage trolley (always free in India; a lesson for US airports) and dropped my shoulder bag into the topmost rack of the trolley near the handlebar.  My two pieces of checked luggage arrived on the belt in no time. I tossed them onto the trolley and made for the exit while opening the Uber app on my phone.

Along the way I stopped at a small shop in the airport lobby, left my trolley near the shop entrance and took two steps to the counter to buy a bottle of water, all of which took less than 60 seconds.   I was soon outside pushing my trolley up and down the sidewalk, past the Subway, the Krispy Kreme, and a host of other colorful eateries that were primarily a mix of South Indian and US cuisines, looking for the blasted Uber pickup spot. I had already requested the car so I needed to hustle.

Only when I reached the Uber stand and started to load my luggage into the car did I realize my shoulder bag was missing.  I whipped the trolley around and walk-ran back toward the terminal.  Some wiseguy had lifted my bag right off my cart while I was buying water, I  fumed.   Where am I, Philadelphia?

I flagged down a security guard. “Excuse me, my bag has been stolen.”  After the struggle of going through the particulars in English (my broken Bangla is worthless here in the state of Karnataka where the native language is Kannada), he sent me to the airport’s Central Industrial Security Force control center.  The CISF is a branch of India’s armed police force and is tasked with guarding industrial and infrastructure sites, including airports.

(continue reading…)

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Teaching in Kolkata

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

ILEAD_INSTITUTE_LOGO_400x400

Dear Kolkata Friends,

Please pardon the intrusion but I thought perhaps some parties here would be interested in the two-day screenwriting workshop, with a focus on short screenplays, that I’ll be teaching in Kolkata on 24th and 25th November, sponsored by Bichitra Pathshala and ILEAD Kolkata. Please see the two links below for full details including cost. If you have any questions, please comment below.

http://brain-on-fire.com/Poster.pdf

http://brain-on-fire.com/Form.pdf

thanks,

Jeffrey Stanley

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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Meet Pallab Mukherjee

by on Oct.08, 2018, under On the Road, Shaheb Cafe, Theatre

“You can see the place is very beautiful. It was made by my uncle, Pallab Mukherjee.” – Swakhar Mukherjee

Click above to watch my impromptu, on-the-fly tour of Gitanjali.

Today I went to interview the accomplished film and jatra theatre director Pallab Mukherjee, whose rehearsals for the Rajdip Opera I’ve been observing, at his home in north Kolkata. That, and an interview there with the playwright Brahmamoy Chatterjee, went off without a hitch. The surprise was that the theatre and film director, Pallab Mukherjee, also runs an NGO (non-governmental organization, aka, a nonprofit charity) called Gitanjali across the street from his home.

Gitanjali.

Gitanjali.

It was founded in 2011 as a nonprofit social welfare society which cooks and delivers hot meals to nearly 6000 at-risk children at nearly 35 schools across central and south Kolkata.  The organization employs 65 to 70 workers.

Gitanjali also produces numerous cultural programs including dance, music and theatre throughout the year. During Durga Puja, they do cultural programs daily and lead clothing drives.

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Gitanjali is an urban oasis.

The organization gets some funding from the West Bengal state government but the bulk of the operation runs on private donations.
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Pallab Mukherjee

Film and theatre director, and head of Gitanjali, Pallab Mukherjee

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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Big Night in North Cal

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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The Work Begins

by on Sep.24, 2018, under Film/TV, On the Road, Shaheb Cafe, Theatre

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Soumya Sankar Bose and Shyamal Dihidar

 

Yesterday the work began in earnest with my  interview of actor-director Shyamal Dihidar who’s been doing Jatra theatre since age 10. I met him through his nephew (also pictured) Soumya Sankar Bose, a Kolkata-based art photographer.  His uncle was kind enough to take a train 150km into the city for the interview which I held upstairs at a corner table of the cafe at the Oxford Bookstore.

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Shyamal Dihidar and Yours Truly

The Canon EOS Rebel T6 video camera and tripod that I brought with me paid off. And many thanks to Drexel University’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design for lending me a Zoom sound recorder for 3 months.   Also many thanks to Oxford staff for taking it upon themselves to turn off the store music while I was recording.

 

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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Rabindra Bharati University

by on Sep.20, 2018, under Film/TV, On the Road, Shaheb Cafe, Theatre

Yesterday I got a tour of the Drama Department at my Fulbright host institution, Rabindra Bharati University. I will teach a workshop or two here later. Click the first photo below to see the slideshow of this incredible, well-appointed performing arts program.

Girish Chandra Ghosh
Girish Chandra Ghosh
First, the head of the Drama Dept. took me on a tour of the facilities. Um, no, that's not him. This is a portrait of Girish Chandra Ghosh who was a renowned 19th century Bengali playwright.
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Othello
Othello
As with the Ghosh portrait, the posters lining the main hallway are dedicated to Bengali theatre during the late 19th and early 20th century as artists were struggling to find their own post-British identities. Here is a tribute to an all-Bengali production of Othello, a radical and financially risky act at the time.
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Macbeth
Macbeth
Ditto this production of The Scottish Tragedy.
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Hariraj (adaptation of Hamlet)
Hariraj (adaptation of Hamlet)
An adaptation of Hamlet into the Bengali language.
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Hariraj
Hariraj
Closeup of Hariraj photo.
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Department Head Shubhashis Halder
Department Head Shubhashis Halder
My tour guide, Professor Shubhashis Halder
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Costume & Puppetry room
Costume & Puppetry room
The place is a hive of activity with surprises behind every door.
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Set Design class
Set Design class
These students were kind enough to pose for me.
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Set Design room
Set Design room
Busy students in every room.
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Department of Drama
Department of Drama
Main hallway.
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TV studio
TV studio
The video production classroom.
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Video production classroom.
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More of the main hallway.
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Outdoor amphitheatre
Outdoor amphitheatre
The department has an outdoor amphitheatre that also serves as a student hangout.
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Amphitheatre
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Freshman orientation
Freshman orientation
The proscenium stage was being used this day for freshman orientation.
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Freshman orientation banner.
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Tagore
Tagore
Naturally there was a portrait honoring the school's namesake, Rabindranath Tagore.
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Sculpture department
Sculpture department
Student work outside the Sculpture building.
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RBU campus
RBU campus
Main road through campus
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More of the campus. Lots of green space.
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Signs pointing the way. It's like a little town!
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Campus map
Campus map
A beautifully laid out campus.
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More green space
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I love that one of the theatres is named after 19th century prostitute-turned-stage star Noti Binodini.
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And even more greenery.
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Beauty everywhere you look.
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The Drama Department is housed in this building along with other arts-related majors.
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Makeup class
Makeup class
This is out of sequence but these were students in the Makeup studio who were kind enough to pose for me.
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Graffiti
Graffiti
I loved this graffiti about rage on back of one of the doors.
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"Ahindra Theater Workshop"
"Ahindra Theater Workshop"
The department is named after its founder, Ahindra Choudhury.
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20180919_142310.jpg
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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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Remnants of Jewish Kolkata

by on Jan.31, 2015, under On the Road, Shaheb Cafe

shahebcafe

 

 

 

 

A Shaheb’s Guide to India

shaheb – (India; also saheb, sahib; from the Hindi and Urdu sāhab, master; from Arabic ṣāḥib, companion; participle of ṣaḥiba, to become friends) 
1. formerly, a term of respect for any  male landowner
2. formerly, a term of respect for white European men during the British colonial era
3. (modern) any white man
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Temple Beth-El built in 1856.

Kolkata’s oldest synagogue, Beth-El, built in 1856.

There only 25 Jews left in Kolkata but three large, old synagogues speak to their former vast numbers. They were Baghdadi Jews from the Middle East. Getting into these synagogues as an outsider is no easy feat. The Kolkata cabbies haven’t a clue nor do most native Kolkatans you ask.

You have to go to a certain bakery on the first floor of the historic New Market bazaar, get a phone number and call it, speak to a certain Jewish woman who’ll give you directions, then you go to the sites and mention her name to the groundskeepers so they know you’re legit, then they let you inside where you must be accompanied by a guide at all times. Suggested donation is 100 rupees (about $2.00).  I jumped through all of these hoops and it was well worth it.

We first step inside the Magen David (slideshow) synagogue built in 1884 and the guide, a slight Indian in his 30′s with a boyish face, sticks a yarmulke on my head. He barely speaks English. I barely speak Bangla. It goes like this: (continue reading…)

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Beth-el Synagogue, Kolkata, built in 1856

by on Jan.31, 2015, under The Truth Is In Here

About half a mile from the Magen David and Neveh Shalome synagogues is Beth-el Synagogue.

Full story here on Kolkata’s handful of remaining Baghdadi Jews. Photos taken January, 2015–>>

(continue reading…)

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