Sunday, January 19, 2014

Paranthawali Gali: A century old flavour

For some it’s dark and dirty, for others it’s lively and exciting, for some it is poor, for others it is the coffer of our cultural heritage, for some it is stingy and shabby but for others it is a mini India. Rich in food, art and handlooms, Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi is a home to some of oldest jewels of our history like the magnificent Red Fort and the Jama Masjid. But a little away from the grandeur and the limelight is a small restaurant, Shri Kanniyalal Durga Prashad Dixit Paranthe Waale, which has been there for around 140 years and is an important ingredient of the famous Paranthe waali Gali.

The fragrance of freshly fried paranthas adore the whole place and it is so irresistible that you can’t escape it however you try. Founded in 1875 by Late Kanniyalal Durga Prasad Dixit, the small restaurant serves around 30 varieties of vegetarian parathas including the parathas with exotic fillings like kaju, badam, rabri, khoya etc.

“We have been serving people the real Indian Paranthas for more than a century now. We are the fifth generation in the same business,” says the proud owner while he fries a mouth watering Nimbu parantha. “There are more than 1500 to 2000 visitors in a day in the Gali. Business is great but more than that we love the fact that we have been able to keep the dream of our forefathers alive and it is flourishing with each passing day,” he added.

From the famous personalities like Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru and Akshay Kumar to a common man, the restaurant has seen them all and inherits the real taste of the rich Indian cuisine. The parantha is usually served without onions and garlic with sweet tamarind chutney, mint chutney, mixed vegetable pickle, paneer and potato curry, potato and fenugreek curry, and a mash of sweet pumpkin. A chilled sweet lassi adds to the taste.

“I come here very often with my friends and we enjoy the real taste of Indian cuisine,” said Deepankar Pathak, a software engineer and regular customer of the shop. “While I love gobhi parantha, my girl friend is a fan of nimbu paranthas. It is a good change from the mainstream junk food,” he added.

The culinary journey of the Parantha waali Gali has traversed a long journey. It has moved beyond the small lanes and elegant Havelis of Chandni Chowk to some of the biggest malls. Not only this, the gali is internationally acclaimed. The well known Mela restaurant in UK is imitates the ambience of the Paranthe waali Gali.

It might look old fashioned for a large chunk of the Pizza generation but for a larger chunk this is the real taste of India. What is more surprising is that in a small lane lies the flavours of a culture which is more than a century old.

Konark Festival: A blend of art and beauty

Few things are too perfect to be called reality and one can experience this at Konark festival. The lights were as bright as they could be, the decorations were perfect and the feeling was as welcoming as ever. Just follow the rhythm along the scintillating Chandrabhaga beach and you will feel the grandeur of the Sun Temple and it is there that the miraculous parade of the Indian classical dances begins at the Annual Konark Festival.

The Konark festival is held every year from December 1 to December 5. This festival marks the onset of the various dance and music festivalsDSC04127 being held in Odisha from December to March.

This year the five day festival seemed, to many, as lesser scintillating than the previous years’. As reported by Odisha Tourism, an expenditure of around Rs 80 lakh has been done on the decoration.

The perfect blend of art and beauty, Konark festival, began with the Odissi dance performance by Purnashree Raut and Group from Raipur, Chattisgarh which was followed by Bharatnatyam by Anitha Guha and Group of Bharathanjali Trust, Chennai. On the second day, Lasya Akademi’s Sadanam Balakrishnan and Group from Kerala performed Kathakali and Mohiniyattam which was followed by Rudrakshya Foundation’s Odissi dance performance by Guru Bichitrananda Swain and Group from Bhubaneswar. The following days were marked by other famous dance forms like Manipuri by Singhjit Singh and Group and Odissi by Aloka Kanungo and Group on the third day, Kuchipudi by Aekhya Punjala and Group and Odissi by Padmashree Ileana Citaristi and Group on the fourth day and Kathak by Rani Karnaa and Group and Odissi by GKCM Odissi Research Centre on the final day.

The dances ranging from themes like depiction of Ramayana to Krishna’s Raasleela, from Shiva’s anger to Parvati’s calmness, from lyrical prayers to imbibing the male stylization into various dance form.

The international sand art festival has also witnessed entries from across the world.

This festival is one of the greatest dance festivals held in the State. It attracts large number of tourists from across the world.

The festival truly binds India together in rhythmic ties. The winter breeze from the sea, the famous Sun temple in the backdrop and the magic of various dance forms create an atmosphere filled with rhythmic beats which not only provides food for eyes and ears but also nurtures the soul.

Friday, January 17, 2014

I await more ‘realistic’ cinema: Nandita Das

A versatile actress, a director par excellence and an active social worker, Nandita Das was born on December 7, 1969. She has been a known face in the Indian Film industry and abroad primarily for her performances and for the issues she takes up in her movies like Fire(1996), Earth (1998), Bawandar (2000), KannathilMuthamittal (2002), Azhagi and Before The Rains (2007).

In an interview with Ritika Pradhan, she talks about art and movies. Here are the excerpts of the interview.
  • Your movies have largely been non-commercial in nature. In an era of ‘paisa wasool cinema’ how do you foresee the non-commercial films?
In the present scenario, where issues like racism, violence against women, corruption, male chauvinism are corroding the society, it becomes our responsibility to give voice to those who are mute and subjugated. It is the responsibility of not only the films but of people like you and me and everyone. So far the future of these kinds of films is concerned I think we should continue to make more such films. I am not denying the fact that masaala movies are also important to entertain. What non-commercial movies need to learn is to draw audience towards theaters so that we can have a more realistic and serious cinema.

  • When you say non-commercial movie should learn to attract audience then what are the measures that you suggest?
One of the greatest loopholes of non-commercial cinema is that it lacks proper marketing. The idea of such cinema must be to generate awareness amongst the masses and not classes. I would like to see a day when non-commercial cinema starts selling and we aren’t afraid to produce more such cinema.

  • Your directorial debut ‘Firaaq’ is a nationally acclaimed movie but why couldn’t it release the way it should have?
Firaaq’ had a controversial political agenda attached to it as a result the movie couldn’t get the kind of response it should have. I knew this and some of my friends in the industry had even warned me about the wrong timing of the movie release but I thought there couldn’t be a better time than the elections. But when colleges and institutions contact us for special screening of the film, I feel that the purpose is achieved.

  • Your father, Jatin Das is a renowned artist. Do you think your sense of aesthetics and art is in your genes?
Yes of course! Whatever I am today is because of my baba. The independence with which he has brought me up and the freedom of thought that he emanates has always motivated me. He is a great man and has always done whatever he felt was right and I do the same. He is a role model. Look at this film festival where he is supporting tribal culture and art through short films and documentaries. He could have easily chosen some other theme but he didn’t.

  • What do you think is the biggest challenge to art?
It is the disconnect between people and art that is the reason why we have to have festivals like these. Art, otherwise is so fulfilling that it doesn’t need to be celebrated. It is feeling, a sense that you can celebrate anytime, any moment. Our education system is creating a generation who can’t appreciate the simplicity and purity of our culture because they don’t know about it. We all are responsible for creating such a generation. I crave for Odia food but my children love to have pizzas and burger. It is not their failure but my failure. Art and culture need to be lived with, they can’t just happen to you in a day or two.