Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Anandabajar Ki Bollo?

The rains in Calcutta – like most places in India – make a much-celebrated appearance. Probably, a little more in Calcutta because it follows a stretch of mind-numbing humidity and also because, Bengalis are people who like to celebrate the smaller things in life!
On the day after the first shower – many monsoons ago – Anandabazar Patrika headlined its first page with “Prano bhoriye, trisha horiye…
Bengali readers would stand up from their respective seats and applaud this flourish. Non-Bengalis (including my wife!) would have to make do with my limping translation – Quenching thirst, Filling hearts – and the explanation that this is a line from one of the more famous rain-songs of Tagore.
Basically, there is something about the newspaper which headlines their first page with the first monsoon showers of the season. And comes up with a line, which deserves to go no lower than the first page lead.
Which is what Anandabazar Patrika is all about.

Maintaining a wonderful balance between journalism and literature, it has played an integral role in nurturing the mind of the Bengal over the last seven decades or so. In fact, its current advertising campaign runs with the punchline “Anandabazar ki bollo?” which means, “What did Anandabazar say?”.
This is so apt because a very large number of households in Calcutta, who are primarily English newspaper readers, buy a copy of Anandabazar on those special days – Mahalaya (the first day of the Durga Puja fortnight), the day Sourav Ganguly became the captain, the day Buddhadeb Bhattacharya became the Chief Minister, the day Satyajit Ray died, the day Brazil exited from the World Cup… because nobody chronicles the passions of Bengal better!

And talking of passions, it never runs higher than when you are discussing Sourav Ganguly.
Anandabazar has chronicled the rise (and fall) of Sourav like no other newspaper has ever done of any other sportsman. And the pride at Sourav’s peaks has been of such literary quality that anybody even remotely interested in cricket would be impressed at the chronicles.
The most memorable headline (on the first page, no less) was after the match (World Cup 1999) at Taunton where Dravid and Sourav had pummeled the Lankans in the process of helping themselves to countless world records.
The headline ran – “Sourabhmoi joyey Rahul sarathi”. Literally, Rahul Charioteer in a Fragrant Victory – which, apart from alluding to the famous charioteer of Mahabharata, also played on the word fragrance. (In Bengali, Sourav means fragrance.)
The match report was even more startling. It was a letter to Vinod Kambli!
Huh?
Yes, it started off with “Dear Vinod” and went on to remind him about his tearful exit at the hands of the same Lankans in the 1996 World Cup. It told Kambli that he took up a place in the Indian squad thanks to his legendary friendship with Sachin Tendulkar, which caused another left-hander to twiddle his thumbs in the same city where he shed his tears. Questioning the sincerity of those tears, the letter went on to inform him that the same left-hander had clawed his way into the team and had taken revenge for that embarrassing defeat.
It was a complete match report – which left out no detail about the statistics, highlights and events of the game, but managed to pack in so much passion that it remains one of the best pieces of sports literature I have had the privilege of reading. Of course, I - along with countless others - had the pleasure of reading this after the pain of seeing an obese, out-of-form Kambli keeping Sourav out of the team on too many occasions.

In another example of bringing in unconnected set pieces, Anandabazar came up with a brilliant line – post Sourav’s marvelous 144 (at Brisbane in 2003-04). It said, “This 144 has effectively taken off the Section 144 on Sourav’s entry into cricketing greatness.” And the headline was again an alliterative gem – “Steve-r durgey Sourav-er Shapmochan” (Sourav shakes off his curse in Steve’s citadel!).
(BTW, the theme of the supporting article on that test on how grateful Calcuttans were planning to get some delectable sandesh over to Greg Chappell, for he was the man who coached Sourav before the test. Sigh, just three years back…)

As is obvious from the above examples, Anandabazar excels in a key aspect of journalism, which is the coining of catchy, punchy headlines.
The latest lovely of this genre came this year - on the day of state mourning in Bengal, when Zidane decided to send the Samba magicians home. In a display of symmetrical alliteration, Anandabazar headlined “Jiju-r Jadutey Shango Samba” (Jiju being the Bong transcription of Zizou!). Literally, Zizou's Sorcery Silences Samba.
The Bengali one sounds so much better, no?

One of the most celebrated examples of Anandabazar’s creativity in the whole mundane business of news gathering and reporting came about 16 years back.
26th August 1989, to be precise. It was the 300th anniversary of Calcutta’s birth and to celebrate, they produced a paper that was 300 years old.
There was a jacket of 4 pages around the normal newspaper of the day, which reported the landing of job Charnock on the banks of Sutanuti-Kolikata (“Sutanuti-r ghatey pher naamlen firnigi banik”). Apart from that, there were 8 more pages composed in the standard newspaper format.
On the lead story, there were reports of a press conference by Charnock, interviews with the Mughal subahdaar and the zamindar of Sutanuti as well as reactions from the East India Company. The French East India Company expressed anxieties of conflicts of interest in the future.
The business page had reports of the increasing trade in cotton, the possibilities of increased FDI (!) and how businessmen are collecting art.
The sports page had reports on cockfights and the betting trends thereof.
Other pages had reports of a kulin Brahmin getting married for the 35th time, centenary celebrations of Chandi-Mangal (a Bengali epic-poem) and lack of civic amenities in certain parts of the village. (While at it, even ITC has pitched in with an advertisement for enjoying the hookah!)
In its entirety, the issue is a triumph of creativity and resourcefulness – where drab historical research of a period has been recreated in the tangibility of a newspaper report. The recreation balances the challenges of historical accuracy along with entertainment well enough for readers to try and collect the issue 17 years after it came out!

In the meantime…
Buddhadeb Bhattacharya is voted the best Chief Minister in the country.
Suchitra Sen is being tipped to win the Dadasaheb Phalke.
Sourav is not selected for the Champions Trophy.
What is Anandabazar going to say?

8 comments:

udayan said...

Sigh !! Never read Anandabazar regularly. Read a lot of Bartaman, though in secondary school days due to didi-bhakto uncles and aunts. But vaguely remember the Saurav article.

Bapi said...

"Anandabajar ki bollo?" is followed by another punch line - "porte hoy noile pichhiye porte hoy"
A recent hoarding after Natawr Singh episode - "Lojjay Natabar lal"

I am awaiting Nilendu's comments. He had the ambition of becoming a reporter in Anandabajar. Didn't he?

My wife would never agree to take Anandabajar regularly. But I manage to read everyday for 10 minutes on my way to office, thanks to my driver Ganesh, who gets it free through his political connection! When Ganesh is absent "amake pichhiye porte hoy"

At a seroius note - I do believe Anandabajar, apart from its headlines, is the best in news value and in its analysis. When for the first time the mobile companies slashed the rates making it fully affordable for aam janta, it was reported by Anandabajar first with total analysis, even before Economic Times, not to speak of its brother newspaper The Telegraph.

By the way, Udayan should write a blog on 'Bartaman', which is not afraid of even 'bhogoban'

A recent Anandabajar type scoop as the tail ender (source - my brother in law Bilu, well known for his authenticity)

A future deal has been struk between ABP group and Bartaman - ABP group would take over Bartaman after Barun Sengupta's death!!

nilendu said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
nilendu said...

Boy! This topic needs an entire separate blog of its own. Two things first,

(a) For Kaku, it's rather like -- "(barite) porte hoy, noile pechone porte hoy" (assuming Kaku reads the paper in the backseat).

(b) Just like it did with Mamata after 2001 state elections, Anandabazar (read Goutam Bhattacharya - the one who leaked Chappell email) - is not so Sourav crazy anymore after his "fall". Read Aajkaal (precisely, Debasis Dutta, famous sports journalist Mukul Dutta's son) to see what Sourav mania actually looks like. Now anandabazar actually has the audacity to say "run na korle kintu Chappell nebe na".

My association with Bengali newspaper started with "Yugantar". I actually did never read Anandabazar (except its film section) that much till mid-nineties. For sports, there was always Aajkaal; for "spices", there was "Asian Age"; for now-what-we-call Page 3, there was Anil Grover in The Telegraph. Once I left Kolkata after college, and thus all the "adda" and "thek" (there's a distinct difference between these two), my craving for spicy bengali literature increased manyfold. I thus started buying Anandabazar every evening in Churchgate station. When I came to USA, I clung on to the site even more strongly. My idea of starting the day at GE would not be going to the loo at 7:30 with a brand new Wall Street Journal (BTW, does the paper actually work better than Charmin Ultra-soft toilet tissue? May be, being black and white helps!). I would lazily swipe my card in about 9AM (almost noon by GE standard), walk off to my bliss of secluded cubicle and read Anandabazar, followed by Aajkaal, Bartaman, Statesman, TT, Rediff and Samachar - till I am hungry! The habit has remained, the hours have changed. Anandabazar online gets refreshed at about 11PM my time. My wife actually says it's my "other wife".

Two samples from today's paper -

(1) About Abu Salem (his lawyer) - "oNr biswas, unake phaNsano hoyeche"
(He believes he's been made a scapegoat!)

http://www.anandabazar.com/5desh7.htm

(2) "Agassi bojhaben keno keNdechilen"
(Agassi will explain why he cried.)
http://www.anandabazar.com/5khela1.htm

This report also mentions what he said to his last opponent Benjamin Becker.

"Engrizite oke obhinondon janalam aar o amar pechone ekta chapoR marlo"

("I congratulated him in English and he slapped my butt")

nilendu said...

Could not stop from posting this headline today -

"Mutegiri korle ki, tNaar porichoy Bibekanander baba"

("A poor porter or Vivekananda's Dad")

http://www.anandabazar.com/5puru1.htm

"Prem kora ki oporadh, proshno adalater"

("Is it a crime to love?" - Asks the Court).

http://www.anandabazar.com/5med2.htm

I love the daily feature "ponchas bochor age" (50 years ago). They actually quote a news item from fifty years back, with spellings and language unchanged. Amazing!

http://www.anandabazar.com/aj-kol.htm

udayan said...

Kaku,

On Bartaman, I remember the famous Ganashakti repartee ... "Shudhu Paapi-rai bhagaban-ke bhoy pai" or some such thing.

This was of course, much before Left Front's media friendly days, when Mr. Basu was enemy no. 1 for Bartaman and didi.

Don't remember enough of Bartaman to write a blog, but their broad format was this,

First page lead article - Didi beaten up by CPM goons

First page tailpiece - One pro-TC professor stopped from attending office by co-ordination committee because he decided to contest WEBCUTA elections.

Third page - Poor farmers in Bankura / Birbhum / Medinipore districts attacked by local party cadres, crops burnt, daughters threatened with rape. All this because they attended didi's last public rally.

Business page - Chandan Basu destroys another honest Bengali biscuit manufacturer through political patronage. More money in his Swiss Bank accounts.

Editorial page - Santosh Bhattacharya on the decline and politicalisation of WB education system by CPM through its various arms.

Sports page - Ratul Ghosh on how Dalmiya organises cricket betting with Jyoti Basu's help / Amal Dutta abused in his 'para' because he decided to join BJP.

Its a wonder how they managed to communicate the exactly same thing through all their stories.

Dipta Chaudhuri said...

Just for the sake of completion, the famous 'Bhogobaan' campaign ran as follows:
Bartaman: Je kagoj bhogobaan chhara aar kaukey bhoi korena. (The paper which fears nobody but God.)

Ganashakti: Kebal mithyabadirai bhogobaan-key bhoi pai.
The CPIM mouthpiece retorted "Only liars fear God."

Aajkal: Shatyi katha boltey bhogobaan-keo bhoi korena.
A third newspaper clarified all loopholes by claiming "In reporting truth, doesn't even fear God."

Poor God!

udayan said...

And just for nit-picking "Prano Bhoriye, Trisha Horiye" is definitely not a famous rain song of Tagore. Its from the Puja porjay in case I am not mistaken and not Prokiti porjay.