The TRINCAS En­core

With help from Usha Uthup, an iconic Kolkata res­tau­rant is go­ing back in time to ring in its 60th year

India Today - - LEISURE - —Malini Ban­er­jee

SIXTY YEARS AGO, WHEN TRINCAS opened its doors on Kolkata’s Park Street as a night­club, it al­ready had ‘iconic’ writ­ten all over it. On Septem­ber 27 and 28, the tea­room-turned-night­club turned back the clock. Own­ers Deepak and Shashi Puri and their son Anand cel­e­brated this mile­stone with singer Usha Uthup, who first per­formed at Trincas 50 years ago, repris­ing her hard-to-for­get act.

Uthup re­mem­bers she was al­ready singing at Bom­bay’s Ritz Ho­tel when Joshua (El­lis, for­mer coowner) wrote to her in 1969. “I said I would love to sing but I did not know how to wear a frock. Mr Joshua said we love you just the way you are. Just come and sing in a sari,” she says. Uthup at­tributes her in­creas­ing pop­u­lar­ity to the “in­con­gruity of singing jazz and pop num­bers while wear­ing a sari”. She of­ten says, “I think the women looked at me and re­alised I was no dan­ger to their hus­bands and started com­ing along to the shows.”

The sari, bindi and flow­ers be­came Uthup’s USP. “One New Year’s Eve, I de­cided to per­form ‘Pu­rano sheyi diner kotha’ while play­ing the gui­tar. When I fol­lowed that up with ‘Auld Lang Syne’, Jyoti Babu (Jyoti Basu), Som­nath Chat­ter­jee and many high-pow­ered judges joined voices,” she said.

Uthup points to the ta­bles favoured by stars—Ut­tam Ku­mar

De­spite her play­back years, Uthup speaks more fondly of the five years she spent singing at Trincas. The stage was her first love

and Supriya Devi liked the one be­hind the pil­lar, Satya­jit Ray pre­ferred a cor­ner next to the win­dows, Amitabh Bachchan and Kabir Bedi would sit on a table next to the stage, while Sharmila Tagore and Tiger (Man­soor Ali Khan Pataudi) would be found in the op­po­site cor­ner. She still re­mem­bers the name of the per­son as­sign­ing the ta­bles and even a few reg­u­lar guests.

In Oc­to­ber 1969, croon­ers had to sign a dec­la­ra­tion at the Lal­bazar po­lice sta­tion, promis­ing “to not so­licit and to not sit at the table with a cus­tomer”. “As it turns out, I did both, though in a dif­fer­ent or­der. I met my hus­band at Trincas. And once he be­came my hus­band, I sat with him at the table,” she says.

De­spite her play­back years, Uthup speaks more fondly of the five years she spent singing at Trincas. The stage, she says, is her first love: “I am very proud to say I didn’t start as a play­back singer, be­cause this is the only medium where there are no sec­ond takes.”

Last week­end, Uthup brought her trade­mark moves—black Kan­jee­varam sari, flow­ers and a gold bindi, and cov­ers of hits like ‘Fever’, ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’, ‘Coun­try Road’, ‘Words’ (which a house­ful Trincas sang along to), along with her own num­bers, ‘Dum maro Dum’ and ‘Dar­ling’. The lone Ben­gali song in her set list this time was ‘Aikla Cholo Re’, in which, iron­i­cally, she was joined by the au­di­ence, elic­it­ing a rare mo­ment of pleas­ant, but re­gret­tably, off-key bon­homie. As she broke into a ren­di­tion of ‘Those Were the Days’, we couldn’t help but want an en­core. ■

AN ICONIC STAGE (clock­wise from left) Usha Uthup in front of Trincas; and Trincas res­tau­rant in the 1970s and now

SU­BIR HALDER

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