This is that time of the year when the new calendar, to adorn a wall or a table, is eagerly looked for. As they arrive, courtesy a client, as a corporate goodwill gift, or even bought from the roadside shop, hot discussions begin on the merits and demerits of ‘this year’s calendar.’
The calendar as a concept is not a modern innovation, though. With the progress of human civilization the system of tracking dates and auspicious days for festivities also developed. Different cultures had different calendar systems for calculation. For example, the Mayan calendar (which was in the news recently for apparently predicting the ‘end of the world’ on December 12, 2012), Sumerian, Greek and Islamic calendar, etc.
Today, however, from this basic function, the calendar has moved on to a new avatar. People are more discerning these days and regard the calendar as a style statement rather than a device for viewing dates and months. A Debu Ratnani calendar, for example, with its snazzy, innovative photographs fits the bill.
Partha Samaddar, an IT professional, acknowledges the new trend but stresses that subject is the chief factor of this business. “Irrespective of brand or popular publishing houses, it’s more important what a calendar chooses as its subject. If it is stimulating and invigorating, then only it merits popularity.”
In the West the Pirelli calendar is famous for its glamour quotient and restricted availability and is much coveted. Back home, the Kingfisher calendar is somewhat in the same category theme-wise with highly publicised model-hunt kind of ‘do’.
One good thing about all this change is that the calendar has acquired a depth in presentation with an eye to creativity though the ‘usual’ calendar with flowers, scenery or even religious idols is still very popular.
Then there are also those who take to designing individual calendars with a desire to reach out through images. Kolkata’s Bijoy Chowdhury, a well-known photographer, has been doing it for seven years now, putting together his own calendar to be gifted to a select group of his friends. His 2013 calendar explores the Chinese community of Kolkata through a gamut of images.
“I started designing calendars of my own with the aspiration to showcase my photography; but now my calendar is earning a name for its content,” Chowdhury says.
He feels that a calendar has to depict a pertinent subject and have a classy look so that it catches attention and evokes appreciation.
One reason why Chowdhury embarked on this labour of love even while holding his busy job in an ad agency is because he found exhibitions a tedious process for airing his works. Besides, “these artistic creations scarcely get acknowledged”. So he thought of this innovative idea of putting his art form in calendars and is much appreciated today.
Generally, the upper-end calendars try to highlight a theme. Span calendar, published by the Public Affairs Section of the US embassy highlights different aspects of the country with beautiful photographs. Its 2013 calendar focuses on young achievers. Each cityscape or countryside highlighted in the particular month is where he or she belongs to. For instance, the beginning of the year, January, carries the image of Boston city by night which is accompanied by photograph of Indian origin Shree Bose, a Harvard student researching on cancer and winner of the first Google Science Fair.
The ITC company is another bigwig which shows a keen interest in classics. Piyali Mitra of Kolkata is a fan of ITC calendars. “Every year it comes with some distinct collection of ethnic images and paintings. They are classy and valuable,” she says. Last year it chose miniature paintings of the 17th and 18th centuries as its theme. This year too the calendar is a tribute to the rich heritage of India’s miniature art.
However, producing a good, classy calendar is certainly not an easy job as it involves a lot of production cost and technical knowledge. Apart from this, the selection of a unique subject also plays a major role to augment the significance of a calendar.
On the other hand, it becomes challenging for local publishers to compete with the big houses. Often, to meet the demand, they have to incorporate new techniques which become too expensive for them to bear.
But Chowdhury feels that publishers with the regular kind of calendars n the kitty are doing well despite the competition because the number of discerning customers is limited. “It’s too early to claim that old calendars are on the wane. Most people still go by the usual kind of calendar for the usual purpose- keeping track of dates and months,” he argues.
A tribute to Chinatown
Since its inception, Kolkata and its adjoining areas are a confluence of various cultures and communities. The natives are as much an influence in the city's socio-cultural architecture as foreigners who came from distant lands and gifted the City of Joy its cosmopolitan character. Of all the communities who came here over centuries, only Chinese are still a visible minority in the city.
However, this once a thriving community's population is dwindling fast though the city is still famous for its Chinatown at Tangra in Kolkata's east and the lip-smacking array of Chinese food joints there. From a population of nearly 350,000 before the India-China war in 1962, the number of Chinese left in the city now is less than 5,000.
Lensman Bijoy Chowdhury’s calendar for 2013 is a tribute to the Chinese in Kolkata whom he has known intimately owing to his years of visit to their ghettos in the eastern city with his camera.
“This calendar is a small endeavour to capture the glimpses of a vibrant community that gave Kolkata its rich cosmopolitan identity,” says Chowdhury.