India // Kolkata & West Bengal //

Drinking, nightlife and entertainment


The formerly tense, all-male atmosphere of Kolkata’s bars is becoming a thing of the past, with designer-style places attracting a young, professional clientele. As well as the places below, the big hotels are a good option for a quiet drink; some of them also have discos. You’ll sometimes hear Western live music at restaurants and bars, and Kolkata’s spirited arts scene is known for its home-grown music – audiences here have a reputation as the most discerning in the country. The main concert season is winter to spring, with the huge week-long Dover Lane Music Festival, held in south Kolkata around the end of January and early February, attracting many of India’s best musicians. Other popular venues for single- and multi-day festivals include Rabindra Sadan on the junction of AJC Bose Road and Cathedral Road, and Kala Bhavan on Theatre Road (Shakespeare Sarani). One of the country’s leading North Indian classical music research institutes, Sangeet Research Academy in Tollygunge  offers long-term courses in various music forms, and holds free Wednesday evening concerts.

Of the many nonreligious festivals each year, the Ganga Utsav, held over a few weeks around the end of January at Diamond Harbour, involves music, dance and theatrical events. Rabindra Sadan is Kolkata’s theatre and concert hall district, with numerous venues. Cal Calling is a useful source for listings, as are local papers.

Cinemas showing English-language films several times each day can be found along Chowringhee near Esplanade and New Market. All are air-conditioned; some, like the Lighthouse on Humayan Place, are fine examples of Art Deco. Names to look for include Inox, a modern multiplex at the Forum on Elgin Road; Elite, SN Banerjee Road; and Chaplin, Chowringhee Place. Nandan, behind Rabindra Sadan on AJC Bose Road, is the city’s leading art-house cinema with a library, archives and three auditoria.

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