KOLKATA: Naming a restaurant is both an art and a challenge backed more by imagination than by commercial conceptions.

The city of Kolkata that is famous for springing up restaurants before you can blink is spilling over with restaurants with piquant names including purely French ones which you neither understand nor can pronounce rightly.

Within this mushrooming world, one name that will go down with every customer is Saptapadi which, apparently, has little to do with food but more with nostalgia and cinema.

Saptapadi is a Suchitra-Uttam Kumar starrer that remains one of the biggest hits in the history of Bengali cinema till date. The film celebrates its 55th year this year. The film was released just after Durga Puja on 20th October 1961. It ran without break for 15 long weeks drawing a full house in each show, bringing back four times the money invested.

Based on an extremely cinema-friendly novel by Jnanpith awardee late Tarasankar Bandyopadhyay, the film was produced by Uttam Kumar and directed by one of the most outstanding mainstream directors of the time, Ajoy Kar. Saptapadi was the 23rd film in which Suchitra and Uttam were paired as star-crossed lovers. In the original story, there was no happy ending. In the celluloid representation, for commercial reasons, a happy ending was concocted and according to reports, Bandyopadhyay did not complain.

Saptapadi has come back into the heart of the city as a tribute given to the film and all those associated with it by an innovative Chef Ranjan Biswas who is in the process of opening a chain of restaurants named Saptapadi. Biswas is not only a Chef with an illustrious career in high-end hotels across the county but is also partner of the Saptapadi chain of restaurants in Kolkata with the second one having opened recently in the posh southern parts of the city.

It is a restaurant that serves not only purely Bengali food but has been making more imaginative and aesthetic fashion statements by fusing Bengali with other kinds of cuisine. “Food is not only about cooking and serving and eating and tipping,” says the very young Biswas. “It should form an unforgettable part of our culture, be it cinema, theatre or any other cultural medium. That is the idea behind naming this restaurant after the biggest hit of the Suchitra Sen-Uttam Kumar pair,” he adds.

The famous scene of Suchitra riding piggy-back on Uttam Kumar in a famous bike with an unforgettable song on their lips is celebrated with a Black-and-White still covering an entire wall of the restaurant at one end. The song sequence belting out ei path jodi naa shesh hoi picturised on a stationary motorcycle with the hair of the young lovers flying in the artificial breeze of a pair of standing fans, the landscape shot with back projection as the strategy is one of the most immortal sequences in the history of Bengali cinema. So is the song itself, with its question-answer mode expressed coquettishly by Sandhya Mukherjee for the female voice and Hemanta Mukhopadhyay for Uttam Kumar can still exude much more sensuality that a lip-lock could.

The imaginative Biswas has also placed a motorcycle on a raised platform in front of the wall. The song keeps playing as you dig into your brown terracotta plate with a number of bowls standing in a semi-circle around. “It is custom-made earthenware cutlery and crockery, intricate woodwork on the walls along with wooden tables and chairs to accommodate 45 table covers at a time,” he adds. The walls all around are filled with stills from the film.

“The name is not just to celebrate this film. It is also celebrated through the Bengali menu on offer which throws up excellent options of seven different item choices in starters, main dish, fish dishes, desserts and welcome beverages in keeping with the name Saptapadi” informs Biswas. “I am not rigid about Bangla dishes but have introduced what I call Bengali Fusion Food for those looking for a new kind of Bengali food alongside the traditional favourites we have all been brought up to love and admire,” says Biswas.

It is the ambience designed to resurrect the past from 1961 through the Seventies and early eighties that strikes those who have already seen the film many times and an enriching learning experience for the Y-generation who have not seen the film and are not very familiar with the Suchitra-Uttam celluloid magic. There is an antique clock adorning one wall of the restaurant.

The wash basin is actually a metamorphosis of a brass kadhai with handles. The cashier sits behind another antique table in one corner and there is also a classic hat stand that you do not see around these days. It is as if an imaginary time machine has taken you on a trip to the past while the typically Bengali cuisine brings you back into the present.

Among the wide array of fusion delicacies one might be tempted to take a bite of Tex Mex Nachos with Refried Mocha (Mexican Tortilla Chips served with refried banana flower blend), or. Murgi Bhora Mousse with Tomato Tulsi Coolie (Chicken Breast stuffed with Nuttie Mousse served with bongo-Italian sauce with Schezwan pulao and house salad), or, an Indianised version of a contemporary Scottish dish made with Bengal mutton and sweet potato served with garlic bread and house salad.

If you live in Kolkata or ever visit the city, please take time out to take a dekko of Saptapadi to get the ‘feel’ of food and much, much more for a pittance that will make you poorer by Rs.600 for two plus taxes! Can you really believe this? But like Ripley, this is True.