Where the music never stopped: As the iconic Trincas turned 60, we take a closer look at its path-breaking history

Trincas ushers in its 60 birthday with a weekend of fun, food and of course... music
The grand old Trincas at '70s
The grand old Trincas at '70s

The music never stops at Trincas. There is the tapping of toes to familiar tunes. There is the crackle of a sizzler and pop of a soda bottle. The buzz of a bar that’s packed to the rafters and the ting-a-ling of the cash register. And, of course, live music every day — one of the few places that never let the music die despite the imposition of entertainment tax in the 1970s. Trincas, the landmark tea-room-turned-restaurant and bar on Park Street will celebrate its diamond jubilee under its existing ownership on this September (27 to 28). It will be yesterday once more, as Usha Uthup returns to her “hallowed ground.” 

<em>Usha Uthups during one of her performances at Trincas</em>
Usha Uthups during one of her performances at Trincas

“To be around for more than 50 years to tell the tale of how it all started at Trincas on Park Street is magical. For me, this place is not just a homecoming, it is hallowed ground. Satyajit Ray, A m i t a b h
B a c h c h a n , Kabir Bedi, Shar mila Tagore and Tiger Pataudi, Uttam Kumar, Supriya Devi, Jyoti Basu — everyone would come to listen to me at Trincas,” says Usha Uthup, who launched her singing career here.

<em>Saira Banu, Dilip Kumar with Joshua at Trincas</em>
Saira Banu, Dilip Kumar with Joshua at Trincas

Moon Moon Sen was in the audience for Usha’s first show. “It was absolutely packed... I was sitting on the arm of a sofa — there was no place on the sofa! A large part of my teens was spent there, early evenings, listening to Bidhu (Appaiah, of Kung Fu Fighting and Made In India fame) singing with the Trojans,” she recalls fondly. In the 1950s and ’60s, Calcutta was the entertainment capital of India. “Calcutta was known as the Beirut of the East,” says the present owner Deepak Puri, whose father Om Prakash Puri and business partner Ellis Joshua bought the tearoom from Mr Trinca in 1959.

<em>Valances, curtains, red lampshades from the ’60s</em>
Valances, curtains, red lampshades from the ’60s

It was a rare but strong partnership between a Punjabi and a Jew. It was at Trincas that beautiful faces like Molly, Eve and Jenny launched their careers. Many remember Iqbal Singh, a Sardar impersonating Elvis, who went on to sing Beautiful Baby of Broadway, a club song in Ek Phool Char Kante (1960). “He was in the merchant navy and his ship would dock in Calcutta for a week. The entire time he would be seen at Trincas singing as wildly as his limbs moved about,” recalls Mumbai-based Sunil Alagh, a Xavierian from Calcutta and MD, SKA Advisors. It was also here that Nondon Bagchi first twirled his drumsticks in 1968.

“The first band I ever played in was in Trincas. We called ourselves the Checkered Tricycle. Those were the best years of live entertainment on Park Street,” he says. Interesting, one of Nondon’s fellow musicians was John, the son of Kitty Brinnand, a lady who was instrumental in swinging the Trincas deal. The story goes that Swiss gentleman Mr Trincas would never sell the restaurant to a Jew so Kitty was put forward as the buyer.

<em>Trincas was pivotal in Usha Uthup's rise to relevance</em>
Trincas was pivotal in Usha Uthup's rise to relevance

Today, Trincas is not the only platform for live music in the city. New-age clubs and gastropubs like Hard Rock Cafe, Shisha BSE, Nocturne, Monkey Bar, Phoenix, Pls Dnt Talk, M Bar & Kitchen and spaces like Topcat CCU are dedicating at least one evening of the week to live acts. To attract the younger crowd, Anand Puri, son of the present owner Deepak, is bringing in contemporary tunes, dishes like the Fish Irani Sizzler and a paneer counterpart are being added to menu favourites like the Shepherd’s Pie and PrawnTetrazzini and the Facebook and Instagram pages of Trincas Bar &Restaurant have been revived with video content.

The ornate ceilings are being decorated, new lights have been ordered and this September, the symphony of all these sights and sounds will create one grand masterpiece.

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