Do you sing when you cook? Can you think of words that rhyme with panch phoron (five spice) and machher jhol (Bengali fish stew)? Do you know the perfect cure for amasha (tummy upset) and ombol (acidity), the two ailments that plague Bengalis the most?

Sawan Dutta’s rendition of the Machher Jhol (fish stew) song has gone viral among Bengalis in India and abroad. Perfecting the affected accent of Bengali mashimas (maternal aunts), she sings as she cooks as she tells you how to cook as she also warns you of consequences if you overcook. In a sari and bindi and with glasses perched on her nose, her mashima act is an exaggerated dead ringer for any middle-aged Bengali lady in Kolkata.

 

Dutta does what she refers to as vlogs (video blogs) on the idiosyncrasies of Bengalis. Her video on the indispensible Boroline as the one ‘correct treatment’ for everything, from a ‘boil on your bum’ to a mosquito bite, will have you in splits. Her Winter Is Coming video shows how the Bengali thinks the winter chills are as dangerous as White Walkers in Game of Thrones. The perfect armour, according to her, is the monkey caps and the shawls and the mufflers and cough medicines. She sings as she layers herself in heaps of warm clothing to battle the not-so-cold-by-normal-standards Kolkata winters.

Dutta says her Bengali Aunty vlogs were not a result of careful planning.  “I didn't really come up with a "Bengali aunty" idea as such. I just came up with the Boroline song as a one-off blog post, and created this persona who would sing the song. I wasn't really sure how many takers it would have. It was after the unexpected, stupendously warm reaction the song received, that I wondered whether I should do another song using the same persona. And so on,” she says.

 

She may have become a household name with her Bengali vlogs, but Dutta, a very accomplished musician, has a whole body of very stellar work behind her as well. She started as a musician since the age of three when her grandfather gave her a harmonium with multi-coloured keys. “I learnt to play my first tunes from memory, by co-relating notes to colours, she says.

She has sung and composed music for a variety of Bollywood productions, television programmes and soundtracks, significant among them the title track of the film Chai Pani Etc and the background score of the Warner Brothers film SRK that is awaiting release.

 

She has about a dozen non-film albums to her credit as performer/producer, and has worked with some of India’s best classical artistes and rock bands.  While in college -- she studied to be an architect at the School of Planning and Architecture – a newly-formed band, Indian Ocean, asked her if she’d like to be their keyboardist. After a few gigs, she chose studies over music, and the band went on to become one of the pioneers of fusion rock in India. But that’s another story.

 

Dutta is now busier than she ever was. She’s almost a one-woman-show with her vlogs, which she posts under the name The Metronome on her site. “I'm pretty much on my own - I write, compose, produce, play/ programme, sing, record, mix, master the song,” she says.

Sometimes, her busy husband, CB Arun Kumar - he's the academic director of FX School, one of the country's leading film and visual effects institutes – is able to chip in when she needs help with a shoot or with something very specific. 

 

“I either work out the video concept myself or CB and I figure it out together, and then I either self shoot it with my Canon G7X (like in the case of Boroline and Winter is Coming) or, if the shoot requires me to use both hands, like in Machher Jhol, CB helps me with the shoot and the post/ VFX,” she says. 

 

Post Machher Jhol, she has been inundated with suggestions that celebrate Bengali products, habits and eccentricities. She plans to take some of them up for her next vlog post. More is coming, we are sure.