Dil ka bazaar hai, thoda bizzare hai, Kolkata dekho toh baki duniya bekaar hai... Looks like Bollywood is taking these lines from the Kahaani song, seriously. After Mumbai and Delhi, Kolkata has become the go-to destination for filmmakers who want to make a thriller, a period drama or an unconventional love story. While it’s not exactly a new discovery, as Kolkata has been featuring in Hindi films down the years especially in those made by Bengali filmmakers like Bimal Roy, Aparna Sen and Rituparno Ghosh, there’s undoubtedly been a spurt this year. Starting with the dramatic Kahaani, which was shot entirely in Kolkata, Barfi! in which the city formed the backdrop for a sweet romance, Gunday which is set to recreate the turbulent ’70s era of the city, the thriller Special Chabbis, portions of which are being shot there to Michael, a psychological drama, there is a renewed interest in the City of Joy.
Says director Sujoy Ghosh, who brought Kolkata back into the ‘picture’ with Kahaani, “In any thriller, the location plays an important role and I know Kolkata, and its nuances very well. Unless you bring the flavour of local life it’s hard to buy a story.” According to him, earlier filmmakers used to explore Lucknow, Delhi and other hill stations then suddenly they started going abroad. “It’s great that they are now discovering their own country specially Kolkata. It’s really encouraging because it is good for tourism,” he adds.
Anurag Basu, who directed Barfi!, reckons that the city has an old world charm. “There’s a part of Kolkata that is modern while another part is frozen in time. You will still find a tram, the old double decker bus, something which no other city offers, the reason you can shoot all kinds of films there,” he explains. But what makes him really happy is that apart from Bengali filmmakers for whom Kolkata becomes an obvious choice, others like Ali Abbas Zaffar (director of Gunday) and Neeraj Pandey (director of Special Chabbis) have started heading to the charming city.
According to historian SMM Ausaja, a story based in the cultural Capital of India has a special flavour. “A Kolkata-based film has a novelty value. Also, it’s a vibrant city when it comes to art and culture,” he points out.
Agrees Vikram Malhotra, COO, Viacom 18 Motion Pictures that has produced Kahaani, Michael and is making Shpecial Cabbis, “The city has unmatched character that comes alive on screen. It lends a great backdrop to stories. While Bengali filmmakers do have a deeper connect with the place, other filmmakers are also susceptible to the charms of the city.”
Even the small-screen has taken note of this metro with Kolkata Special Bureau, a Bengali version of the detective series CID. Just goes to show that big screen or small, Kolkata is the flavour of the season.