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Vidya Balan | Sujoy Ghosh | Pritish Nandy | Naseeruddin Shah | Kahaani | Anurag Basu SHARE AND DISCUSS Tweet A still from Kahaani movie More Pics If Vidya Balan is the hero of Sujoy Ghoshs 'Kahaani', Kolkata is its heroine. Cinematographer Setus lens romances the Kolkata clichs of the Howrah Bridge, Durga Puja and Victoria Memorial and interestingly handholds the narrative further down to the back alleys of the city. In the process, it introduces the national audience to a face of the city where danger lurks in street corners and mystery unfolds in crumbling buildings. Sujoy, by choice or otherwise, is reinforcing an emerging trend of non-resident movie directors filming this city thats not just about nostalgia. In this century, this city has time and again crept into the visual narratives of Bollywood directors, including that of Mani Ratnam's 'Yuva', Sudhir Mishra's 'Calcutta Mail', Pradeep Sarkar's 'Parineeta', Rajkumar Gupta's 'No One Killed Jessica' and Onir's 'I Am'. The visual fatigue of shooting in the same old Mumbai locations, of course, has been largely instrumental in making most of these directors take a Kolkata detour. But romancing old world charm is not just whats inspiring these makers though Pradeep Sarkar's period piece still remains a landmark in promoting Kolkata as a collage of clichs. Kolkata is evolving and along with it are the motifs. So if a Sujoy Ghosh captures a sindoor-smeared women clad in red bordered gorod at the Durga Puja mandap of Ballygunje Cultural or the half-immersed face of Devi Durga on Dashami, the gritty Nonapukur tram depot lifts the movie from being just another celebration of stereotypes. The Kolkata Metro isn't limited to being the backdrop for a song. It's where all the action begins. Sujoy, in many ways, might give a boost to the lost trend of making films as part of the Calcutta trilogy. By trying to maintain a fine balance between romanticizing the city as well as depicting its edginess, he has reminded many of the lost era of master filmmakers from Bengal who would so effortlessly achieve that in the past when they filmed Kolkata in Mahanagar, Jana Aranya, Seemabaddha, Pratidwandi, Interview, Calcutta 71, Padatik, Nagarik and Grihajuddha. Tell Vidya Balan that she has literally handheld Kolkata in its Bollywood journey from being a city of old world charm (Parineeta) to a place thats edgy (Kahaani) and she says, "That's a very nice way of looking at it. The city has given me so much and continues to do so. I simply love Kolkata in all its shades." Says Sujoy, "I will feel privileged if people find a slight similarity in the way Kahaani characterizes Kolkata and Subrata Mitras lens had done so in Rays Mahanagar. Every individual in this city has two names the good name and the pet name. Kolkata, likewise, has two sides. That's what I tried to establish even while using clichs and then juxtaposing them with grim realities. For me, Kolkata wasn't supposed to be an object. Kolkata is a person and had an emotional index. When Parambrata drives down Vidya to the guest house for the first time, I deliberately show how the evening is slowly setting in. That's how my Kolkata enters every frame and finally becomes a central character of my film. Balancing out romance and grit to create an image of Kolkata is a matter of instinct. To extract romance out of grit requires a visual representation. You build enough grit visually so that when romance or anything else seeps in, one can easily see it." Ribhu Dasgupta, who shot 'Michael' with Naseeruddin Shah in the city, says, "Kolkata no more just represents a sleepy, culturally rich, romantic phantom city. People who live in the city may perceive it in another way (which is a very normal way of romanticising the city you live in) while for some of us who have grown up there and moved away from it, the perception is on a different level. Probably owing to this depiction now, for a stranger, Kolkata is not just about Victoria Memorial or the Howrah bridge only. The layers of the city have been evoked by the roving eye of the film maker today. One has pried open the rosy sheen that the usual perception of the city is swathed in and tried to go beyond by feeling the beauty, bounty, pulse, sweat, blood and grime we have tried to manifest the actual ethos of the city. The good, bad and the ugly all come together right here, right now." In Ribhu's film, Kolkata is the central character. "In my mind's eye, the only place the story could have been set was Kolkata. The protagonist of my film and the decadence the city reflects stands for what my character narrates through the film. I wanted to portray Kolkata as a part of the slowly crumbling image of that of a very strong character driven reality. Somewhere, I feel, the outsiders gaze is different from that of an insider. Ours is an outside view but unlike the West, which ends up shooting India very differently, we (non-resident Bengali directors) end up filming Kolkata differently from those who live there. Ours is a view of detached attachment". Sudhir Mishra, who shot 'Calcutta Mail' in this city, feels Kolkata lends itself a great deal to cinema. There are many moods in the city and I tried to capture that in CM. In my film, while someone gets lost in the city,someone also finds affection.Though I am not sure if I did justice to the depiction of Kolkata in my film, Pritish Nandy is convinced that I have." Kolkata is going through a transition and the people here are prone to being very vocal about their reactions to every event. Mishra and Nandy are now planning to make a film with the edgier side of Kolkata as a character. "Kolkata's edginess is its charm, not its benign clichs. I left Kolkata 30 years ago. But Kolkata inhabits my poetry, my writing, my art, my life and my movies too. 'Kahaani' impressed me because Sujoy made Kolkata a character in the film. Outsiders always see more than insiders. That's only natural. Insiders develop blind spots which outsiders dont have. They are wonderstruck and awed by whatever they see," Nandy says. However, Anurag Basu , who shot 'Barfii' in Kolkata recently, says the onscreen depiction of Kolkata doesnt vary as much between the insider and outsider gaze as it does between the genre and intent of individual directors concerned. "Kolkata largely resides in my memory and I wish to romanticize the city in my film. In 'Barfii', Bengal as a whole is a character where the film travels from Darjeeling and ends in Kolkata. I have shot some portions on the streets of North Kolkata. Mine is a romance and, hence, I have used the backdrop of the city accordingly," Anurag says, adding, "I have plans of shooting the sequel to 'Life In A Metro in Kolkata'. However, I feel the way Kolkata lends itself to being a character largely depends on the kind of movie a director is filming and his style of shooting. While Anjan Dutt will shoot Kolkata in a certain way, Srijit might shoot it otherwise."