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Anjan gives reel life to Kolkata's Anglo-Indians

Many stories are waiting to be transformed into gripping cinema, but the challenge is to find the right filmmaker. The fading world of Kolkata's Anglo Indian community seems to have found him in Anjan Dutt whose "Bow Barracks Forever" brings to screen the drama and pathos of the people living in one of the city's oldest buildings.

"People of Bow Barracks invited me for a Christmas celebration. They wanted to raise funds for the repair of the building.

"When I got in that world, I was really fascinated by it. It doesn't have the feel of traditional Kolkata. I felt that I have to tell their story," Dutt said about his Victor Banerjee-Moon Moon Sen starrer that releases July 20.

Built for the soldiers of the World War II, Bow Barracks was handed over to the Calcutta Improvement Society (CIS) and has since been home to hundreds of families, mostly Anglo Indians.

"The building is crumbling. CIS has refused to repair it. The real estate agents are eyeing it because it is a goldmine for them. But if it comes down, Kolkata loses its heritage. Bow Barracks needs to be protected," Dutt told IANS.

"Anglo-Indians are rare species, yeh, I call them species, and we need to protect them," said Dutt, adding that it was one of the oldest buildings of the city and produced some fine hockey players and musicians.

Dutt, whose satirical comedy "Bong Connection" has just released, said that his new film, which is in English, has no political connotations.

"This is not a political story - it's a touching tale of people and their home. I have tried to be as truthful as possible. I have kept the dialect intact. I haven't tried to glorify them. I have shown that despite their quarrels, they are loving souls.

"This is a wonderful story about people hanging on to their homes. Mostly poor... rich ones have migrated. I went there in 2000 and slowly made friends with them. Then I started making the film and finished it in 2005."

The choice of the themes and background of Dutt's films have much to do with his background.

"I grew up in a cosmopolitan Kolkata and Anglo Indians played an important role in my life. My teachers, friends, girl friends were all Anglo Indians."

Dutt, who chose and pick the actors with utmost care, is introducing a new face, Clayton Rodgers, in "Bow Barracks Forever".

"I wanted actors who had some sort of Anglo Indian connection and can pick up the dialect quickly. And most of my actors have some sort of connection except the main lead. I found Clayton in a school and he is marvellous in the film. People from Bow Barracks have also worked in it."

He says that he is presenting Moon Moon Sen in a different avatar in the film.

"I took Moon Moon Sen because she is extremely funny. So far she has been playing typical roles of sister etc., but this film will see her in a different light. As far as Lillete Dubey is concerned, it was Aparna Sen who asked me to cast her. She said, 'Don't look anywhere, go and sign her'."

In fact, Aparna Sen also gave a feeling insight into Kolkata's Anglo Indians in her classic "36 Chowringhee Lane", which had Jennifer Kendall portraying a lonely schoolteacher with only her cat for company.

Dutt calls his film, which also has Sabyasachi Chakravarthy and Neha Dubey, a family circus.

"I have directed the film, my son is the composer and my wife is the stylist. Most of the clothes are stitched by a tailor living in Bow Barracks."

Next up is a Hindi film called "BBD", about three individuals - Binoy, a young model-actor from Mumbai, Badal, a hard-boiled Kolkata cop and Dennis, an ex-rock musician who migrated to the US, all three thrown together due to the most unusual circumstances.

Indo-Asian News Service

 

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