India Today - - SIMPLY KOLKATA -


There is per­haps no city as nar­cis­sis­tic and so hun­gry for praise than Kolkata. But Kolkatans love it more if an out­sider in­dulges in its flat­tery. And who bet­ter to hear praise from, than Kolkata’s most fa­mous Amitabh Bachchan. At the premier of in Kolkata, Bachchan did just that, giv­ing ref­er­ences to his time in the city. He rem­i­nisced about things and places that were close to his heart and things that weren’t. “As many of you know, I spent my ini­tial years here. What makes Kolkata spe­cial for me are its peo­ple who are very pas­sion­ate,” said Bachchan in his fa­mous bari­tone. The au­di­ence at Inox South City preened a lit­tle at the com­pli­ment. “They have great re­spect for art and cul­ture and are still quite knowl­edge­able about cin­ema. You won’t see them wan­der into the frame. With Su­joy Ghosh—the cre­ative di­rec­tor of the film—showed me a side of Kolkata that I haven’t seen be­fore. I went to

NShan­tinike­tan which was an ex­pe­ri­ence I will cher­ish,” he said. Other than Shan­tinike­tan and its ob­vi­ous con­nect with Tagore, there’s also an­other lit­er­ary con­nect with the film. “In the south Kolkata apart­ment we shot in, one of the almi­rahs had a hand-writ­ten note by au­thor Sarat Chan­dra, which has been preserved all these years. I find these lit­tle things fas­ci­nat­ing,” said Bachchan.

is draw­ing Kolkatans to the cine­plexes to see how their beloved city has been por­trayed on the sil­ver screen. But ap­par­ently shoot­ing in Kolkata wasn’t al­ways on the cards. “We were ini­tially sup­posed to shoot this film in Goa but I think it ran into a few per­mis­sion is­sues and some lo­gis­ti­cal prob­lems. I’ve lived in Kolkata and was aware of its size­able An­glo-In­dian pop­u­la­tion and I asked why not Kolkata? So we came here,” says Bachchan.

Bachchan’s avatar in the film, though a Kolkatan, is very dif­fer­ent from the ex­ag­ger­ated Ben­ga­li­ness of “John Biswas is an An­gloIn­dian Ben­gali. To play him, Ribhu said that he didn’t want me to do any­thing that is very ex­pected. He also didn’t want me to have any kind of Ben­gali ac­cent. We de­lib­er­ately kept it very sim­ple and un­af­fected. We kept John Biswas a very mid­dle­class An­glo-In­dian Ben­gali man. He’s about my age,” he said.

Com­par­isons were drawn not just to his char­ac­ter in but also the fact that too has him riding a two-wheeler, in this case, a scooter. “I haven’t been on a scooter for a long time, hav­ing last rid­den one in my univer­sity days in Delhi. I was quite flum­moxed when Ribhu said I’d have to ride one and he sent a scooter to my place. Here, I’d prac­tise in Kolkata’s Maidan when it was sure to be empty and that was an in­ter­est­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. But be­tween the scooter and bi­cy­cle, I would pick the bi­cy­cle. A scooter is tough,” says Bachchan.

Here’s hop­ing that Kolkata’s au­di­ence isn’t.

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