Once upon a time this side of India was the Hindi film capital of the nation. Bimal Roy has made many a memorable film out of Tollygunge, Kolkata. Luminaries in filmmaking and music (Like KL Saigal) were based here and did legendary work. Those were the days.
It is of common knowledge the kind of creative bankruptcy today's Tollygunge is suffering. Rituparno Ghosh's films certainly do not represent today's Tollygunge fare. Yet a dash of the old days has suddenly become visible. Moxie Entertainments- the new Kolkata-based production house- is making not one but two Hindi films out of Kolkata. The first, Via Darjeeling, an 'unconventional suspense drama', being directed by one of the finest creative minds of Bengal- Arindam Nandy (Creative Head of Response, a boutique ad agency) is under production and the second, called BBD, being directed by actor-director-singer Anjan Dutt will go on floors in March.
Not that there is no precedence to this. Rituparno filmed his first Hindi project Raincoat entirely in Kolkata with topline stars Ajay Devgun and Aishwarya Rai.
As head of Moxie Joy Ganguly (Who happens to be the son of corporate honcho Satyabrata Ganguly, the CEO of Exide) puts it " Moxie is committed to producing films crafted by a new generation of directors, writers and technicians working in India & produce nationally appealing cinema from Bengal."
Quite an ambition as it may sound but is in fact a practicable proposition. Why not Hindi cinema from Bengal? We have talented technicians, decent studios albeit in a small no., charming outdoor locations in Kolkata (Remember Yuva?) and Bengal, top class post-production set-up, even quality processing facility (Adlabs has just set foot in the city with its post-production set-up and processing lab). Well, budgets may be a fraction of Bollywood biggies, but a big budget is not an essential ingredient of a good and classy film. Rituparno is known to work on modest budgets. Yes, the local productions may not afford big Bollywood stars, but again films don't need big stars to strike a chord with audience. Also, who can say? Whoever thought Aishwarya Rai would come down to Kolkata to shoot a Bengali film without charging her regular fees?
Via Darjeeling has an eclectic cast comprising Kay Kay Menon, Sonali Kulkarni, Parveen Dabas, Simone Singh, Rajat Kapoor, Sandhya Mridul, Vinay Pathak and Prroshant Narayanan (Pic: Sonali Kulkarni, Parveen Dabas and Kay Kay Menon at the shoot at Oxford Bookstore, Darjeeling). As evident, there are no so-called stars among them but most are known for their good work in character roles in Hindi cinema. After a shoot in almost freezing Kalimpong (A small hill station between Siliguri and Gangtok) and Darjeeling, with KK Menon, Sonali and Parveen, the unit came back to Kolkata and was joined by Sandhya, Rajat, Vinay, Simone and Prroshant. Rajat is playing an intellectual Bengali scribe, Ronodip. It is possibly his second Bengali character after the one he played in the yet-to-release Bengali film Anuranan (Starring Rahul Bose, Rituparna Sengupta and Raima Sen). The actors apparently had a ball in the city. As T2 (The Telegraph) reported, Sandhya (Looking hotter than ever as her character in dark dresses) was relishing her gastronomic journey with Bengali delicacies alu posto and shorshe diye machher jhol (Fish curry with mustard sauce) and was keen to check out jhal muri and phuchka (Local hot favourites in snacks).
Coming to the content, the film is based on an age-old Bengali tradition of 'adda', where friends get together in the rains and exchange stories and gossip, over drinks and dinner. Kolkata and Darjeeling, as locations, are intrinsic to this film. The film will showcase the haunting beauty of Darjeeling, a hill station of West Bengal, situated 2134 meters above sea level and one of India's most famous hill resorts. The mystique of the hills, mist and heritage architecture will evoke an eeriness that a city in the plains can never achieve. Darjeeling is also surrounded by other very picturesque locations like Ghoom, Kurseong and Oolong apart from Kalimpong and offers ample scope to shoot in and around these live locations that will add to the ambience of the film. To lend a realistic touch to the feel of the film the background score incorporates the ambient sounds of a North East Indian hill station like tolling bells, Buddhist chants etc.
The Mumbai actors let their hair down in the big blast hosted by the producer at Roxy at The Park on the night of Sunday, 11 February. It also saw the announcement of BBD which has Naseeruddin Shah, KK Menon, Jimmy Sheirgill, Jackie Shroff, Sandhya Mridul and Kolkata's very own Rituparna Sengupta in the cast.
Here's wishing Moxie all the best in its journey.