10 Films To Watch Before Visiting Kolkata

Still From Parineeta (2005)
Still From Parineeta (2005) | Vinod Chopra Productions
Sridevi Nambiar

Can’t wait for your upcoming trip to Kolkata? Here are ten movies that truly capture Kolkata, to stimulate your excitement and curiosity. Each of these movies depicts an aspect of the City of Joy – its complicated socio-political history, its rich cosmopolitanism, its beautiful architecture and its small narrow alleys.

Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! (2015)

Set in Calcutta (present-day Kolkata) during World War 2, this Bollywood mystery thriller follows the first adventure of popular Bengali fictional detective, Byomkesh Bakshy created by bestseller writer Saradindu Bandyopadhyay. Kolkata’s persistent presence in the movie – gloomy, mysterious, dark and unpredictable – is undoubted one of the key highlights of this acclaimed film.

Kahaani (2012)

This Bollywood thriller about a pregnant woman searching for her missing husband in Kolkata during the festival of Durga Puja is a must watch for anyone hoping to vicariously experience the chaos and vigour of festival season in Kolkata. Count on the movie to take you on a tour of the city’s crowded metro stations, the congested bylanes of Kumortuli, the old world charm of rundown buildings, the historic neighborhoods of North Kolkata and more. What’s more, the city lends more than just aesthetics, and takes on the role of a character in this suspense-packed film.

Howrah Bridge (1958)

Shadowy, crime-ridden 1950s Kolkata is a natural backdrop for a dark and mysterious noir film, and few films have taken advantage of this better than director Shakti Samanta’s Howrah Bridge. Showcasing the city as a character by itself, the movie tells the story of a young man who has travelled to Kolkata from Yangon, Myanmar to investigate his brother’s mysterious murder.

Calcutta 71 (1972)

Directed by one of the greatest filmmakers in Indian cinema, Mrinal Sen, Calcutta 71 weaves together a collection of narratives set in mid twentieth century Kolkata. The stories involve protagonists such as a middle class family trying to get by during the Bengal famine of 1943, and a group of slumdwellers coping with a rain storm. It tries to cover a range of issues including the Kolkata elite’s blasé attitutude towards the city’s poor, and corruption in the city’s criminal justice system. The second of Mrinal Sen’s Calcutta trilogy, with the others being Interview 71 and Padatik, this movie is a must-watch for anyone seeking to understand the city’s socio-political journey to its current form.

Seemabaddha (1971)

Directed by filmmaking legend Satyajit Ray, Seemabaddha is a commentary on the corruption, greed and rising inequalities that accompanied Kolkata’s rapid modernization in the mid twentieth century, told through the narrative of an ambitious young professional working in a private firm in the city.

Antaheen (2009)

This intertwining collection of stories set in Kolkata is as much a tale of contemporary urban India as it is a peek into modern Kolkata. Featuring a range of realistic and relatable characters and vibrant Kolkata as an ever present backdrop, Antaheen is a delightful film to watch.

Mahanagar (1963)

Set in 1950s Kolkata, Mahanagar by Satyajit Ray tells the story of a middle class woman who unsettles her conservative family by getting a job as a door to door salesperson. The film looks both at how her move has affected her initially supportive but later insecure husband and family, and also at the patriarchal domain where she needs to prove her worth.

Parineeta (2005)

An adaptation of the 1914 Bengali novella, Parineeta by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, this movie tells the tale of two childhood lovers from different social classes and their relationship’s evolution as they grow older. With stunning art direction, a moving soundtrack, great acting and early twentieth century Kolkata as a backdrop, Parineeta is a winner all around.

Piku (2015)

This Bollywood comedy drama about a Bengali architect and her aging father who reside in Delhi is only set partly in Kolkata, but still manages to pack in so many stunning visuals of the city that it will leave you wanting more. The bulk of the movie covers the pair and their cab driver’s road trip from Delhi to Kolkata – which again features simply many stunning sights and sounds.

Devdas (2002)

Another popular Bollywood adaption of a novel by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Devdas tells the tragic love story of childhood friends turned lovers, Devdas and Paro. When their families refuse to let them get married, Paro marries another man while Devdas takes to alcoholism. Featuring recreated visuals of early twentieth century Calcutta, the movie is a Bollywood experience not to be missed!

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