17 November 2013

Calcutta Film Festival 2013


Kolkata International Film Festival 2013 ended today. 

This year the inaugural ceremony was awesome. Watched Rituparno Ghosh's hindi film TAAK JHAANK at the giant screen at Netaji Indoor Stadium. The bengali version of this film is SUNGLASS. 

Amitabh Bachchan delivered the best speech, just like last year. Added attraction was the presence of my favourite Kamal Hasan. Shah Rukh Khan as usual arrived late.

I have been going to the Film Festival from 2003. This was my 11th year. I used to watch five films per day for seven days. The show timings were 9am, 11am, 3pm, 5pm and 7pm. After coming back home on the last Metro from Rabindra Sadan, I used to take a Saridon tablet every night after dinner. Watching five films every day used to give me a headache. After having Saridon, I used to go on the internet and read about the synopsis of the next day's films. At night I used to decide which films to watch the next day. 

I have also been collecting the Film Festival Brochure all these years. Here are the booklets from the first two years. These two are extremely rare and only a few people in Calcutta have them. I am proud to possess these two brochures. From the third year the brochures started getting bigger and thicker. 

Here is the brochure of 2003, the first year that I attended the Film Festival. 

This Film Festival is like Durga Puja for the film buffs. And the Nandan-Chattor feels like Maddox Square. In the last 10 years I have enjoyed watching films at Nandan-1 the most. That venue has always been my first preference. I simply love those push-back seats.

Sometimes what happens is that if you are late in entering Nandan-1 before a film starts then all the seats get occupied pretty quickly and then you have to sit on the stairs. I have seen so many films sitting on the stairs. 

There is another rule that once a film ends then the audience must go out of Nandan-1 and again come back inside through a queue. What I used to do was that once a film ended then I immediately used to go inside the toilet and maybe smoke a cigarette there and used to stay there for some time. Once the queue for the next film started entering the hall then I used to quickly come out of the toilet and join the queue. In this way I never had to leave Nandan-1.    

My second hall preference is Rabindra Sadan. Though from the 3pm show, this venue literally proves to be a pain in the ass. All the Delegates, Guests and Press Card holders have to fit in the steep balcony. The seats below on the ground floor are for ticket holders. The balcony gets overcrowded. And suppose if one doesn't like a film, then it becomes very difficult for him or her to come out from the over-populated balcony. 

In 2006, inspite of having a Delegate Card and just for novelty's sake, I had watched a few films at the top-most balcony at New Empire during the Film Festival. This balcony has only small wooden seats and they are really uncomfortable. The ticket price was just 10 rupees then. To enter this balcony, one has to get in through a shabby gate on the right side of New Empire and then walk up a never-ending flight of stairs. 

(In the year 2000, I had seen the film GLADIATOR from this balcony. The ticket price back then was just seven rupees.) 

I have a nice group of friends for the Film Festival. We all have been attending this festival for so many years now. Throughout the year we hardly have time to meet up and only keep in touch through Facebook mostly but during the Film Festival we spend these seven days together like a family. 

After the 11am show gets over, then I have my lunch usually at Raju's Kitchen. Some days I eat masala dhosa, on other days I go for veg-thali or fish-thali, or sometimes I eat chicken chowmein or mixed fried rice. Throughout the rest of the day I survive on tea, coffee and cigarettes. Hori Da-r Cha-er Dokan serves the best tea in that area. The owner's full name is Horihar Banik. His tea shop is the most famous in that area and also serves as a landmark and meeting-point. After the 7pm show gets over around 9pm-ish, I usually stay back at the Nandan-Chattor for another half-hour and that is the time to discuss the day's films with friends and even strangers over tea, coffee and cigarettes. 

The beauty of Nandan Chattor during the Film Festival is that one can come out of one auditorium in the middle of a film and enter another hall and watch the rest of the film that is running there. I have so many times left Nandan-1 during a boring film and then entered either Nandan-II or Nandan-III or Rabindra Sadan or Sisir Mancha. I have even sometimes left Nandan-I in the middle of a film, came outside, had some tea and snacks, and then went back to watch the remaining of that film. 

Here is a pic of mine at this year's Film Festival : 

Here is a pic of my group of friends : 

For other pics, please see this link

I studied in St. Xavier's College from 2004 to 2007. In those years I used to bunk college for seven days to attend the Calcutta Film Festival. In our college we had a rule that if you bunk two consecutive classes then you needed an excuse-slip from the Vice-Principal to attend further classes. After the film festival, when I went back to college, the Professors used to ask me to get that excuse-slip. I used to go to the Vice-Principal but he used to get angry at me since I had bunked college to watch films. For the next seven days I used to go to him daily and every day he would refuse to give me the excuse-slip. So it was kind of a holiday for me. I used to go to college every day and spend time inside the canteen or at the green-benches or spend time surfing the internet at our computer lab. Most probably on the eighth or ninth day the Vice-Principal used to show mercy on me and give me that elusive excuse-slip. Then I used to again attend my classes. 

This year at the film festival we all had loads of fun. Saw some good films too. Attended some interesting seminars at Bangla Academy and Jibanananda Sabhaghar. Had a great time throughout these seven days. I am feeling a bit sad now that the Festival is over. The feeling is somewhat similar to the feeling one feels on Doshomi during Durga Puja. Have to wait for next year. Aaschhey Bochhor Aabar Hobey...


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