16 November 2016

Calcutta Film Festival


Firstly I want to clarify that though the official name is Kolkata International Film Festival, still I prefer calling it the Calcutta Film Festival. When I am writing in English then I prefer calling my city Calcutta and not Kolkata.

The first time I went to the Calcutta Film Festival was in the year 2003. I went there with a friend. We just roamed around in the Nandan-Chattor and did not see any film. We just enjoyed the ambience there. It was all new to me. Saw common men and women standing in long queues to watch foreign films.

From 2004 I started applying for the Delegate Card. During the festival I started watching five films per day for seven days. The show timings were 9am, 11am, 3pm, 5pm and 7pm. I used to reach Nandan by 9am sharp. After the 11am show I used to have my lunch at the nearby Raju's Kitchen. Some days I ate masala dhosa, on other days I went for veg-thali or fish-thali, or sometimes I ate chicken chowmein or mixed fried rice.

Throughout the rest of the day I used to survive on tea, coffee and cigarettes. In those days I used to smoke a lot. Nowadays I have quit smoking for good. Hori Da-r Cha-er Dokan still serves the best tea in that area. The owner's full name is Horihar Banik. His tea shop is the most famous tea shop in that area and also serves as a landmark and meeting-point. I really love their dudh-cha (milk tea).

The 7pm show used to get over around 9pm-ish. I usually used to stay back at the Nandan-Chattor for another hour and that was the time to discuss the day's films with friends and even strangers over tea, coffee and cigarettes. Over the years I have met so many people at Nandan-Chattor who are not even remotely related to the film world but who have a tremendous knowledge about world cinema. Its a pleasure to chat with these kind of people and get enriched in the process. These people keep themselves updated with the latest happenings in world cinema. There was a time when I also used to keep myself updated regularly with the latest happenings in world cinema but nowadays unfortunately I am lagging behind in that aspect because of work pressure and other issues.   

I used to come back home on the last Metro from Rabindra Sadan. After dinner, I used to take a Saridon tablet every night. 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 on the next day.

I have also been collecting the Film Festival Brochures for 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.

Till 2012 I used to watch five films per day. From 2013 onwards I diminished that number to two or three films per day. As I am getting older I am unable to watch five films per day for seven days. Its too much mental pressure. Nowadays if I watch five films per day then my eyes really start aching and I get a severely bad headache. I guess I am getting old very fast.

The Film Festival is like Durga Puja for the film buffs. And the Nandan-Chattor feels like Maddox Square. In the last twelve 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. The ambience inside the auditorium is very good.

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 mostly through Facebook but during the Film Festival we spend these seven days together like a family. We all love having jhal-muri and lebu-cha (lemon tea) together and indulge in never ending adda sessions. There is a boy named Uday who sells tasty lebu-cha at Nandan-Chattor. Previously he used to polish shoes there but nowadays he has become a chai-wallah. Maybe someday he will become the Prime Minister of India! 

At Nandan I have a pet dog. I have named him Prince. He loves me tremendously. I also love him a lot. Every time I go there, I feed him biscuits. He is very nice and sweet. He is really like my son. 

There is a flute player who comes to Nandan regularly and especially during the Film Festival. His name is Anil Mohonto. He plays the flute beautifully. Whenever I see him there I always go and talk with him. He is a very nice human being. 

There is another interesting man at Nandan-Chattor. His name is Swapan Biswas. He writes poetry under the pseudonym Akshaychand. I have bought all his poetry books over the years. He makes a living out of just selling his poetry books. He is a great friend of mine. I have even visited him at his house at Chandi Ghosh Road. Usually he is seen at the Nandan-Chattor, requesting people to buy his poetry books. Since my teenage days I have been noticing him at Nandan-Chattor. We became good friends around 2007. Here I am with him in front of Hori Da's Tea Shop during the 2014 Film Festival : 

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.

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.

Since 2011 I have been going regularly to the opening ceremony held at Netaji Indoor Stadium. Its a great thing to see the one and only Amitabh Bachchan and hear his speech. So many celebrities from Bollywood have been coming for the opening ceremony since the last six years but none can match the stature of the great Big B. He is the greatest Superstar that has ever lived in this universe. I worship him like God! 


I also love seeing the film related exhibitions at Gaganendra Pradarshashala. Two years back the exhibition was on the legendary Suchitra Sen. This year the exhibition is on the legendary Uttam Kumar. 

Every year at the Film Festival I have loads of fun. I see some good films too. I attend interesting seminars at Bangla Academy and at Jibanananda Sabhaghar. I have a great time throughout these seven days. I feel sad when the Festival gets over. The feeling is somewhat similar to the feeling one feels on Doshomi during Durga Puja. We all have to wait for the next year. Aaschhey Bochhor Aabar Hobey!

This year Nandan-Chatttor has been renovated in an unique way. The place has become more beautiful. I am really loving the new look of Nandan-Chattor. I am having tremendous fun there. Last year I took seven days off from my office just to attend the Film Festival. This year I am leaving office early just to go there and hang out with my friends. I have an emotional bond with the Calcutta Film Festival which has developed over all these years... 

P.S. : Check this link to see this year's Film Festival pics...



  1. So vivid and spontaneous .. I was able to visualize the things around there while reading the blog.