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Adda: Calcutta, Kolkata

The urban India on screen in Surjo Deb’s Adda: Calcutta, Kolkata isn’t the one seen in flamboyant Bollywood movies or such Western features as Slumdog Millionaire and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. The latter movie went to some length to place its saccharine story line in the vibrantly dense city of Jahpur. Deb’s impressionistic documentary offers repeated glimpses of India’s third largest city, as he points his camera at sites pulsing with human and vehicular traffic, especially the seemingly ubiquitous yellow taxis and pedicabs.

But, these street scene shots of commerce and local color aren’t the movie’s primary focus. Deb gives viewers brief, varied vignettes of Calcutta’s people, caught in casual little groupings, some of them apparently in impromptu encounters, others in more regular meetings.

Middle-class, middle-aged women play a numbers game in someone’s parlor and gossip. Men play cards outside along the street, and reminisce about a funny incident involving a visiting Uruguayan soccer player. The joke isn’t really accessible but it’s the scene that the director is adding to his visual and aural collage that seems to be important to him. As he aggregates these glimpses of the friendly, mundane activities of Calcutta residents, it becomes clearer that the variety of these people—he includes some aging intellectual types genially arguing over the real utility of mobile phones and some jamming youths playing and singing a mildly risque folk-rock song—is really the point.

Adda: Calcutta, Kolkata will be screened at 5pm on Thursday, January 24, at the Center for the Arts screening room at the University at Buffalo’s Amherst Campus. Director Surjo Deb will be present, as will UB PhD student Shayani Bhattacharya, who researched and co-scripted the film. Presented by UB Asian Studies Program, Undergraduate Academies & Center for Global Media, and the Department of Media Study, the screening is free and open to the public.

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