Thursday, April 10, 2008

"bow barracks forever"









having lived in kolkata for many years,when i first heard that a movie had been made revolving around the anglo-indian community,i was intrigued. "bow barracks forever" is all about a small community living behind the bow bazaar police station off central avenue in kolkata. as the name suggests,these dwellings were built during the first world war for the army. later when they departed,civilians moved in to stay there. most of the residents are anglo- indians though iraninans,parsis and chinese also live there.the buildings were not well constructed and as no maintenance was ever done, it has fallen into disrepair. so much so that the structure has became unsafe and the lives of the residents are at stake. the state government declared the complex unsafe for living and plans to demolish it and construct new buildings.the residents suspect the motives of the government as they fear of a nexus between builders and politicians and refuse to quit.they would far rather continue in an unsafe house rather than lose their only shelter by being thrown out into the streets.

written and directed by anjana dutt the film, a pritish nandi production, is basically about the triumph of the human spirit and how a determined person can surmount odds which look impossible to deal with.it is also an attempt to raise awareness about the anglo-indian community and its major concerns today. many of the younger generation have migrated to australia,canada and the usa. the old have been left behind to fend for themselves. it is a 118 minutes movie shot almost entirely in the bow barracks,a red bricks housing block,in a thirty day schedule. the script is very mediocre. there is hardly any story.the music is of an old world kind. beatles,etc. music is by anjana dutt's son,neil. the highlights of the movie are some excellent acting by lilette dubey,victor banerjeee and sabyasachi chakraborthy.the characters are real but their stories are fiction.the anglo-indians are picturised as a happy-go lucky people,having lots of fun,and enjoying their drinking to the hilt. wine making for own consumption as well as limited sale was quite common among the anglo-indians of bow barracks. particularly during the christmas season. the true spirit of the bow barracks is evident here. the youth club of bow barracks organises concerts and parties and everyone has fun-old,young and the kids.

the language used is often profane and has large sexual content.there is the oversexed rebellious housewife(moon moon sen),the badly battered housewife(neha dubey),the foot loose youngster(clayton rodgers),a strong and dignified mother(lilette dubey) and the lovable peter the cheater(victor banerjee) and the wife beater tom(sabyasachi). all these characters play out their roles quite impressively but the weak script and the absence of a strong story makes the movie fall flat. there is even a cameo by usha uthup.the dialogues in bengali had no subtitles and it looked as if the movie was made for a bengali audience.

the rundown paada(dwelling) has about 1500 occupants of about 130 families living on 3 bighas.the construction is 90 years old. a scene where peter the cheater,the saxophonist drunkard and swindler, with his twinkling eyes begs lilette for a kiss on the cheek is superbly enacted and very moving.like it or not they are all stuck in bow barracks.there is a paradox.some of them want to get away from hell on earth and are not able to do it for circumstantial reasons.others think it is paradise on earth and would never dream of leaving their abode.while the afternoons are dead quiet with many of the elders enjoying their siesta,the evenings are the exact opposite with the whole place resembling a mela.again an effervescent community life in the midst of a conservative hindu bengali area.

the madrid international film festival which concluded in end march threw up a big surprise.lilette dubey was awarded the best actress award for her role in "bow barracks forever".

anjan dutt's intentions were good.but the drawbacks have been major minuses and have made the film a commercial flop. the anglo-indian community,an endangered species, has given kolkata "music,food and park street". it remains to be seen whether they have the last laugh.

7 comments:

david mcmahon said...

Heard so much about this film. Would love to see it.

gs said...

hello david
i am sure you will like the movie.if you can send me your postal address i will post you my 'bbf' vcd.
take care.
gopal

David J said...

Hey that sounds a very interesting story. The building looks fascinating but the story of the people must be even more engrossing. People's attachment to places that they have struggled to hold onto always bring out a lot of Drama. The spirit of place and the people are sometimes inseparable.

gs said...

hello david j
nice to see your comments.kolkata has always fascinated me.recently i took some pictures of the houses in which we lived during the 50s.when i visited bow barracks a few months back it was just about noon and excepting for a youngster it looked as if everyone was asleep. i had an interesting chat with him when he explained why all of them were hanging on to the barracks.

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, gs!

I first came across "Bow Barracks Forever" when I read that Lilette Dubey had won the best actress award at the Madrid Film Festival. I have been trying to lay my hands on the movie, but not had much luck so far. I suspect that after having been recognized by the Madrid Film Festival the movie might get a distributor here in North America and we will soon see the release of a DVD with English subtitles.

Those pictures you took, are they the Barracks featured in movie?

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and the background information on the movie. I will definitely want to see this one!

gs said...

hi lr
the pictures that i took are featured in the movie.hope you get to see bbf soon.

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