Premiering in Venice’s Horizons section, Aditya Vikram Sengupta’s third film Once Upon A Time In Calcutta is a reflection on the changes in his home city as captured through the experiences of a diverse group of characters who, like many people on this planet, are tied to each other through money, desire, blood, marriage and basic need.
Similar to his debut, Labour Of Love, which played in Venice Days in 2014, the film is driven by a strong female character. Bengali cinema actress Sreelekha Mitra plays a bereaved mother trying to start a new life by claiming what she regards as her rightful inheritance – a dilapidated theatre where her mother, a cabaret dancer, used to work. But her reclusive stepbrother, played by actor and politician Bratya Basu, refuses to move out and sell the site to developers.
Sengupta says he got the idea for the film when he took a picture of a dinosaur statue outside Kolkata’s Science Park, which was fast being overshadowed by the construction of a new flyover – a literal representation of a relic from the past, juxtaposed with a symbol of Kolkata’s economic development. “It looked like the flyover and the dinosaur were about to start a race,” he recalls.
“It became very significant for me as it connected at a much deeper level about how things become archaic and cannot survive any longer. Not just physical things, but also people and mindsets. The theatre owner is almost like a dinosaur who cannot survive in this…