– VENICE 2021: A cinematic poem to contemporary Kolkata, from Indian directing prodigy Aditya Vikram Sengupta

Once upon a time at the Venice Film Festival – earlier this week in fact – we were greeted with the premiere of Once Upon a Time in Calcutta [+see also:
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, the Indian director Aditya Vikram Sengupta‘s second film at the festival after his career breakthrough Labour of Love in 2014. Like that award-winning effort, he continues reaping inspiration from Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love, but where his debut eschewed dialogue of any kind, this film has a large ensemble cast criss-crossing and interacting in an ornate narrative arabesque. In spite of the title’s inference, fairy tale this is not: it lives up to and evokes the two Sergio Leone films of similar names, and finds a pathway towards similar tragedy and loss. It was selected in the Orizzonti section, where it was shown in the festival’s second week.

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With an eerie fade-in, in tiny-lettered, white sans-serif font, we learn at the film’s onset that this was ‘inspired by true events.’ Whilst there is no suggestion as to what particular events these were, and audiences unfamiliar with recent history in the West Bengal capital may be further perplexed, we can still gauge how this film was motivated by a kind of anger on Sengupta’s part, with Kolkata yet another major city afflicted by mismanagement in urban development,…

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