5 Films That Capture The Unmatchable Charm And Beauty Of Kolkata

Here are some films that were shot in the city and managed to capture some of the things that make it so unique, from the Hooghly River to vintage houses and tram rides
A lit up Howrah Bridge over the Hooghly River in Kolkata
A lit up Howrah Bridge over the Hooghly River in Kolkatamitra kountik/Shutterstock

The only metro city in India that has held on to an old-world charm, Kolkata has some incredible experiences to cherish as lifelong memories. There's the river, for instance. Flowing to the west of Kolkata, the Hooghly River bank is dotted with old warehouses, ghats, and jetties. The vintage charm of Kolkata is reflected in the old houses that have withstood the test of time.

A walk down Kolkata streets make you feel like you are in a retro film
A walk down Kolkata streets make you feel like you are in a retro filmRitesh Ranjan Sett/Shutterstock

Then there are the whimsical journeys that people still undertake on trams. One of the oldest transport systems in Asia, Kolkata trams have been operating since 1902.

Inside a Kolkata tram
Inside a Kolkata tram Atif Amin/Shutterstock

Another layer of atmosphere is added by the only Chinatown in India where you can come across Chinese clubs and temples built in the 1920s. It had once housed the famous Nanking restaurant where celebrities like Dilip Kumar, Meena Kumari and Shammi Kapoor used to hang out. Here are some films which have captured the unique characteristics that make Kolkata a special city.

Yuva (2004)

Directed by Mani Ratnam, the cinematography of Yuva showcases the vignettes that set Kolkata apart from other cities. There are scenes set in typical Kolkata settings, like one in a tram that weaves through the green of the Maidan. Another truly stunning scene is shot from inside a decrepit house near Howrah Bridge, one can see the bridge in the background over the Hooghly River.

A scene set in the backdrop of Howrah Bridge
A scene set in the backdrop of Howrah BridgeIMDB

Yuva also featured an important sequence on Vidyasagar Setu. Opened in 1992, it was the first and longest cable-stayed bridge in India and one of the longest in Asia. An important theme in the film was student politics, and a sequence was shot in Kolkata's famous Presidency College, whose alumni include Subhash Chandra Bose, poet Henry Louis Vivan Derozio, Nobel Prize winner Abhijit Banerjee, and journalist MJ Akbar.

Some sequences were shot in the historic Presidency College in Kolkata
Some sequences were shot in the historic Presidency College in KolkataIMDB

Parineeta (2005)

This adaption of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's 1914 Bengali novel 'Parineeta' starred Vidya Balan, Saif Ali Khan, and Sanjay Dutt. Set in the time of the British Raj, it highlighted multiple features of Kolkata, notably the Durga Puja festivities. And the 1883-built Palladian porch of Prinsep Ghat, built in honour of scholar and antiquary James Prinsep.

Prinsep Ghat on the banks of the Hooghly in Kolkata
Prinsep Ghat on the banks of the Hooghly in Kolkatamritunjay21/Shutterstock

Kahaani (2012)

Cinematographer Satyajit Pande brings the many vignettes of Kolkata alive in this thriller, which has Vidya Balan going through the city looking for her missing husband. In the film, the city is a character, not just a backdrop. Shot extensively in Kolkata, it features the usual Victoria Memorial, hand-pulled rickshaws, and the Howrah Bridge, along with places that are generally not featured in films. Sure, the actors steal the show, but so do the cameos by several Kolkata spots like Kalighat Metro Station. Mona Lisa Guest House in south Kolkata, where Vidya Balan stayed in the film, still invites bookings. The festival of Durga Puja plays a big role in the film, from the half-finished idols of Durga in the ancient potters colony of Kumartuli to the climax which was shot in the chaotic backdrop of the last day of the festivities.

Detective Byomkesh Bakshi (2015)

The film was set in Kolkata's incredible Chinatown
The film was set in Kolkata's incredible ChinatownIMDB

The film was an adaptation of the Byomkesh Bakshi series, which follows the fictional detective created by acclaimed writer Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay and is set in war-torn Calcutta during the 1940s. Some scenes in the film were shot in Kolkata, while others were built as sets. For example, the Chinatown of 1940s Kolkata was filmed on sets. One segment was shot in the well-known Bow Barracks area, which is shared by the Chinese and Anglo-Indian communities. Another was shot in the hub of Kolkata, the busy office neighbourhood of BBD Bag, also known as Dalhousie Square. Vintage cars, trams and horse-drawn carriages were all pulled in to recreate the look and feel of the period.

Piku (2015)

The gorgeous architecture of old Kolkata was a highlight of the film
The gorgeous architecture of old Kolkata was a highlight of the filmIMDB

Though just a part of the film was shot in Kolkata, the sequences captured many delightful moments, such as Amitabh Bachchan riding a bicycle through the City of Joy's lanes and by lanes. Several sequences were set in stunning old houses of Kolkata with gorgeous balconies, red oxide flooring and slatted louvre windows. A sequence was set in Bishop Lefroy Road in South Kolkata, where Satyajit Ray had stayed for 22 years in a house now declared a grade-1 heritage building. The Victorian-era street lights on the road display replicas of film posters designed by Ray.

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