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New for old, thanks to celluloid saga

Ravi Gupta Exporter of Finest Indian Carpets. The swanky façade of Gupta’s carpet store at 115, Ananda Palit Road masks the dilapidated two-storeyed building, with weeds creeping out of every damp corner, which has been home to Goutam Ghosh and his forefathers since 1916.

Ghosh’s tenant, Sheikh Alam, stares at the makeover in amazement — the glass windows, ornate wooden furniture, old-fashioned typewriters, rolls of carpets and the smell of fresh paint have rendered his fusty plywood shop almost unrecognisable.

With several other residents of the area, Alam stands engrossed on the footpath, watching German film-maker Florian Gallenberger blurt out ‘action’ and the camera zoom into his shop… an emotional saga of two star-crossed lovers unfolding in their quiet middle-class para, off CIT Road.

As shooting proceeds for Oscar-winner (short films) Gallenberger’s Bengali feature film Shadows of Time, the house, nearly 90, is the hub of all activity. The daily routine of the Ghoshes has turned topsy-turvy ever since the German crew trooped in, late in October. But for the family fallen on hard times, Gallenberger’s choice of locale has been no less than a windfall.

“A year ago, the location manager of the unit approached us to use a portion of our house to shoot some scenes for some days. They offered us Rs 5,000 a day and we decided to let out the ground floor and a part of the second floor,” says Ghosh’s wife Bharati.

The family moved into a nearby guest house as the crew refurbished the thakur ghar and a bedroom with more dated furniture and a fresh coat of paint. “They did not replace our bed, made of shegun wood. The film’s heroine (Tannistha Chatterjee) fell for it and wanted to buy it too, but I refused. It has been with us for four generations,” adds Bharati.

Marble-top tables, a bookcase, an almirah, an old typewriter and an assortment of utensils of the Ghoshes were used as props. “They wanted to use our antique telephone set as well, but then got another piece,” says Bharati, recalling the days when her in-laws were the proud owners of the para’s first telephone.

Peering down at the pile of concrete strewn over the courtyard, she points out the old iron staircase and a bathroom, now reduced to rubble. The ground-floor sitting room, with a roof of wooden beams, has been turned into a kitchen. “The crew has promised to restore the house to its original state,” she says.

For her neighbours, the brush with lights, camera and action was all too sudden. The neighbouring cha-wala had to run his business from his cubbyhole with one door shut, while cobbler Ram Sagar Ram had to stop hammering away as the film was being shot in sync-sound. For a bunch of unemployed youths, though, it was a chance to make some pocket money. More than 50 were paid Rs 100 a day to shoo away the curious.

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