One would expect the intellectually-charged north Kolkata kakus to have a certain disdain for the mainstream showbiz crowd. But when Karisma Kapoor stopped by for an early morning shoot, a stone’s throw away from Kumartuli Park, we found the locals thrilled by the spectacle.
It was barely 7am on the day of the shoot, when I found myself in the area, trying to locate the filming spot. Upon asking a chawala, he replied, “shoot e jaaben?” I may have imagined it, but the people at his stall sat a little straighter when they heard the word ‘shoot’. The owner of the stall gave me directions and confidently said that I could ask anyone from the locality in case I was lost again.
I found my way with the help of a few more over-enthusiastic bystanders and was pleasantly surprised to see the number of people packed into the Kumartuli lane so early in the morning. In addition to the perpetually-busy production team, one could also spot the lyadh-loving, vest-scratching kakus, watching the proceedings.
There was chatter about how one of them had witnessed a Mrinal Sen shoot as a young boy, and how things were different back then. If they looked down upon the Mumbai crowd, they hid it well, matching the energy levels of diligent fourth ADs, asking around the set to see if they could help. Two particularly vehement locals got to learn that an Uber cab needed to be removed and promptly scoured the area to locate the driver. Upon finding him, they used powers of persuasion that would have made the Queen give back the Kohinoor to India, with Nirav Modi as interest. I have never seen kakus work that hard.
After around 30 minutes, Karisma arrived and the security team urged onlookers to clear the area of the shoot. I expected them to revolt, but to my shock, I saw 30 bystanders squeeze into the sole cha stall in the lane, owned by a certain Tapan da. He seemed extremely thrilled, barring the imminent threat to his wooden benches posed by the barrage of buttocks. His tea sales quadrupled instantly, so maybe he wasn’t too worried after all.
The crowd craned their necks as Karisma gave a shot on the other side of the lane, although not much could be seen. Frequent questions they floated amongst themselves included, “Boi er ki naam?” (it is a web series, Brown) and “Hero ta kay?”. My favourite one came when the crew had to shoot a car sequence adjoining Tapan da’s shop. The security guy asked his boss if the uncles were to be moved, and the boss shook his head. An optimistic uncle grinned and asked, “Aamra ki frame e aashbo?” When the producer nodded, he smiled like a schoolboy who had been handed a day off.
The producer came once to brief the kakus before the camera began rolling. “Do not look into the camera. Keep doing what you’re doing, talk among yourselves, have tea, but do not look into the camera.” The uncles started faking conversation, and the masks promptly came off. A lady emerged from one of the adjoining houses, clearly having been awoken by the din and whispered to me, “Shoot shuru hoyeche?” I nodded. With an expression of glee, she beckoned me to let her stand in front, exclaiming that she really wanted to see it. “Ki dekhben?,” I asked. “Korishma!,” she exclaimed.
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