The colour and character of Calcutta in Gunday

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By PRIYANKA ROY
  • Published 15.02.14
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Bikram, Bala, Nandita… and Calcutta! Our city — its busy roads, its towering bridges, its cheek-by-jowl buildings, its bustling markets… — is as integral to Gunday as its characters. And it is the colour and character of the city that adds to the masala and madness of the Ali Abbas Zafar film that was extensively shot in and around Calcutta in February-March and then September 2013. t2 tracks the sights and sounds of Calcutta in the big Bolly V-Day release.

Howrah bridge: Calcutta’s standout landmark features prominently in Gunday. The very first time Howrah bridge looms into view is when a young Bikram and Bala land in Calcutta as refugees and sleep on a pavement overlooking the bridge. Thereafter, Howrah bridge becomes an important part of the life journey of the two protagonists. Jashn-e-ishqa, the song in the opening credits that introduces Ranveer Singh as Bikram and Arjun Kapoor as Bala, shows the two racing on bikes on the bridge. When the two meet Priyanka’s Nandita and realise they have both fallen for her, they pour their hearts out to each other over a drink against the backdrop of the bridge. Immersing a Durga idol in the Hooghly or setting up a factory in its vicinity — the Howrah bridge looms large in many a frame... some shots of it real, some digitally recreated.

Jagannath Ghat: Ranbir Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra shot here for Barfi! and so did Saif Ali Khan and Sonakshi Sinha for Bullett Raja. Jagannath Ghat, overlooking the Howrah bridge, features prominently in Gunday. We first catch a glimpse of it when Bikram and Bala graduate into “businessman” from coal smugglers. With unlimited cash in their pockets, the two buy a mansion on Jagannath Ghat — its famous Ganga Seva Samiti Bhavan is rechristened ‘Bikram Bala Sadan!’

In March last year, Team Gunday shot extensively on a barge on the Hooghly, framing both the Howrah bridge and Jagannath Ghat. A part of the Jashn-e-ishqa number is shot on the barge with Arjun doing most of the dancing — Ranveer had hurt his foot while shooting and this portion of the film only has his top shots!

Maniktala fish market: The bustling market shows up in two sequences — first when Bala tries to woo Nandita by gifting her a gleaming hilsa (!) and then towards the end, when Bikram chases an undercover cop through the bustling market.

Dhapa: The Dhapa area, off the EM Bypass, provides the setting for many a scene. We first see it recreated as a refugee camp in Bangladesh — called Geneva Refugee Camp — where Bikram and Bala land up, orphaned and homeless. Many years later, Bikram, Bala and Nandita are seen in the area enjoying a spot of fishing. Towards the end, Bala and Nandita make the journey from the colliery where he’s in hiding to Calcutta and stop over for a quick bite at a tea stall in Dhapa.

Victoria Memorial: Surprisingly, there’s only a single shot of the Victoria Memorial — when Bala drops off Nandita in his jeep in front of the precious landmark.

Belbad Colliery (Raniganj): Team Gunday had parked themselves for weeks in the Belbad Colliery in Raniganj. From the opening scenes of the young Bikram and Bala hitching a ride on a train and then stealing the coal to the action-packed climax shot extensively in the dusty and grimy colliery. What’s surprising is that Raniganj is passed off as Dhanbad in the film!

Tu ne maari entriyaan: The fun and frothy number, picturised on Ranveer-Arjun-Priyanka, boasts sights and sounds that are typically Calcutta — from the High Court and the streets of Dalhousie to the Dakshineswar Temple. The song even has a shot of the three in Bengali wedding finery (above) — Priyanka in a flaming red Benarasi and the boys in dhoti and... topor!

Calcutta recreated: Quite a bit of Calcutta of the 1970s and ’80s has been recreated in Mumbai’s Film City. So we have busy streets with signboards in Bangla, CPM flags, yellow taxis and even the facade of the iconic Metro Cinema.

Words and faces: For a film set entirely in Calcutta, Gunday has very little of the Bengali language, unlike Kahaani. Through its two-and-half-hour running time, we only hear a smattering of Bengali: “Dekhbo... Kemon achho... khub bhalo.” There’s one familiar local face, though — Victor Banerjee as Irrfan Khan’s boss.

And the one line that made the audience at INOX (South City) erupt in unison? When Bala tells a traitor in the gang: “Jo Bangali football nahin pasand karta uspe kabhi bharosa nahin karna chahiye!”