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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 18 June 2024

Wes Anderson’s Dr ZZ Chatterjee: The Bong connection at the 96th Academy Awards

A young Bengali doctor’s notes ‘transcribed with great care’ made it to the Oscars 2024, winning the Best Live Action Short Film award

Chandreyee Chatterjee Calcutta Published 11.03.24, 04:16 PM
Dev Patel as Dr Z.Z. Chatterjee in Wes Anderson’s The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, streaming on Netflix.

Dev Patel as Dr Z.Z. Chatterjee in Wes Anderson’s The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, streaming on Netflix.

Q: Which Bengali won an Oscar on Monday morning?

A: Doctor Z.Z. Chatterjee.

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Q: Doctor Chatterjee, who?!

A: The Head Surgeon at Lords and Ladies Hospital, Calcutta/Kolkata.

Dev Patel plays Dr Z. Z. Chatterjee in The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar by Wes Anderson, based on a story by Roald Dahl, which was the winner of the Best Live Action Short Film award at the 96th Academy Awards held at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

While Christopher Nolan and his Oppenheimer juggernaut bagged the headlines, for the quintessential – or quirky – Bengali, Wes Anderson’s win was the special one.

After all, Kolkata set the stage for the 54-year-old filmmaker’s first Oscar win – from the Lords and Ladies Hospital, where ‘The Man Who Sees Without His Eyes’ Imdad Khan (played by Ben Kingsley) walks in one day and meets Dr Chatterjee, to the Royal Palace Hall, where he performs the final act at a circus. It’s the notes on Imdad Khan, ‘transcribed with great care’ by Dr Chatterjee from December of 1935, discovered by Henry Sugar (Benedict Cumberbatch), that leads to rest of the 41-minute-long film available for streaming on Netflix.

Anderson, of course, has a deep connect with this part of the world in general and Satyajit Ray in particular. Anderson even dedicated his film The Darjeeling Limited to Ray, saying that Ray was his inspiration for coming to India in the first place.

The director had spent five days in Calcutta waiting for the Satyajit Ray Family and Foundation to digitise all of his master tapes, before he used them in The Darjeeling Limited, and called it “one of the greatest experiences of his life” in an interview with The Rolling Stone.

Anderson used Charu’s Theme by Ray in many important scenes in The Darjeeling Limited, as well as songs from Joi Baba Felunath, Teen Kanya and Jalsaghar.

In an interview, Anderson quoted The Adversary (1970; Pratidwandi); Company Limited (1971; Seemabaddha); The Middleman (1976; Jana Aranya), which he called “adventurous and inventive stylistically”; Days and Nights in the Forest (1970; Aranyer Din Ratri), which he said completely captured his attention as a teenager; and Charulata (1964; The Lonely Wife) as his Ray favourites.

Anderson has also reportedly liked yet another Kolkata product — indie pop duo Parekh & Singh, whose music video for their song ‘I Love you baby, I love you doll’ showing a straight-faced Nischay Parekh and Jivraj Singh in Wes Anderson-esque colourful and quirky suits got a nod from the director himself way back in 2016.

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