It’s a cloudy morning, and there were many other places to choose from, but they still decide to meet here. The Kolkata river bank near the Howrah Bridge looks depressing and terribly crowded, buses filled with people, many sitting on its roofs.Yellow and black taxis and cars blaring ugly horns , inching their way into the traffic. Looks like it might rain and none of them have brought umbrellas.
The banker’s son is absent. The bus stands are adorned with banners from Star Plus, the K-titled soap opera which is doing the rounds nowadays. The three of them observe their surroundings keenly, transfixed and fascinated. Nothing much has really changed. The same angry red messages from a million years ago; a little washed up though. A few striking looking bridges in the horizon across the Ganges that weren’t there before.
Forty years of film separates yesterday and today.
Blockbusters and sequels, hip gangster movies and Steven Spielberg. The brat pack collective of humongous science fiction franchises. Back home, uber-lavish song and dance sequences and coming-of-age films. There's too much to reminisce, really. Unable to find where something begins, and where it ends, they walk on trodden ground, avoiding the traffic carefully.
They’re as old and fat as they expected themselves to be; and married, with kids, even grandchildren. The meeting happened through a series of emails, which gradually became phone calls, and then, Calcutta. It wasn’t really difficult at all. The tea tastes nowhere like it used to be, but the Ganges is still there, people bathing on its ghats, washing their white clothes, as always.
They have to meet relatives in Tollygunge and New Alipore and SaltLake. They make a plan for a small trip to Chowringhee, to those theatres. Wonder if they are still there.
Pretty soon, the talk turns to film; no one’s made one. Three boys grew up to become an electrical engineer, a marketing executive and a job consultant.The enthusiasm hasn’t faded an inch, though – virulent talks of what went on in the last few decades. The two horror buffs recall watching Cronenberg for days on end, DVDs of some interesting new chaps, David Lynch and James Cameron and Tarantino, and Altman, and the extremely clever David Fincher.
This new DVD and internet thing is troubling; it could quite mean the death of cinema as they know it.
When talks turn towards home, they hardly have names. Sen’s and Ghatak’s films are still great though, and Ray’s last film, The Stranger, even though not much watched, was still brilliant. They get a bit sad thinking about people who have died; Kurosawa and Welles, Tarkovsky and Ray, almost all in one go. Gangs of New York and The Pianist are in the multiplexes. They make up a plan to go and watch.
“But what happened to our film?”
The question is met with inaudible murmur.
“ We’ll make it someday.”
“ Yeah, we’ll buy a cheap digital camera. No film.”
‘Oh, cmon. That won’t do.”
“Why not? Everyone’s adapted to it now, and-“
The conversation dies down in endless protests and a thousand plans, but it’s too childish to start all over again. Stories flow freely, until the last cup of tea is finished, and then, it’s time to go home.
They proceed to dissolve, namelessly and without a third act , into one of the many streets and narrow roads of Kolkata. What happened to him? Someone asks. Banker’s son? He died, comes the answer. Binge drinking? Cancer? No one knows.
It begins raining.
People hurry and cover their banana stalls and their big baskets containing fresh mangoes and litchis. They run for cover too. It’s really time to go now.
Will we meet again? Hopefully, if one of us is able to stand, he will go visit the others. That’s it? That’s it.
With a gush of wind, it starts raining really hard, drowning all conversation.