It Happened in Calcutta Review – Skip it Like It Never Happened

It Happened in Calcutta Review – Skip it Like It Never Happened

It Happened in Calcutta is a television soap in the guise of a web series that tells why Indian filmmakers have several ages to go before they take the demands of a digital audience seriously. The show also proves that Ekta Kapoor, who’s excelled at her game in the television and film production arenas, is struggling to find her feet as a digital content creator [ with AltBalaji]. The webspace gives great scope to explore the rougher edges in characters, newer paradigms in storytelling without the worry of pandering to an audience. AltBalaji’s latest show feels like it has emerged out of a vacuum and its traits are very similar to those long-running melodramas on Indian television – little substance, overt dramatisation and ridiculous writing. If one is compelled to find the only new-age element to this show, it is the intimacy between its co-actors (i.e. more smooches). Though the series is set largely in the 60s, there’s nothing in it to make you go nostalgic. There’s no old-world charm or simplicity in the romance, be it the gestural reactions or the poetic responses. There’s no fondness for the setting. The visual references are all over the place. The yellows, the pinks, the greens, the bell-bottoms, the long-haired men, the Amitabh Bachchan-inspired hairstyles, remind you more of the aspirational 70s than the previous decade. To describe the story in a nutshell, a quintessential non-committal womaniser Ronobir falls for a supposedly nerdy yet gullible Kusum in a premier medical university in Calcutta. Ratan, a fiesty college mate who is also fond of Kusum, functions more as a sacrificial goat. Kusum discovers she’s pregnant and Ronobir refuses to take responsibility for the unborn child. Ronobir uses his other-girlfriend as an excuse to settle down as a medico in London while Kusum is dealing with the heartbreak in the city. A protective Ratan lends her support in the troubled phase. Things take a turn for the worse when Ronobir returns to India amid a cholera pandemic. Shows on the lines of It Happened in Calcutta aren’t expected to run on logic, but the least a director could do is to make the viewer relate to a character’s plight. While it’s very hard to root for the male protagonist who doesn’t stand by his girlfriend at her most vulnerable phase, you neither are impressed by Kusum’s decision to fall for a notorious man whose sexual escapades are well-known within the college campus. The sanest character in the show, Ratan Bagchi is labelled boring, just because he’s a nice (and sometimes overprotective) guy (?). It’s hard to imagine that Ken Ghosh (the director) was the same man who directed largely watchable romances like Ishq Vishq and Fida in the past. There’s not a single emotional sequence in the drama that’s heartfelt or even amusing enough to be unintentionally funny. The 1971 Indo-Pak war backdrop is hazily built sans any care for factual accuracy or dramatic value. Pointlessly long, cringe-worthy dialogues fill up the scenes that any way lack any context or meaning. The viewer gets poetic justice with a supposedly tragic ending to a romance that shouldn’t have happened in the first place. The performances are as uninspiring and un-affecting as the writing. Karan Kundra, Naghma Rizwan, Harman Singha barely manage to rise above a shoddy script that has no rootedness or conviction in the storytelling. References to Akla Chalo Re and Rabindranath Tagore can’t alone suffice to tell a story set in Calcutta. Watching a snail nudge ahead gradually is more nailbiting than sitting through this humdrum saga. Rating: 1/5


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