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Calcutta Club USA Organizes Caleidoscope 2016

Chitravanu Neogy

Caleidoscope 2016, the largest competitive Bengali Film Festival in the United States, was held on Sep 10 and 11 in the neighboring states of Massachusetts and New Hampshire. A total of 6 contemporary feature films and 2 short films were selected for screening from a number of submissions made online through the festival portal www.calfilmfest.org as well as distributor channels.The movies were shown daylong in two prominent theaters, Apple Cinemas in Cambridge, MA and Chunky’s Cinema in Nashua, NH. The event was organized by Calcutta Club USA of Acton, MA whose co-founder Ruma Neogy explained - “The fun of a film fest is you can watch a movie marathon in 6 hours and your mind automatically compares and contrasts the quality and experience of successive flicks.”

The Tollywood film industry in Kolkata came together to support the unprecedented effort to bring Bengali cinema to mainstream US theaters. This was the second incidence of Caleidoscope, and a significant step up from the single day show last year in terms of quality of films, number of awards, geographic reach and the duration of the fest. A four member experienced jury panel, none Bengali, evaluated the screenings along multiple dimensions. Said Caleidoscope judge Howard Phillips, a Boston based film instructor and a Satyajit Ray fan - “What an amazing range of beautifully made films - it wasn’t easy to make selections! I felt simultaneously honored to have been invited to participate on the panel of judges, nervous about which criteria to apply and very excited to watch Bengali films! I am impressed with the unflagging enthusiasm of everyone involved in the organization of the event,from the initial invitations, to following through with questions and concerns from various panel members, to the inevitable technical challenges, all the way through the Awards ceremony itself. Thankfully working with the other judges, we feel we made some good decisions.”

And so they did, proving that outstanding performance and creativity can shine through the walls of linguistic and cultural diversity. TeenKahon, the debut feature film from Little Lamb Productions was the big winner of the night with awards for Best Film, Best Director and Best Actor Ashish Vidyarthi. This was no surprise for TeenKahon had travelled to 48 film festivals in the past one year, winning a slew of accolades. Speaking live from Mumbai over the phone at the award ceremony, director Bauddhayan Mukherji noted the significance of the day, as TeenKahon had been released in theaters on Sep 11, 2015. He thanked the organizers and expressed confidence that Caleidoscope will soon grow into a premier international film festival.

The varied nature of plots in Caleidoscope 2016 films made for much of their attraction. While TeenKahon covered three separate stories of obsession over a period of 100 years, Maya Mridanga by Raja Sen was a fascinating treatise on Bengal’s folk song legend Jhaksu Ustad and the complete devotion to music required by such artists; it won the Audience Choice Award. Dark Chocolate took us through the pathos of the real life Sheena Bora murder story with some excellent thespian skills by Mahima Choudhry, bagging her the Best Actress award. D-Major, an unreleased film depicted the travails of a displaced suburban girl fascinated with learning guitar. Hemanta, a modern day version of Hamlet by acclaimed director Anjan Dutt showcased brilliant performances by lead actors. The movie went on to win the late Commissioner Van McLeod Award for technical excellence and the best actor in a negative role. Receiving the trophy, US distributor for the film Soumitra De commented “Saswata Chatterjee was incredible as Kalyan Sen (Claudius) and I am glad that the judges agreed his portrayal was deservedly, award-worthy.” Chorabali, the final movie of the event was a whodunit thriller, inspired by an Agatha Christie bestseller. Finally, the best Short Film prize went to Elixir by Anirban Guha; both Elixir and the other short film “In a Free State” made it earlier to the Cannes Short Corner.

The New Hampshire Commissioner for the arts Michael York, the Mayor of Nashua Jim Donchess, Senator Betty Lasky, Director Matt Newton and NH State Representative Latha Mangipudi were among several distinguished guests at the awards night at Chunky’s and later at the Caleidoscope festival banquet at Udupi. “We welcome the Indian community and Calcutta Club to hold more such festivals and we will provide the support that you need”, said the mayor Jim Donchess, who also gave away the key awards. Chitro Neogy, co-founder of the Calcutta Club USA, observed the significance of the event on Sept 11 as the day to be remembered for fostering greater cultural immersion between nations and pledged to pledged that Caleidoscope will return to New Hampshire next year. The Indian Consul General, Riva Ganguly Das wrote to the club “We would love to work with you for organizing film festivals in Boston or any other area.” The event enjoyed the support of many sponsors, including The Boston Group, Kolkata24x7, Urban Public Companies, Dr Gouri Datta, Aalok Fashions, Apple Cinemas and the City of Nashua.

Calcutta Club USA, the host of Caleidoscope, is a small Boston area organization established in 2015, with the charter of promoting art, lifestyle, cuisine and literature of Bengal in North America. Its also organizes two other annual public events - Sanskriti Literature Fest and Cuisinier Culinary Competition. More information on the club and its activities can be obtained at www.calcuttaclubusa.com.

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