An urban legend in Kolkata, who believes that the sun goes around the earth, is now the subject of a documentary film.
On the tree-lined pavement across the Kalighat metro station in south Kolkata, where tea shacks, pice hotels and magazine stalls invite commuters to linger, a conversation with Kartik Chandra Paul is impossible without interruption. “Ki dada? Enakeo bojachen apnar dhoper kotha (Are you feeding him your cock-and-bull theory too)?” taunts a passerby.
Paul continues undeterred, explaining to us the intricacies of his theory about the sun revolving around the earth and not vice-versa. The self-proclaimed scientist and astronomer, who has been trying to prove this theory for almost 40 years now, has earned the dubious distinction of being a Kolkata relic. In his latest novel, Grand Delusions, Indrajit Hazra uses KC Paul as a metaphor for the city he inhabits — both steeped in delusions.
For decades, Paul’s scribbling — “All scientists are fools” and “The sun goes around the earth” — on walls and lampposts around the city have made him a mystery for Kolkatans.
At the stretch of the pavement, which Paul calls home for the past few years (he has made himself a shack of laminated leaflets proclaiming his theories), he is the subject of continuous chiding, both good-natured and hostile. Tea-sellers serve tea with a half-smile, and hawkers point out to his shack with a dismissive gesture. “I don’t want to argue with the layman who doesn’t understand science,” says Paul, as he hands us copies of his books which he sells for Rs 5 each at busy junctures of the city. The books, as he refers to them, are little more than stapled photocopied leaflets with haphazardly pasted copies of various newspaper articles written on him. “I have written to NASA quite a number of times and they have written back to me twice. Both times — in 1974 and in the 1980s — they told me that they don’t have the funds to help me in my research,” says Paul.
However, when you meet Paul in his cramped shack, talk to him while he prepares his meal and observe him while he slips into a clean shirt before he makes his daily rounds of Kolkata buses, it’s difficult to be cynical about him. For documentary filmmaker Mithun Pramanik, who has made some Kolkata-based documentaries for Al Jazeera channel, KC Paul’s story is an inspiring survivor tale. “I respect his dedication to his vision. He let go of a cushy life to follow his vision and has stuck to it for close to five decades. As a storyteller, that is inspiring for me,” says Pramanik, who is making a 40-minute documentary on Paul’s life.
The documentary will talk about Paul’s days in the army (he joined the continued…