Her film attempts, what at first glance seems impossible – to try and catch the essence of Kolkata in a 10-minute short film.
From the strained muscles of the rickshaw puller to the haughty roar of a Ferrari, from the serenity of the Ganga aarati at a ghat to the frantic bustle of the city’s markets – to combine such contrasts should be impossible. But that is exactly what 17-year-old Mahima Varma set out to do. Six months, thousands of videos later, the class XII student came up with ‘Kolkata: My Heartbeat’.
The film beautifully combines a frantic collage of images – ranging from typical street scenes such as a close up shot of a fuchka-sellers practiced hands to the air conditioned confines of swanky malls – with the beats of different percussion instruments. When asked if she had set out to make a film, the 17-year-old said, “No, I was just the girl who was always poring over her phone. This film is my tribute to the city. The city, which is my home and also my love,” she said.
Every scene in the film was shot by the student of Loreto House (Middleton Row) on her iPhone 6. “I ended up taking 3,000 shots. Anything that looked interesting was captured on my phone. When I sat down to write the scenes, that is when I realized I’d had to chose and finally I used 300 of those shots,” she said.
The film was screened on Saturday at Dublin at the ITC Sonar, Kolkata and while speaking about the film and the city, Varma repeatedly spoke about the ‘warmth’ and ‘love’ that this city has given to her. And it is this very warmth that she reciprocates while dealing with the city in her short film. Bellying traditional depiction of the city as one infested by the poor and struggling, she chooses to portray not just those who struggle in the city but the smiles that go along with it.
One such scene, lasting barely a few second features a transgender beggar at a red light, who, upon seeing the camera pointed towards her, decides to wiggle her eye brows rapidly – drawing applause and chuckles from the audience – “Everything in the city speaks to me. It’s very easy for someone growing up in the city to complain about what’s not there and perhaps even feel suffocated. But I think it is important to not think about what is wrong with the city, but find the beautiful,” said the young filmmaker.
Present at the screening was dancer and choreographer Tanushree Shankar, who is also featured in the film. She said, “Calcutta grows on you. I’m from an army background and came to the city for a few months during the holidays. But when I started living here I realized the true beauty of the city lies in its simplicity. There are absolutely no double standards.”