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Something to Chew On

A film looks at the link between Kolkata street vendors and office-goers.

Written by Debesh Banerjee | Updated: May 12, 2015 12:00:25 am
talk, mumbai talk, Sarmistha Dutta Roy, documentary, documentarey filmmaker, Office Para, 180 Seconds, documentary film A shot of pavement fare from Office Para.

Every weekday from noon, the pavements outside the government offices in Dalhousie Square, Kolkata, come alive with an unusual buzz.

Street hawkers and pavement dwellers set up food stalls, with plastic chairs and tables, and mini fans just in time to feed the offices workers who descend in droves at lunch break. Once the break is over, the hawkers pack up their wares and leave for home by the evening ferry. Documentary filmmaker Sarmistha Dutta Roy faced the challenge of capturing all that energy in less than three minutes or 180 seconds in Office Para. “It is not easy to work on such a tight brief. I did not want my film to look like a travelogue in the process,” says the 43-year-old, whose film is a part of a Goethe Institute project titled, “180 Seconds”.

The project, spread across 16 cities worldwide, creates a collection of more than 64 short films that highlight how a city interacts with its residents and how small corners of urban life resist the idea of change. The project, which can only be viewed online, is spread across four seasons or parts.

Roy’s film does not have any dialogue, nor is there a protagonist or a distinct storyline. It is rich in visuals — of hawkers setting up shop, preparing dishes such as fish and rice, chowmein, dosa-idli and roti-tarka as office-goers eat with single-minded concentration. “I have created the film from an outsider’s perspective. I wanted to stay away from touristy sites such as Kalighat, Victoria Memorial, and to focus on the quirky side of the city. These hawkers come from different parts of the city and, like office-goers, work through the morning, setting up shop and leaving by ferries at dusk,” adds Roy, who teaches Film Studies at Muralidhar College, Calcutta University. The film was shot over three days in February.

Season one has been put up on http://www.goethe. de/india /180sec, and YouTube, and entries from other seasons will be released over the course of the year. You can vote for your favourite film on

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