Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bangkok Traffic (Love) Story is a hit in Kolkata

Last year's No. 1 box-office hit Rot Fai Faa ... Maha Na Ter (รถไฟฟ้า...มาหานะเธอ) – Bangkok Traffic (Love) Story – recently played at the Kolkata Film Festival, where it played to a packed audience and was enthusiastically received.

I thought by now there would be an English-friendly DVD release of Bangkok Traffic (Love) Story, but I've come across nothing yet except for reports of a fan-subbed version making the rounds on a popular video-sharing website.

Anyway, Lekha Shankar caught the screening of the movie at the Kolkata fest, and she sent this report.

Story and photos by Lekha J. Shankar

A commercial Thai film that was a surprise hit at a serious Indian film festival, was Bangkok Traffic (Love) Story.

The most successful Thai film of 2009, it was a surprise choice at the Kolkata film festival, which is noted for its serious films and intense film culture.

After all, Kolkata, formerly Calcutta, is the city that produced the legendary Indian directors like Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen, the leaders of the great Bengali cinema.

In fact, the Kolkata festival is held at the Nandan Arts Centre, which was inaugurated by the great Ray.

The late director’s never-before-seen documentary Sikkim was the most-talked about movie at the festival, when it was pulled out after a single screening by a court injunction, thanks to not getting the right "permission" to screen it.

Ray’s 88-year-old colleague Mrinal Sen was a prominent figure at this year’s festival, where the opening film was the esoteric Costa Rican film Of Love and Other Demons, based on a novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a popular author in this literary-minded city.

Thanks to a severe budget cut this year, the festival focused more on old retrospectives rather than new, contemporary cinema.

These included the retros of legendary Japanese director Akira Kurasawa, whose 100th birth anniversary is being celebrated this year. His scriptwriter Takashi Koizumi attended Mumbai's MAMI festival last month, which also had a retro of the Japanese director. The Kolkata fest also had retros on directors Alain Resnais and Costa Gavras.

Next to these heavy-weight films, Bangkok Traffic (Love) Story seemed a wafer-light drama.

But may be wafer-light dramas do bring about a balance in today’s film festivals, studded as they are with heavy, introspective and experimental cinematic fare.

The Thai film had a jam-packed audience of young people, at the Nandan 3 theatre. They laughed and responded throughout the movie and broke into a loud applause at the end.

Later, several youngsters came up and said they thought the film was "awesome"!

"It was such an unusual love-story," remarked three youngsters, Debojit, Saurodip, and Moupriya, who said that they were doing a Media Studies degree in Kolkata Varsity. Agreeing with them was Sunipa, Sudipta and their friends, who watched the two-hour movie with rapt attention

Considering the movie was a huge hit with the young audiences of Bangkok, it looks like the youths of Asia have the same taste!

Meanwhile, several members of Kolkata's Tollywood film industry (named after the Tollygunge Studios) spoke fondly of the mega Bangla Awards event (Bangla is for Bengali, which is the language spoken in this region, Bengal) held in Bangkok in June with the support of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).

In fact, the Bangla Awards seems to have inspired many Bengali producers to shoot films in Thailand.

Well-known producer R.H. Kampani of Nugget Entertainment Co. said he had shared a warm conversation with the governor of the TAT during the Bangla Awards event in Bangkok, thanks to which he now planned to shoot his next film in Bangkok and Pattaya, starting in April, with two beautiful heroines.

The two Bengali beauties, Parichart and Piyas, stated that they were very excited about their film shooting in Bangkok and they had both heard a lot about the vibrant energy of the city.

Well, the TAT ploy worked. It's not just Bollywood that has discovered Thailand, but Tollywood as well.

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