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Aditya Vikram Sengupta returns to the 78th Venice International Film Festival with Once Upon A Time in Calcutta

Photo Credit: Supplied

Director Aditya Vikram Sengupta’s third feature film in Bengali language, ‘Once Upon A Time In Calcutta’ will have its World Premiere in the 78th Venice International Film Festival to be held from September 1st to 11th, 2021. It’s the only Indian film in this year’s festival edition and is competing in Orizzonti (Horizons), an international competition section dedicated to films that represent the latest aesthetic and expressive trends in international cinema.

‘Once Upon A Time In Calcutta’ marks Aditya’s return to Venice International Film Festival after his debut film, ‘Labour of Love’ (2014), which premiered in Venice Days section, along with films by veterans such as Kim Ki-duk and Laurent Cantet where he won the FEDEORA award for Best Debut. His second film, the art house favourite, ‘Jonaki’ (2018) premiered at International Film Festival Rotterdam.

Inspired by true events, Aditya pays homage to Calcutta in his third narrative feature, which follows the life of a bereaved mother trying to desperately find a new identity, love and independence, but soon realizes that she is not the only scavenger in a city brimming with hunger.

Along with screen veterans such as Sreelekha Mitra and Bratya Basu, the film features an ensemble cast selected over two years – Satrajit Sarkar, Arindam Ghosh, Reetika Nondine Shimu and Anirban Chakrabarti along with young debutant Shayak Roy. A cast of non-professional actors, including Aditya’s own father, Tridib Sengupta, have also featured in significant roles.

The film is shot by Palme d’Or winner, Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s cinematographer, Gokhan Tiryaki and music is composed by Dutch composer, Minco Eggersman.

Thrilled about returning to Venice Film Festival, Aditya Vikram Sengupta says, “Venice is a dream festival for any filmmaker and we are extremely grateful and excited to be back with a Bengali film about the city, especially on the 100 birth centenary of Satyajit Ray”.

Presented by Wishberry Films and produced by For Films in association with Catherine Dussart Productions (France) and DUOFilm AS (Norway), the film is supported by Cannes L’Atleier, NFDC Film Bazaar, Sorfond and CNC cinema du monde.


After the loss of her daughter, Ela not only loses her identity as a mother, but also the only reason to be with her husband. When she is refused a home loan by the bank, her boss, owner of a massive Ponzi scheme, makes her an offer she struggles to accept. Ela reconnects with her stepbrother to reclaim her half of an old family theatre, but he refuses, blaming Ela for his own dark fate. In between all this, Ela’s childhood sweetheart resurfaces and gives her the warmth and hope for a new beginning. Just as Ela starts living the life she had dreamed for herself, she realises that she isn’t the only scavenger in the city brimming with hunger.

Director’s Statement:

This film is a culmination of personal feelings and emotions for the city of Calcutta and its people, especially as it tries to catch up to the rapidly changing world. Leveraging real characters and actual events, the film is my effort to chip away the various layers of the previously communist city to reveal a human condition that is tragic and yet full of hope and joy. The film highlights the aspirations and struggles of people gasping for breath in an ever-expanding metropolis. For the viewer, I have tried to create a real glimpse into the murky waters of Calcutta, with colourful characters, all trying very hard to find a corner of their own without drowning.

About the Director:

Aditya Vikram Sengupta (6 September 1983, India) is an Indian filmmaker, artist and musician. His first film, the wordless ‘Asha Jaoar Majhe’ or ‘Labour of Love’, released in 2014 premiered at the Venice International Film Festival in the Venice Days section where it won the FEDEORA Award for Best Director of a Debut Film. His second film ‘Jonaki’, an art-house favourite, premiered at the International Film Festival of Rotterdam. Once Upon A Time In Calcutta, an homage to the city he calls home is an international collaboration between India-France-Norway. He is currently developing his fourth film.

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