7 films that give you a culture-soaked tour of Kolkata, on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and more

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There is something fascinating about Kolkata’s rich colonial history that has often inspired filmmakers to seek it out for their stories. From Satyajit Ray’s Mahanagar (1963) which was one of his first films to be set entirely in Kolkata, and Guru Dutt’s 1957 classic Pyaasa, to more recent fare like The Namesake (2006) and Te3N (2016), cinema has celebrated the city's beautiful architecture, socio-political past, vibrant culture and narrow alleys in all their glory. While Howrah Bridge remains a staple in most films shot in the West Bengal capital, directors have often gone beyond the iconic structure for a deep dive into the city’s culture and traditions. So, are you ready to be transported to the City of Joy?

Piku (2015)

This simple slice-of-life film that explores a father-daughter relationship had many things going for it. But one of the mainstays was Kolkata, which becomes almost a character in the movie. It’s the vast ancestral house, the narrow lanes and the quaint charm of north Kolkata that Piku (Deepika Padukone) and her cantankerous father Bhashkor (Amitabh Bachchan) find a quiet understanding.  

Streaming on Sony LIV

Kahaani (2012)

When Vidya Bagchi (Vidya Balan) goes in search of her missing husband in Kolkata, the city is at times her accomplice and, at others, her adversary. Shot entirely in the West Bengal capital, the Sujoy Ghosh-directorial skilfully pays a tribute to the vibrant city. If you’re familiar with the area, you will notice the Kalighat Metro Station, Mona Lisa Guest House and quite a few local establishments. The climax of the film that depicts the last day of Durga Puja, was actually shot at a Durga Puja celebration on Vijayadashami at Ballygunge. How’s that for keeping it real?

Streaming on Netflix

Parineeta (2005)

Kolkata was still Calcutta in this musical romantic drama directed by Pradeep Sarkar, which also marked the entry of Vidya Balan into Hindi films. Set in the '60s, the story revolves around two childhood lovers who belong to different social statuses. The period tale offers a chance to get a glimpse of Bengali culture, costumes and architecture of the city.

Streaming on Netflix

Detective Byomkesh Bakshy (2015)

The setting for Dibakar Banerjee’s mystery thriller was World War II, so quite a few portions of the Sushant Singh Rajput-starrer were shot at a studio in Mumbai. However, Kolkata made an appearance in the outdoor sequences that made full use of the jetties along the river Agarpura, Presidency University and Bow Barracks.

Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

Gunday (2014)

While the song 'Tu Ne Maari Entriyaan' gave us a glimpse of the Kali shrine in Dakshineshwar on the banks of the Ganga river, ‘Jashn-e-Ishqa’ was shot at the iconic Howrah Bridge. The film set in the ’70s and ’80s stars Priyanka Chopra, Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor, and is about two outlaws who fall in love with the same girl. The movie took the viewers on a literal Kolkata darshan throughout its duration.

Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

Yuva (2004)

Initially titled ‘Howrah Bridge’—the three protagonists’ lives are changed in a myriad of ways after an incident one night at the very location—Mani Ratnam’s political thriller was way ahead of its time. Kolkata provides an apt backdrop for the story of the three men who belong to different social statuses, while also being a powerful ally in furthering the plot.  

Streaming on Netflix

Lootera (2013)

Vikramaditya Motwane’s directorial, partly based on O Henry’s short story, The Last Leaf, is set in India at a time when the country had recently gained independence. Varun (Ranveer Singh), a conman posing as an archaeologist, falls in love with Pakhi (Sonakshi Sinha), a Bengali zamindar’s daughter. Shot in the interiors of Kolkata, the film beautifully captures the rustic charm of rural locations.

Streaming on Netflix

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