French author Dominique Lapierre wrote a grim satire book on the Indians named ‘City Of Joy’ in 1985. In the book, he narrates the story of a slum in Kolkata called Anand Nagar, which means the city of joy. He was so much overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of human suffering concealed behind the name that he adopted it as the title of his internationally best-selling book on Calcutta.
The author wrote this story based on his three years of extensive research in Calcutta and various areas of Bengal. His novel, based upon a slum-based neighborhood, Pilkhana, near Howrah Station, takes a dig at Calcutta as a dying city. In the book, he mainly concentrated on the poverty of Kolkata. No wonder it failed to impress the locals.
- The novel was further adapted to a 1992 film with the same name. During the shooting of the movie in Calcutta, the crew had to handle vocal protests. They faced opposition from the Government of West Bengal (which banned the film) and the Calcutta press that objected to the representation of the city.
- At that time, the Culture Minister of West Bengal State, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya called the book an insult to every Indian. He denounced the book as “insulting to a Calcuttan’s dignity” and said the story was based on the “racist stand of a white man.” The script underwent 13 rewrites.
- If Calcuttans had their way, the film, City of Joy, might never have been made.
- Ace Indian actors Om Puri and Shabana Azmi played the role of a rickshaw puller and his wife in the movie. The movie is still unavailable in India on the OTT platform, Amazon prime.
The question arises that when the residents themselves renounced the City Of Joy(book), then why this culturally acclaimed place feels the pride to associate with this term. Well, the author himself acknowledges that it is the spirit of Kolkata. It is all about how people learn, despite incredibly difficult odds, to survive, to share, and to love. It is about the resilience of the human spirit in the face of tragedy.
Kolkata is a very different experience. Unlike the other metropolis, Kolkata is accessible and visually fascinating. Kolkata is the only metro city that affords warmth to everyone. Here, rich and poor both can survive.
The people of Kolkata have an easy-going approach towards life. You feel welcome by the locals, and their kindness touches your heart.
People enjoy and celebrate their festivals together, be it Durga Puja, Christmas, or new year celebrations. The city has many art centers and conducts exhibitions around the year. You get to taste some of the best delicacies and street food in Kolkata.