Year 2019 — Kabir Singh featured Shahid Kapoor in the lead whose heart would beat only for the character played by Kiara Advani. His life’s goal was to ultimately find happiness with the true love of his life.
In 2020 — It Happened In Calcutta features Karan Kundrra in the lead, playing a playboy, who takes the character played by female lead Naghma Rizwan to bed, only to realise a decade later that she is his true love.
In a way, the web series — an Ekta Kapoor product on the ZEE 5 and ALT Balaji platforms — is Kabir Singh revisited, albeit with a twist. But wait, let us talk about the similarities first.
For starters, just like the all-time blockbuster featuring Shahid Kapoor and Kiara Advani, this one also has its lead protagonists (Karan Kundraa and Naghma Rizwan) playing doctors. There is a possessiveness quotient in both male leads. Shahid’s character believes the character played by Kiara is his personal property, his ‘bandi’, while Karan’s character also wants to own Naghma, even if it is momentarily.
However, there is a difference in the way female leads react to the situation, even if temporarily. Kiara’s character is totally submissive to that of Shahid in Kabir Singh. On the other hand, Naghma’s character, even while being the only female medical student in a Kolkata college back in the 1960s, has a mind of her own and does not surrender herself to Karan instantly. She needs her heart to be won over, even though the first time she sees the young man, it is with another person.
No wonder, the character played by Karan is no saint. A self-proclaimed Casanova ‘jis par college ki har ladki marti hai‘, he believes that sex does not have to be taken seriously. It does not come across as a surprise that he is also an expert in illegal abortions. He is also a bit crude when it comes to his outlook towards women and rest assured, had Shahid Kapoor played this character in 2019, it would have been taken far more scandalously as compared to his 1960s persona.
However, all is fair in love for Karan’s character as he is not just two timing Naghma with his steady girlfriend-cum-fiancée (played by Simran Kaur Mundi), but continues to chase every other woman. Still (and this one is a big ‘still’), Naghma eventually falls for his charm and now expects ‘sachcha pyaar‘ from the man.
The guy who watches it all rather silently is Harman Singha, her ‘bachpan ka saathi‘, who tries to instil sense in her to begin with, only to give up after a while. A twist in the tale around the mid-point of this 10-episode series later, the story moves a decade ahead. Karan’s character is now a London-based doctor who visits India in order to fight the cholera epidemic while Naghma has emerged as the topper of her college and is practicing in India. Fate gets them face-to-face once again. So, will Karan repent after all? And will Naghma forgive him?
Well, It Happened In Calcutta could have turned out to be rather unbelievable if not for the kind of conviction with which Ken Ghosh, who has earlier made that superb crime series Abhay with Kunal Khemu, directs it. He gets quite a few things right and that starts from making the 1960s setting believable. Right from the props to the costumes, to the general look and feel, you are indeed transported to the era. The story also moves forward at a good pace. The duration of each episode being just 20-odd minutes helps too.
The background score works well at many crucial junctures, though at times they are joined abruptly with the mood changing from romantic to light-hearted to dramatic at an alarming pace. Shot almost indoors entirely, it has the right cinematography in place to compliment the mood and the setting. However, the climax could have been much better as it seems like a rushed job with the action sequence featuring the Pakistan Army and Naxals not quite exciting enough. Moreover, the ending is a bit abrupt and a better finale would have been more apt.
That said, what you remember most is the core of the story and the way in which Karan and Naghma’s characters act on screen. While Simran and Harman play their supporting roles well, Karan gets his Casanova part right as you are convinced about his grey (bordering towards black) shade. On the other hand, Naghma is quite impressive and boasts of that classic beauty persona which could help her climb further up the ladder in the world of glamour.
Though not a classic per se despite the period setting, It Happened In Calcutta can be given a dekko if you want to imagine a forward (and grey-ish) Kabir Singh in the 1960s.
(Joginder Tuteja is a trade expert and film critic. Views are personal)
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