(Photos: PTI1_14_2018_000020B; PTI1_14_2018_000021B; PTI1_14_2018_000022B; PTI1_14_2018_000023B) New Delhi, Jan 14 (PTI) The over 150-year-old journey of the iconic Calcutta High Court, spanning its history, heritage and forgotten anecdotes, is all set to come alive in a documentary for which the court has opened its doors for the first time.
The country’s oldest high court, set up in 1862, has commissioned the project, seeking to celebrate its illustrious legacy and preserve it for the posterity, and roped in noted filmmaker Goutam Ghose to helm it.
“For the first time, cameras have been allowed to roll inside the main building of the high court, so the film will showcase some rare vignettes of history, besides capturing the monumental journey of this famed institution,” Ghose said.
The acclaimed filmmaker, whose body of work includes several documentaries, including on the Asiatic Society (‘River of Knowledge’) and shehnai legend Ustad Bismilliah Khan (‘Meeting a Milestone’), said he is treating the project “more as a storytelling film than a traditional documentary”.
“We have filmed in Calcutta and the Circuit Bench in Port Blair. We went to shoot in Campbell Bay in Andaman & Nicobar Islands which has the lowest point of the Indian territory (Indira Point). About 60 per cent of the shooting is done,” he told PTI over phone.
The 57-year-old filmmaker, said the project was “interesting and difficult” and involves a lot of academic research, for which he is digging up archival records from various sources.
“The Calcutta High Court has opened its rich archives to us, which includes some of the landmark cases, and the details on the building of the court, which is an architectural marvel,” he said.
The imposing Gothic building was designed by Walter Granville on the model of the ‘Stadt-Haus’ or Cloth Hall at Ypres in Belgium.
“The film will also thus showcase some of the architectural elements of the grand building that have hitherto been out-of-bounds for people. One interesting thing also we found out that during the Second World War time, some experts had come to Calcutta from Brussels to study its architecture as the Stadt-Haus was damaged,” Ghose said.
The High Court at Calcutta, formerly known as the High Court of Judicature at Fort William, was brought into existence by the Letters Patent dated May 14, 1862, issued under the High Court’s Act, 1861, which provided that the jurisdiction and powers of the high court were to be defined by Letters Patent.
It was formally opened on July 1, 1862, with Sir Barnes Peacock as its first Chief Justice. The Calcutta High Court has the distinction of being the first high court and one of the three chartered high courts to be set up in India, along with the high courts of Bombay and Madras.
Appointed on February 2, 1863, Justice Sumboo Nath Pandit was the first Indian to assume office as a judge of the Calcutta High Court, followed by legal luminaries such as Justice Dwarka Nath Mitter, Sir Ashutosh Mookerjee and Justice P B Chakravartti, who was the first Indian to become its permanent Chief Justice, according to the high court website.
“So, much of history is embedded in its journey and lives of personalities like Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda and Aurobindo Ghosh are connected with it.
“As a filmmakers, I am more interested in the human drama and emotions that spring from the very existence of a court, its hurrying staff, or the plight of the common man, so in that way it is like working on a feature film,” said Ghose, who has won National Award multiple times.
For research, he said, the team is also going through archives at the Victoria Memorial Hall, the Asiatic Society, besides, personal collections.
“We are also feeding in anecdotes associated with the court and a Bengali account ‘Kata Aja Nare’ (many unknown things) is proving a big help, besides oral history given by old-timers,” Ghose added.
Asked if landmark case episodes will be reconstructed through actors, the filmmaker said, “No. Role-playing somehow tends to be not very loyal to the original setting or the character portrayed. We are thinking of using graphics to recreate the era.”
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.