Cat Sticks 2019 is the debut film of Kolkata based writer, photographer and now director Ronny Sen. The film premiered at Slamdance, 2019 and went on to win the award for Grand Jury. Ronny begun his career as a photographer and has two books published under his name, Khmer Din (2013) and End Of Time (2016).
The film is not what the audience would expect to be as a straight-out-of-the-box drug story. There is no redeeming of any character at the end. Ronny uses multiple story arcs with a litany of tragedy and zero happenstances. Through a mosaic of human delusion and search a very organic narrative of the city emerges on film.
Cat Sticks 2019 revolves around the lives of addicts in the City of Joy. The film plays under a rainy monsoon evening where every individual is stepping out for a high and weaving their private stories into the larger act of the movie. The drug abuse talks of all sorts of intoxication beginning with cigarettes, marijuana, circumlocutory to brown sugar. Murder, deception, religion, escape, libido and fame revolve around the central theme of escapism and the fleeting hunt for the true meaning of life.
The movie shows the city to be most alive in the underpasses and the most dingy lanes and cemeteries. There is a very looming sense of uncanny in the film. The sense of everything about to fall apart at any minute, follows the most decisive scenes.
Gods, Religion And Intoxication in Cat Sticks 2019
Cat Sticks 2019 has a very uncommon and unnatural approach as compared to generic Bengali Cinema. Ronny Sen has been quite experimental with his representation of concept through placed symbolism. The film is a biography of the hidden nocturne. The movie also has an old world charm threading with post-modernity.
This poverty stricken puny miser, who could not provide shelter to his own homeless subjects,Deeno Daan, Rabindranath Tagore. (translated)
Does he really fancy he can give me a home?
That is the day God left that Temple of yours.
And joined the poor beside the roads, under the trees.
The constant over watch of a God is present in the film. It makes the viewer very conscious of a certain ominous and omnipotent presence that sits deep on the karma of every character in the movie. In most of the shifty decisions made by the characters they are in presence of a higher order. The haunting idol of Hanuman when Ronnie (Summet Thakur) and Potol (Sounak Kundu) are thieving into the night, the ‘old man’ as Tamanna bhai plots to hide the corpse of the dead dealer or the foreboding father of Deshik (Saurabh Saraswat) as he tries to smoke up brown sugar inside the bathroom at his home.
Kolkata Under A Neo-Noir Umbrella
The neo-noir symbolism is a result of the extensive use of night gloom. The scene and framing of the scenes represent a form of absence and emptiness which the movie achieves by the use of light. Shadows fall in the right places and carefully demarcate the minimal characters in the scene. Every scene has the presence of a shadow by a character. The characters all walk with a shadow and it is very representative of the haunting Shakespearean trope – Life is, but a walking shadow, …
Transgenders of the City
There is one scene that revolves around the evening of a intersex person. The Hijra ( intersex people) community of Bengal and their maltreatment is depicted against the backdrop of their daily toils in support of their family. The echoing dialogue of ‘Ki dibi ‘ is direct attack towards the city of Bengal as to what it has to offer to the transgender community. The truck driver then brutally rapes them and throws them onto the muddled slurry street.
The film is a very graphic representation of the culture followed in the shadowy pseudo-romanticised lanes under Kolkata’s night scape.
The transgenders are an integral part of the city and are rarely mentioned on any news on televised broadcast. They have a very close connection to the heart of the society and are also mostly invested to begging on the streets. Unlike other motley beggars they bless the giving and grant them good fortune in return of a feeble exchange.
The meeting of Toto (Kalpan Mitra), Raja (Soumyajit Majumdar) and Tamanna Bhai (Joyraj Bhattacharjee) bring the only observable murder in the movie.David the drug dealer is in contact of Toto. Toto hangs around with local goons who leech of his ‘scores’. Toto is the idle college goer who is also involved in the drug scene
David who peddles narcotics to young college goers is a representation of the Christian Anglo-Indian community of West Bengal. His interaction with Tamanna Bhai, the Muslim character is shown to brew a conflict where David represents a bottled hate that spews out as slang and extreme insult. Tamanna’s rustic self lashes out against him and he kills him in a fit of rage. A state of delirium follows where Toto and Tamanna decide how to get rid of the body without suspicion. Ironically Toto being the only clever one suggests an immediate cremation at a local burning ghat.
Social Stigma and Human Ladder in Cat Sticks 2019
As the film draws to a close, the underbelly of the city and its creeping classicism is dissected inter-texually. The haphazard meandering of characters throughout the movie in search of intoxication leads Pablo (Rahul Dutta) directly into the slums. Here he encounters the lowest rungs of the society. This closing scene is very pivotal. It shows how there is segregation even in the trenches of the society and everyone stands at a chance of being outcast. The demarcating line of who is the lowest vanishes against the blurry backdrop of chaos and hunt.
A worker asks Pablo to pitch with him on buying some brown sugar. Pablo feels pity and does so even when the dealer alerts him that this is just a usual tactic they play. They stroll into the empty grounds and encounter another low class worker who begs Pablo for a drag. The accompanying worker swiftly lashes out at him and calls him a fraud.
The worker narrates how the government gets hold of these workers with the promise of daily wage. The money does not come in completely. There is always a hidden deduction at the expense of the worker.
The scenes are a slice of the nocturne and very real. The locations and scenarios scream of every neon-lit alley that has ever existed in Kolkata and frequented by today’s civilians. Cat Sticks stands as a stall mark film of the new decade and echoes unheard voices of the city. The blind eye of the government against daily wage workers coupled with the intriguing nightlife of a dancer seeking the stars on the Bollywood boulevard are enough too keep the audience thinking as to what is even real.The visuals are very striking and last long enough in the mind of the viewer. The use of fresh actors uplifts the movie at a different scale which caters to a new audience.
Most of the scenes are moving photographs. This represents Ronny’s very scopic vision of the scenes. As confessed by him, Cat Sticks is an ode to the city and its addicts that rot and scuttle seeking out the next high under the cloak of a dark Kolkata night. It ends to the swan song of Moushumi Bhowmick humming the scattered dreams and delusions of these tethered underdogs.
Nobody is sleeping.Federico García Lorca
If someone does close his eyes,
a whip, boys, a whip!
Let there be a landscape of open eyes
and bitter wounds on fire.
No one is sleeping in this world. No one, no one.
I have said it before.
No one is sleeping.