Calcutta (now Kolkata) is the only city in India where the trams are still running and I am happy that the government is not planning to take it off the tracks.
Visited Calcutta last week for a family function and I made it a point to have a ride in one of the old jaunty jalopies. It runs at its own pace, the frequency between trips may be far and few in-between, but it takes you from point A to point B, does not pollute, and is cheap.
The closest point for me to board the tram was the Maidan station and I am glad I did that as I could capture these slow moving carriages against the backdrop of lush green surroundings.
Brought back memories of the trams we had in Bombay which went off the tracks in 1964 (did write about it earlier)
While I took the ride, I was observing the driver and realized how alert he had to be. He has his left hand on the accelerator, his right hand on the brake and his leg operates the warning bell.
There are no rear view mirrors, so every time when the tram stops he goes to the side and looks back to see if all has boarded and then takes over the levers. There is no way he can apply sudden brakes, so he has to be always proactive and on the look out for the pedestrians crossing. His worst night mare must be driving through the thick of the city traffic, so his leg is continuously jangling the bell.
At times the carriage is almost empty and the conductor is relaxed.
We had a mother daughter duo who was begging while making an attempt to sing a Hindi song with the help of two pieces of tiles to keep the rhythm. (it worked something like a castanet)
I did capture some good still and video shots of the journey and tried to make a five minute video of it.
About the video
Holding the camera steady in the tram was a challenge. So having the elbows (and knees) slightly bend I made it work like a steady cam. Many did not know that I was holding a camera so that ‘staring into the camera’ situation did not arise. I managed to capture some shots of the passengers inside and some lovely view of the race course and its fence outside.
After putting together all the snippets, the final task was to wave that magic wand known as Music. Somebody rightly said that music adds magic to any video.
Getting the right music for this video was the challenge. Went through many Bengali songs but none of them went with the tempo of the movement of the tram. I tried the popular song Ekla Cholo Re by Kishore Kumar (a very old one) with some lovely Bengali music but it did not blend with the rhythm. But when I tried Ekla Cholo Re by Amitabh Bachchan, it blended perfectly with the slow pace of the tram. After completing the video, one of my friends commented “this song goes unnoticed in the original movie (Kahani) but here the song and the video compliment each other perfectly”
After a few days the same guy said “why don’t you put it in a CD and send it to Amitabh? I am sure he will like it”
I said I just know that he stays in some Jalsa in Mumbai and don’t have the proper mailing address. Moreover, he is such a busy man making so many people crorepatis with his multiple choice answers that he won’t have time to look at a 5 minute CD from an ordinary mortal from Pune.
"Don’t you worry about that" he said "just burn the CD and keep it ready, I will get the address for you"
Now I am really tempted to send that CD as I am mighty pleased with the outcome of the video. Maybe something rubbed off on me from the homeland of Satyajit Ray.
(to see the video click on the picture below.)