In the heart of Kolkata’s Bhowanipore neighbourhood, a piece of history stood tall for over two centuries, embodying the architectural and cinematic essence of an era gone by. This 220-year-old building, affectionately known as Singhi Bari, wasn’t just a relic of the past. It also played a pivotal role in one of India’s most iconic films, Satyajit Ray’s ‘Sonar Kella.’ Recently, a part of this iconic structure fell to the ground.
220-YO Singhi Bari In Kolkata Toppled
Light. Camera. Action. Lunch break. Sonar Kella. Jaisalmer. Satyajit Ray. 1974. pic.twitter.com/x9fmyWlKKm
— Mimpi🍁 (@mimpful) November 7, 2021
This architectural gem was the sole survivor on Paddapukur Road, showcasing a distinct feature of old Kolkata buildings. The red ‘roak,’ an expansive ledge on the ground floor, and more details made it stand out in the entire city. It was on this very ledge that Ray crafted the memorable scenes where the young boy, mistakenly kidnapped by the ‘dustu lok,’ played a pivotal role in ‘Sonar Kella.’
As per the reports from the Times of India, fortunately, the collapse occurred in the early hours. No injuries or entrapments have been reported since the incident. The sole occupant, Rinki Singh, who resided in the building with her two children, managed to escape safely.
The Collapse Of A Kolkata Landmark And Film Icon
Ghosh was happily accepted by Ray as a crew member. In fact, he even made a guest appearance in Ray’s ‘Sonar Kella’ aka ‘The Golden Fortress’. The non-Ray photographs captured by him are not less remarkable either. pic.twitter.com/DibcqA9Q4g
— সত্যান্বেষী (@satyanewshi) April 23, 2022
Singhi bari, originally constructed by Madhab Singha, the zamindar of Jagulia, in the late 18th century, was a masterpiece blending Bengali and European architectural influences. Ray’s choice of Singhi Bari as a shooting location was not arbitrary; it was a deliberate decision. To infuse authenticity and a sense of timelessness into his cinematic narrative, this place was his perfect choice. The house’s architectural elements, such as the red ‘roak,’ the large courtyard with ‘thakur dalan, or altar, and the ornate balustrades, perfectly complemented the story’s setting. They added a valued depth to the film’s visuals.
Over the years, the building’s western section had deteriorated significantly, prompting concerns about its structural integrity. The other two occupants, Rakesh Singh and Gobinda Das, had already vacated their portions due to safety concerns. Despite multiple notifications to the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) since 2016 regarding the building’s deteriorating condition, no action has been taken.
While the collapse of Singhi Bari’s portion is undoubtedly a loss in terms of architectural heritage, it also marks the end of an era in cinematic history.
Cover Image Courtesy: IMDB/Government of West Bengal