Arjun Gourisaria and Moinak Biswas’s Spring in the Colony portrays the dynamics and struggles in the city of Calcutta and maps the city through a mixture of hallucinated and realistic perceptions. The exhibition of the boundaries and coordinates in the film constructs a remarkable setting for the experiential momentum of cityness.
Spring in the Colony shows a portrait of omnipresent boundaries and tumbling coordinates within the stationary frame in a shifting perspective， as an almost sporadic narrative of the sorrowful love story, petty crime and mundane livelihood of the inhabitants of the fringe of Calcutta unravels.
The plot of the film appears to be lack of eye-catching thread of drama and emotional shock at the first sight. Stable exposure to a character as an important factor for creating the linkage between the audience and the character is diluted through the rapidly shifting perspective and murky areas of hallucination. Although conversations ranging from dreamily poetic to abruptly vulgar flooding various scenes and lively sounds recorded from the shooting sites are able to recreate the reality-like perception of daily life, the camera held at eye-level and deliberate distance for the shots serve to desaturate the touch of emotions of the characters, contracting the direct passage to the inner space of characters like Atin, Ananya and the thieves.
In contrast to the blurry causal relationship between the events, the spatial arrangement of the film is distinctively structured and defined with clear-cut boundaries and well-observed coordinates.
The macroscopic boundaries of the city through the arrangement of three distinctive sections without gradual transition: the chaotic and lively Colony, the arrogant and metropolitan White Town, and the surreal and strange New Town, impose an overarching structure dissecting the city into various functioning bodies and modes. The old colony full of impoverished immigrants and rampant local political and social conflicts serves as the container of the collective memory by revelation of historic roots of ongoing conflicts as well as individual’s nostalgia forming the bond between the habitants and the land. Atin and thieves form two moving parties departing the old colony and entering the strange realm of White Town in pursuit of their own dreams. As the new realm of White Town unravels its glamour colored with debauch and delirium in the second section, lingering disappointment and fear originated from the material culture grow into dominating momentum, pushing the “intruders” from the old colony towards the even stranger and extreme realm of the New Town. The New Town unveils yet another mode of the city of Calcutta in the solitude and surrealism as the monstrous incubator of the new territory of cityness. Idyllic illusion, materialistic desire and monstrous expansionary ambition mingle effortlessly in the seemingly irrelevant and undefined realm of the city, where industrial chemicals and serene moment of sunrise cohabit and where flux of information comes and goes, leaving everything waiting for the uncontrollable and chaotic beginning. The boundaries of spaces, functions and modes of the city are not only manifested in the macroscopic design of the body of the city, but also in the livelihood of the habitants through the microscopic scenes and details. Examples such as division of domestic and public space or territories of individuals through light contrast effectively forming split-screen effect, scenes shot from windows and doors blocked by walls or bars, and even the cross-section of wall and subjective contrast of silence and chaos are among the commonly used strategies for creating the sense of separation to form suggested boundaries in the film.
The sense of familiarity and association with the world around us could be heavily dependent on the choice of the point of origin, from which we start off to explore the unknown realm, and the coordinates, which provides the sense of direction and distance essential for the mapping process. In a way, stationary points of origins of various characters can create a map of familiarity, posing as the coordinate for other characters. The film features the destruction of such origin and coordinates, which reveals the powerful force of modernity and development, stirring conflicting interests and giving birth to displacement in the realm of familiarity.
In Spring in the Colony, although the story proceeds with chase sequence and shifting spatial relationships, the points of origin and coordinate for various characters fall within the realm of the old colony: Atin’s old house, the shopkeeper’s provision shop, Ananya’s room, idling teenager’s bamboo perch, etc. It is from these points of origin the exploration of the outer world starts and after the destruction of such points of origin and coordinates when the sense of loss and liberation from boundary begins. Atin’s escape from origin for the beloved illusion marks the departure from the known and familiar. However when he returns to his origin only to find residual of the past existence, the sense of loss and powerlessness was so overwhelming that even reaction was absent. The shopkeeper lost the “prison” he created for himself. Yet the destruction of all of these points of origin and coordinates is astonishingly silent, the absence of sound in the slow and almost mellow scene of demolishment of old houses in the old colony stands out from the chaos and renders the violence into a thoughtful pause for the audience. Still, life goes on, with another round of reconstruction or maybe yet another round of destruction. The silent tumbling of coordinates in contrast with the chaotic conflicts and quarrel at the beginning of the film creates chilling resonance among the audience. The metabolism of the body of the city can be ruthless at the individual level, but it goes on without questioning the feeling of the individual “cells” of the body.The old functions of the “cell” are disabled, allowing new features to be developed, but how many would remember the significance of the original point of departure and care about whether the displaced cell has discovered its new coordinate？