1998, 52 Minutes
Hidden in the middle of noisy, vibrant Calcutta is a quiet oasis, the Tollygunge Home, a refuge for 35 elderly Anglo-Indians. In stark contrast to the rest of post-colonial India, the residents of Tollygunge cling to the belief that Britain is their true home. “We live the way the British live. Indians live their own way,” declares resident, Mrs Olga Walsh. Anglo-Indians trace their origins back to the 17th century when the British East Indian Company encouraged marriages between British men and Indian women to further its commercial interests. After India won independence in 1947, two-thirds of the Anglo-Indian community emigrated to other parts of the British Commonwealth, first to Britain and later to Canada and Australia.
As Christmas approaches, preparations begin for the annual party. We meet Louis Robertson, once an engineer and now the Home’s music man who plays everything from swing to opera on his old cassette player which he claims has “medically cured” many of the residents. Reeves McDermott and Jimmy Carr dance their cares away in the gents’ dormitory while a new resident, Hortencia Loxton, waits anxiously for a visit from her son. Gladys Minwalla and her friend Elsie Martin reminisce about a time when “manners and politeness” reigned. And Phyllis Robertson, who despises curry because “it makes your skin dark”, fancies a mutton stew.
A Calcutta Christmas is a gentle portrait of life inside this forgotten community.
A Film Australia National Interest Program. Produced in association with SBS Independent. © 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.
Director: Maree Delofski
Running Time: 52 Minutes
Classification: Exempt from classification
Curriculum Links: Asian History; Identity, Place and Culture; Sociology: Studies of Colonialism and Post-Colonialism; Cultural Studies; SOSE. Major themes and concepts include national identity, immigration, racism.