“The Golden Cage” highlights a still ongoing ever-present phenomenon – the fate of old and heritage structures and their rapid extinction in modern India. It is an early winter morning in Kolkata in 1989 and the palatial old “Roy Choudhury” house lies dilapidated, housing the last few members of a once huge affluent joint family. Rudro, the younger brother of the last generation, a divorced, under-confident, nondescript man in his mid-30s tries to convince Rajatabho, the eldest of the brothers to take up the offer of selling the house in a desperate attempt to save themselves from bankruptcy. Rajatabho, however, is unrelenting. As the brothers debate, Anjali, Rajatabho’s wife stands ignored. Rudro, later tries to convince Anjali to help change her husband’s mind. Later in the day, a crying Anjali, grinds down sleeping pills on her kitchen slab. As she does this, she reminisces down memory lane through each nook and corner of the house. Finally, at dusk, as Anjali stands alone on the terrace holding a bottle of sleeping pills, Rajatabho suddenly arrives and they look eye to eye for the first time in months. In that awkward moment, Rajatabho, unexpectedly throws to her the question if they should sell the house. What will Anjali do?
Growing up in Kolkata in the 90s I have seen the city transform from its old colonial slumber after the advent of globalization and the opening of the world markets. As a result, on one side, it set up a profound momentum for the emergence of a new middle class, the people with the “new money”, as they quickly adapted to the trends of modernization. On the other hand, there were some who were “left out”. Some people from traditionally wealthy, noble and powerful families, found it very hard to adapt to the new flow of life and business and thus they slowly fell into decay in their palatial homes. As they stuck themselves in their egos and the memories of their old family glory and lineage the World moved on. Finally, the situation came where they had to sell or rent out their historically significant palatial houses – the only entities that gave them their identities. Although these buildings represent culture, art and history at a macro level, delving deep down we realize that each of these buildings is a treasure house of very personal human memories, traditions and rituals. Is this holistic development? How do we identify ourselves if we keep losing our past?