2017 Tramjatra Documentary Indian Film Festival Melbourne

Posted Wed 2/8/17 by Roberto D'Andrea


Tuesday, August 22, 07.30PM | HOYTS Melbourne Central. Closing Night. 2017 is a big year for Tramjatra in Melbourne. First up we have the screening of the Tramjatra Documentary directed by long time Tramjatran Mahadeb Shi. Tramjatra details the unexpected and incredible relationship struck between Melbournian tram conductor Roberto D’Andrea and the CTC Trammie community of Kolkata, India. When India’s Minister of Transport deems Kolkata’s tram lines to be obsolete, D’Andrea finds himself unexpectedly thrust into advocacy - not just for old tram lines, but for a people’s history, culture, and art. Much loved Roberto will be in attendance with director Mahadeb Shi to present the film. Director Mahadeb Shi. Cast Roberto D'Andrea, Mick Douglas, Dr Debasish Bhattacharya, Jayanta Basu, Craig Allen, Kolkata Tramway Workers, Whole 9 Yards, the Tram-loving Citizens of Kolkata and a cast of thousands.

Short Synopsis / Logline: A group of artists, activists, tramways workers and enthusiasts have departed Melbourne and Kolkata to be aboard a ‘tramjatra’ since 1996. Roberto D’Andrea, a retired Melbourne conductor - driver who is still connie-ing, is one of the central characters who has fallen in love with Kolkata, its people and tramways. The film takes a metaphoric journey and explores how new linkages can be made through a public arts practice and inter-cultural collaboration. The film celebrates 20 years of tramways friendship between Kolkata and Melbourne through a unique journey called ‘tramjatra’.

LONG SYNOPSIS: Kolkata and Melbourne are two very different cities from different hemispheres that are connected by rare surviving tramways and British colonial influences. From the early 1990's, Kolkata started loosing parts of their much-loved tramways before a filmmaker, trammies and gunzels started the fight against any further closures. Melbourne has a confident tramways and had an eccentric tribe of ticket selling tram conductors affectionately called 'Connies'. In the 1990's, against public sentiment, Melbourne's Connies were replaced by automated ticket machines and Roberto was active trying to save the Connies from extinction. As it's often said crisis brings people together and that is exactly what happened between Melbourne and Kolkata! Roberto the Melbourne connie says; “I introduced myself with a bit of tram theatre and got hijacked by a group of Calcutta trammies.”
Roberto was a Melbourne tram conductor and driver when he visited Kolkata (used to be known as Calcutta) for the first time in 1994. He fell in love with the city, its people and tramways. His new trammie friends from the Belgatchia Tram Depot told him that their tramways was under threat of full closure. At the same time another pro tram activist, Calcutta based scientist Dr. Debasish Bhattacharrya, was writing Save Our Tramways letters to pro-public transport organisations around the world. Roberto extended his support to Calcutta trammies in solidarity and joined them in the fight to save their trams. A new friendship was born between the tramways of Melbourne and Calcutta.
Roberto came back home and met Michael Douglas, a designer professor from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. Michael was working on an arts project- “Tramtactics”, which was exploring Melbourne's tramways; Mick came across the Save our Tramways letter that Debasish had written to the Public Transport Users Association in Victoria. Since then Roberto and Michael have helped organise a uniquely inter-cultural arts project called ‘Tramjatra”. In Bengali to ‘Jatra’ is to journey. The journey can be physical or a journey of the heart. The Melbourne Kolkata Tramways Friendship has brought together artists and the tramway loving communities of Melbourne and Kolkata. Together they have made several ‘tramjatras' and have decorated trams in both cities. Tramjatra explores the idea that an urban transport system is not simply a mechanical means of ferrying its citizens, it's also a environmentally friendly people mixer, a means of urban bonding and active ingredient in the cultural life of our communities. Roberto was last in Kolkata for the 20th anniversary of Tramjatra in December 2016. The film celebrates 20 years of tramways friendship.