Catsticks: A Monochromatic Journey with Brown Sugar Addicts
Set in a Kolkata that is unrecognisable today, Catsticks follows 3 brown sugar junkies weaving their way through the city’s dark and dangerous serpentine alleys on the hunt for a fix, on one rainy night when everything seemingly spirals. Director Ronny Sen created Catsticks after years of practicing as a renowned and opinionated photographer, but the urge to tell a story like Catsticks stemmed from his own tumultuous past- a life that was once entwined with the lives of other brown sugar addicts- here one day, and forgotten the next.
Swinging between intimate and tender on one hand and a shocking assault to the sense on the other, Catsticks’ many surreal black&white moments will have you aching and intrigued with its unbiased and brutally honest narrative. Stories about addicts usually follow a clichéd trajectory- full of hollow highs and an inevitable blow, but Catsticks goes deeper- it dives into a parallel world to the dizzying sights and curling textures so that the viewer too, becomes emotionally connected with its characters and their honest vulnerabilties.
Making a black and white movie in 2019 is certainly an unconventional path to take in filmmaking, but Ronny Sen and his director of photography, Shreya Dev Dube were successful in creating tantalizing textures on-screen that helped the monochromatic storytelling to feel even more personal, deeper and more destructive.
Imaginative in its imagery, and unflinching in his storytelling, Ronny Sen captures all the tumultuous emotions of an addict’s life, living from fix to fix, in a film that is as thought-provoking as it is hauntingly beautiful. The film emerged out of the hells of the director’s mind, and yet it is relevant not just to Kolkata and it’s brown sugar addicts, the patakhors. Exploring and then revealing the many forms of emotions in an addict’s life, the film is many moods, layered between a numbing high and a devastating low.
Hailed as one of the “most gorgeous and affecting films” presented at Slamdance Film Festival in 2019, Catsticks, the only Indian film at the festival, won a much deserved Honourable Mention. Ronny and the Catsticks team spent a large chunk of 2019 traveling as their film was screened in film festivals world over, and the film was also recently shown at the 25th Kolkata International Film Festival. You can watch Catsticks on Mubi
Heavy with private moments from lives less understood, Ronny Sen’s Catsticks is a dark yet truthful story that he has lived and it sees the world from a perspective that is often ostracised if not completely shunned. With its beautiful cinematography and enthralling sound effects, every bit of the film is iconic on its own. Watch Catsticks to be affected, or watch it to understand the stories that are not encouraged to be told- one way or the other, the film will stay with you long after the credits roll.