Calcutta 71 begins with a young man being shot to death as a voiceover reflects on conditions of squalor and widespread poverty across Bengal, from 1943 through 1972. Ranging over the lives of the many who occupy Calcutta, the film is broadly divided into four short stories. The working class’s daily struggle is juxtaposed with the blissful oblivion of the rich. Men live on the streets, scrounging for every meal, while the wasteful congregate at racing tracks. While the rich party, others are on the streets fighting for their land and their rights. The young man who dies remains unidentified, one of many who give up their lives to fight with the marginalized: his death is not a defeat, but the rise of a new uproar.
Calcutta 71, along with Interview (1971) and Padatik (1973), is part of Mrinal Sen’s acclaimed Calcutta trilogy. The film was very well received, awarded the National Film Award for Second Best Feature Film in 1972. K.K. Mahajan received the National Award for Best Cinematography for the film as well.