Ronny Sen’s feature filmmaking debut, “Cat Sticks,” arrives at this year’s Slamdance Film Festival with an eye-catching piece of trivia attached to it: it’s the only Indian film to play at the fest. Yet what will likely set Sen’s work apart is its evocative, eye-catching style and unique approach to dramatizing drug addiction. For the black-and-white film, Sen teamed up with Tanmay Dhanania (“Brahman Naman,” “Garbage”), who both executive produced and starred in the feature, to help bring Sen’s own experiences to life.
Per the film’s official synopsis: “On a rainy night in Calcutta a group of desperate addicts chase brown sugar, but the permanent intoxication they seek proves elusive. ‘Cat Sticks’ weaves their stories into a chiaroscuro, traverses with them through states high and low, spaces real and unreal. A relentless downpour plays backdrop to lives balanced on a precarious high. Some of them seek a release, while others do not seem to want the night to end. Ronny Sen brings the bold style of his fine art photography to this story about an underground community of junkies who scrounge a living on the streets of Kolkata.”
Slamdance has already billed the film as “one of the most gorgeous and affecting films [the festival] has presented in recent memory,” and the rest of the fest’s official synopsis lavishes the film with praise that, based even on its first trailer, seems well-deserved: “Stunning compositions capture his characters emerging from and disappearing into inky blackness, intermittently drenched in rain. At the core of Sen’s feature debut are the human connections between these forgotten souls — the director has clearly immersed himself in this world, and captures its textures, language and mannerisms with great sensitivity and style. He masterfully weaves sequences of pure cinema, rendered with modern-dance informed movement, into his raw and gritty narrative.”
The film stars Dhanania, Sumeet Thakur, Joyraj Bhattacharjee, Rahul Dutta, Saurabh Saraswat, Sreejita Mitra, Raja Chakravorty, and Kalpan Mitra. The festival will screen it twice, including a January 25 world premiere and a planned second screening on January 31.
Check out IndieWire’s exclusive trailer for “Cat Sticks” below, plus the film’s first poster, designed by the lauded Polish movie poster designer Lech Majewski.