It was a night of fear and intrigue for an Indian film crew shooting in Istanbul when a group within the Turkish military attempted a coup, leaving nearly 200 dead.
Around 45 crew members from Kolkata and Mumbai were on the Asian side of Istanbul shooting for a Bengali movie.
“Shoot in the time of revolution. In Turkey for Birsa Dasgupta’s next. Coup attempt by a section of the Turkish military last night,” Gaurav Chakraborty, an actor in the film, wrote on Facebook.
Soumyajit Majumdar, another actor, who landed in Istanbul on Friday morning, said what followed, was stranger than fiction. “It was my first evening Istanbul so I was planning a trip to the Bosphorus Bridge, a major tourist attraction, but I cancelled the plan as I couldn’t find a transport and returned to the hotel,” he said.
Couple of hours later, he found that the decision saved his life as attempting a coup soldiers reportedly fired on civilians crossing the bridge and other parts of the city at night.
International tourists in the hotel gathered at the reception to enquire about flights out of the city. Soon news trickled in that the airport was closed and news channels began reporting about the attempted coup.
“At first we didn’t understand the gravity of the situation but within a few minutes our phones started buzzing with calls from friends and family back home, it was only when we heard about the firing that we realized how dangerous it was,” said Majumdar. “We were saved because we were on the Asian side of Istanbul.”
Some of the line producers were locals living on the other side of the Bosphorous and they were forced to stay back as well. “There are about 35 Indians in the crew and the rest are Turkish. Things are calm now,” director Birsa Dasgupta told a TV channel on Saturday.
“Most people stayed awake throughout the night, panic-stricken and anxiously waiting for things to simmer down,” Majumdar said.
The rest of the crew along with the director shot at the bridge in the morning and were in the middle of another shoot near Mimar Sinan Bridge when they heard the news. “We heard there was unrest. It was not clear exactly what happened, some said it was a terror attack but since we didn’t have the budget to postpone the shoot we continued filming,” said Dasgupta.
“Coming back to the hotel, we saw tonnes of people were gathered on the streets, cars were honking in unison to show their support for democracy. It was surreal,” he said.
Life returned to normal on Saturday morning added Dasgupta. “Children went to school, people took selfies with the military tanks. We too decided to continue shooting after talking to the Indian embassy.”
The spirit of the cast too was unaffected by the turmoil they were thrust into. “Thank you Istanbul for making us feel like home, nothing to worry about.. Safe Secured. Nothing to worry... We r with Istanbul & Istanbul people are with us... Safe n ready to rock,” Yash Dasgupta, the lead actor in the film, tweeted.
West Bengal IT minister, Bratya Basu, is also part of the shooting unit, which includes noted Bengali actors, Mimi Chakraborty.
The yet-to-be-titled film of Shree Ventakesh Films is scheduled for release around Durga Puja.