The Legend of Fat Mama

He calls it ?a 23-minute dim sum?. But award-winning photographer Rafeeq Ellias?s first attempt at directing a documentary is more like a wanton, crisp on the outside but all soggy after the first bite. The Legend of Fat Mama, about the evolution of the Indian Chinese community in Calcutta, is a chaotic effort at merging the delicious visuals of the street food in Chinatown, the fable of a Chinese lady selling chicken rice noodle soup and the effect of the 1962 Indo-Chinese war.

?I?m not claiming that my film is the last word on the world of the Indian Chinese,? said Ellias, at the screening of the film at Bengal Club on Thursday evening. ?But it is a sweet tale of a community which has had a huge impact on the social history of our country.?

The Bengal Club screening was particularly special for Ellias with most of the Chinese faces in his film turning up to watch his digital documentation. ?Before its telecast across 200 nations on Saturday, I wanted the film to be seen by those people, without whom The Legend of Fat Mama would not have been possible,? said an emotional Ellias.

While the film tosses up the question of an identity crisis for the Indian Chinese, it fails to dig deep into the wounded psyche of the evicted individuals as an aftermath of the 1962 war. The non-intimate camerawork and inconsistent editing do not help matters.

However, like the pungent garlic tang characteristic to its cuisine, some Chinese flavours of ?Calcutta?s melting wok? live on after the film. Like Fa Mu Lan, the first and only all-woman dragon dance group in the world or the painstakingly hand-written newspaper still available in Chinatown every morning or even the elaborate sun-drying process of the prawn wafers. A Chinese family singing an old Bollywood track in its Toronto home and a Canadian supermarket owner taking great pride in selling frozen Tandoori Chicken does evoke mixed moments of mirth and melancholy.

After the screening of The Legend of Fat Mama on BBC World today at 2 pm and on Sunday at 4 pm, the film is set to travel farther. ?Although it is in no way a festival film, but it will be screened at the Commonwealth Film Festival at Edinburgh,? Ellias signed off.

source: The Telegraph India.


  1. Aloo says:

    Hey Guys,
    Anyone remember the Cool documentary made about our place in like 1990 approx. It was aired on BBC.
    A lot of people forgot about it. I would be nice to have that on the site too and other people can check it out in addition to Legend of Fat Mama


  2. leon says:


    thanks for dropping by. yeah we are trying to collect all the documentary and will be uploading it in the near future and welcome to the community. 🙂

  3. Thien says:

    i have this video Lengend of Fat Mama

  4. Bill says:

    Hi Leon,

    Excellent work in setting up this website. Keep up the good work. Watched the Legend of Fat Mama video. Lots of memory. You should post that video for others to see. Paul Chung is a school mate.


  5. Charles says:

    Hi Leon,

    Just came accross your website,I am very impressed with the great job you are doing in keeping the Hakka Chinese memories of life in Calcutta/Kolkata alive. Keep up the good job. Great website. Can you please let me know where I can get a copy of THE LEGEND OF FAT MAMA documentry. Thanks Charles

    1. leon says:

      thien have a copy of it .. we are thinking of uploading in youtube .. but then dunno if there is a copyright issue? *dilemma

  6. Thien says:

    yeah i hav da video.. im converting da file now.. its a big file though, im gonna upload it soon.


  7. Charles says:

    Hi Thien,

    Can you get permission from BBC to upload in youtube…? Cheers. Charles

  8. ying says:

    Hi Thien,
    Is the video on youtube yet? Would love to check it out.Leon, keep up the good work!

  9. leon says:

    yeah .. thien .. when are you uploading ? everyone is still waitin for u 😉

  10. Thien says:

    lol im uploading the video now in youtube. the file is really big so i guesss its gonna take heaps of time haha

  11. michelle says:

    Thien, let us know when its done, I cant wait to watch it! thanks!

  12. Thien says:

    hey michelle,
    i guess i hav already uploaded da video
    here the link


    enjoy 😛