THE AUCTION HOUSE: A TALE OF TWO BROTHERS
Edward Owles | India, Great Britain 2015 | 85 Min. | OmeU
In the age of eBay and a changing Calcutta the oldest auction house Russell Exchange in India is fighting for survival. This film follows its owners, Anwer & Arshad, two brothers struggling to save their family business and a piece of India’s heritage which still brings people from across Indian society – rich and poor, high class and low class – through its doors today.
After a lifelong career in the UK, the older brother Anwer recently returned to his homeland. He is desperate to revive the fortunes of his beloved auction house that was purchased from the British by his grandfather in 1940 and that has been in the Saleem family ever since. But the odds are stacked against him – a chaotic, fragmented city; a lazy, half-dead staff and most notably his quarrelsome, cantankerous younger brother. Arshad, India’s longest-standing auctioneer, has worked at Russell Exchange since the 1960s and knows the place, and the world of antiques, inside out. He is steeped in the city’s traditions and is sceptical about Anwer’s plans for change. He believes that Kolkata is a city in terminal decline and the auction house is destined to die out along with it.
As the brothers come to terms with each other and their future, their amusing, argumentative, but ultimately heartfelt relationship opens up a wider insight on whether old family businesses and unique places like the Russell Exchange can still have a place amidst the economic realities of 21stcentury India.