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  • Follow a young pickpocket through the streets of Kolkata, in a real-life game of cops and robbers.

    Follow a young pickpocket through the streets of Kolkata, in a real-life game of cops and robbers.

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  • Azad, a young pickpocket from Kolkata, India

    Azad, a young pickpocket from Kolkata, India

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  • Azad hitting the target

    Azad hitting the target

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  • Azad headshot

    Azad headshot

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  • Bidhan Saha, Police Detective, in office

    Bidhan Saha, Police Detective, in office

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  • Azad with other pickpockets learning the trade

    Azad with other pickpockets learning the trade

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  • Azad with wallet

    Azad with wallet

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  • Azad in Police Detective office

    Azad in Police Detective office

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  • Filmmaker Sudeshna Bose

    Filmmaker Sudeshna Bose

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The Film

On the hot and crowded streets of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), three thousand pickpockets ply their trade every day, three hundred of them circulating through police custody at any given time. Journals of a Wily School takes viewers inside the world of these petty thieves, and the detectives who doggedly pursue them, day in and day out.

With unprecedented access, first-time director Sudeshna Bose follows a young and talented pickpocket named Azad Jalaluddin. While his sisters go to school, Azad spends his days picking pockets, using drugs, and binging on Bollywood films. His mystified father voices frustration over the wayward son who fancies himself a don and compares himself to the stars of the big screen.

To hone his craft, Azad attends an unusual school where a master pickpocket leads his attentive disciples through a series of challenges. In one, they must reach their hands into a bucket of water and retrieve a coin without creating ripples. In another, the students must carefully use a razor blade to slit a cloth wrapped around a melon, without cutting the melon’s skin.

Inevitably, Azad lands himself in jail. Police detective Bidhan Saha, a hard-nosed cop with a fatherly bent, takes Azad under his wing, offering him a pardon and a salary if he will turn in his fellow thieves. The detective is convinced of Azad’s promise to do so and works diligently to build rapport, visiting his home and even taking him on a beach vacation. Given a second chance, and the hope for redemption, what choice will Azad make? Collaboration or incarceration? Loyalty or self-interest? Respectability or the lure of the city streets?

The Filmmakers

  1. Debu BhattacharyyaProducer
  2. Sudeshna BoseDirector