June 20, 2007

Dilli O Dilli!

A few days ago Sudhesh's blog spoke about films that were shot in Delhi. The blog took me back a few years when I was working on Amavas. Many of you who don’t know, Amavas was a feature film that I was working on in the capacity of an associate director. The film had a really interesting premise and was set in Delhi. The director had ensured that the film had all the essential elements that would help to bring out the dilliness of the film. The movie was shot in Delhi over a period of thirty days but funnily enough it didn’t feature anything ‘Delhi’ so to speak of. The locations could have been Delhi or anywhere else. And that’s exactly the problem the producer had when he saw the first cut of the film. He insisted that there has to be something ‘Delhi’ about a film that is supposed to be set in Delhi- references to power cuts weren’t Delhi enough. If nothing else they wanted the opening sequence to show India Gate, Rajpath, Qutub Minar!

The deal with shooting in Delhi as opposed to Mumbai is that it adds a certain kind of exotic appeal to the most regular of the stories. And that is wherein the problem lies. To make people believe that you are witnessing a story set in the capital the film makers end up showing the oft done to death visuals of Delhi. That or they get Delhi so wrong that it's not even funny. No matter where the story is set or what the character is doing, if the film is based in Delhi they’ll be driving past India Gate or zooming down Rajpath. Lakshya had Hrithik taking the road most traveled by any Delhite if you were to believe our filmmakers. Moreover the dialogues of the film like, “I’m leaving for a meeting then lunch at IIC…” in addition to Hrithik and Preity romancing in Tughlaqabad ruins are some cinematic liberties gone grossly wrong. In the case of Rang De Basanti, Mehra tried to pass off the India Habitat Center as a hostel in Delhi University!

Some of the classics over the years did manage to portray Delhi in a manner more befitting than the recent crop. Vijay Anand’s Tere Ghar Ke Saame was about an architect and his love interest. The film had features perhaps the only song to shot inside the Qutub Minar. Even Nau Do Gyarah features Delhi but the character is passing therough Delhi and the landmarks are just used to show the journey. Also films like W
aqt, Trishul, Chasme Badoor, Monsoon Wedding, Masoom managed to capture various features of Delhi. A lot of international films have also been shot in Delhi- Holy Smoke, Guru but the issue with them is that some how they still manage to show as if Delhi was still stuck in the early days of the Raj. I agree with my friend when he says that in the recent past only Khosla Ka Ghosla managed to get the pulse of the city correct.

Many more films are slated to feature Delhi- Chak De India, Mere Bharat Mahan, Sunday and the most prominent of them, Rakeysh Mehra’s Delhi 6 (hope he knows what area falls in pincode Delhi- 100006!) but it’s going to be difficult to look beyond Rajpath and India Gate when it comes Delhi on celluloid.

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