Friday, December 29, 2006

Delhi is Bollywood's latest muse

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In the past 12 months, Bollywood witnessed a slew of films that featured prominently the city of Djinns, Delhi.

Unlike Mumbai that often ends up looking like just another city in the movies, the character and flavour of the Capital – from Tis Hazari court to the magnificent Purana Quilla – came alive in films like Rang de Basanti, Khosla Ka Ghosla, Ahista Ahista and Fanaa.

The men who made these films say the inspiration to use Delhi as the backdrop for their stories stemmed from their love for the city they grew up in.

"You can only give back what you have taken and for me Delhi is where I know a lot of things. Besides it’s a beautiful city and a wonderful shooting location,” director of Rang de Basanti, Rakeysh Mehra says.

For director of Khosla Ka Ghosla, Dibakar Banerjee, filmmaking is about the atmosphere.

“It’s all about the milieu that you have seen around you. Since I am from Delhi, most of my films will have that Delhi or north India flavour to it,” Banerjee says.

While in most of these films, the Capital played a vital character that lent colour and culture to the films' plot, in the romantic comedy Pyaar Ke Side Effects, the filmmaker cast Mallika Sherawat as a Delhi girl who brought to the film a distinct Delhi personality.

"I like giving my characters an ethnic flavor because according to me India has an interesting character in its people in each region. In Delhi, it’s more obvious and that’s why I used it in my film,” director of Pyaar Ke Side Effects, Saket Chaudhary says.

For all the sentimental attachment to Delhi and for all the enthusiasm to capture their favourite city on film, these directors insist that their experience in filming the Capital is rarely comfortable.

"In foreign countries the governments lay the red carpet for you to go and shoot. Here in India and in Delhi you have to take seven permits from ASI, the local police and the main police. Then how do you show the beauty of Delhi?" director of Fanaa, Kunal Kohli asks.

From the Delhi University campus where they spent their formative years to everyday hangouts as Connaught Place and Lodhi Garden, for many of these filmmakers, the Capital holds a special place in their heart.

With its now frequent appearances on celluloid, perhaps Delhi will go on to find a distinct place in Indian cinema like filmmaker Satyajit Ray's Calcutta of the 60s, a city made world famous and immortalised by his films.

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