Trivandrum, 11 Dec 2018 17:00 IST
Updated: 24 Dec 2018 12:53 IST
Anamika Haksar's debut as director breaks the narrative form and perception of life in Delhi as we have seen it in Hindi cinema.
Hindi cinema has had a very close relationship with the city of Delhi. From its mysterious streets to enchanting architecture, the city has been immortalised, nay, almost worshipped on screen. In Anamika Haksar's directorial debut, Ghode Ko Jalebi Khilane Le Ja Riya Hoon, the filmmaker takes us deep into the dingy lanes of Shahjahanabad, among its poor, broken, and dead to teach us the foundations on which the modern city of Delhi thrives.
This dilapidated, old Delhi forms the setting of Haksar's collection of dreams borrowed from pickpockets, labourers, sanitation workers, beggars, drug addicts who are forever lost here. The film collects almost multiple characters who influence the narrative with the retelling of their own dreams. A picpocket (Ravindra Sahu), food vendor (Raghubir Yadav) an Urdu speaking tour guide, and a labourer (K Gopalan) are at the heart of the narrative.
Haksar's film is a collection of vignettes of realism, and fabulous images of fantasy that are balanced by real people. It is only the main characters who are a pick of theatre artistes, bringing balance to what seems like a surreal tale of truth.
When the pickpocket decides to start his own walking tour ("like Akash Jain," he says), tourists are guided through stories of pain, suffering, and sights that are often brushed under the carpet or thrown into jail for a few days before any international ceremony. Like the beggars in Shajahanabad.
"Our CSR will never accept this," says one tourist. "I'd rather go back to saving polar bears," says another wannabe NGO, while a foreigner states the truth, "This is not the story I want."
Therein lies Haksar's point. An India whose stories are not heard, not willing to be heard lies beneath the facade of a shining, progressive country. A country, which like the image of the goddess Lakshmi rises on their dreams, almost mocking. In a fantastic moment, a communist flag tickles the goddess, who is irked, but returns to her smiling pose. The image can never be disturbed, after all.
The audience is never allowed to settle by a constantly moving camera, and images, that pull them out of their comfort zone into a dissonating cacophony of the audio-visual universe. From the tale of Sarmad Shaheed to the idea of a tour guide speaking Urdu and pidgin English to bluff his way through the supposed 'beauty' of Old Delhi, and police officers who function like a government of their own, the film captures a side to every city that is often hidden beneath layers.
And it is revealed in layers. It is a reminder that these people know what they are, and where they stand. Yet, they too live. They lose jobs, are oppressed for no reason, and above everything else, they dream. They dream of falling rain, flooded houses, being rich, desired and sometimes, of food. At one point the film's suffocation of lucid dreams builds up and explodes through a cacophony of images and poetry that is an experience.
Haksar's combination of lucid fantasy animation with real life documentary snapshots, and acting performances makes this a bold experiment and one necessary in times of manufactured Instagram films.
In addition, the film carries within itself an ideology of liberalism and humanity that has certainly been developed by 40 years of theatre in the city, and its philosophy.
In the end, the film leaves its audience with a warning. Don't become just another purveyor of images. "Khud tamasha na ban jaana/Tamasha dekhne waalon," warns Raghubir Yadav's Chadammi Lal.
Ghode Ko Jalebi Khilane Le Ja Riya Hoon was screened at the 23rd International Film Festival of Kerala in Trivandrum on 10 December 2018.
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