Filmmaker uses mysterious lights to narrate sorry state of Gilbert Hill

Over the years, his view to the hill got blocked by tall buildings and the rock itself seemed to be eroding away.

Written by Benita Chacko | Mumbai | Updated: November 28, 2016 2:39 am
A 200-feet monolith of black basalt rock, Gilbert Hill in Andheri is a Grade II heritage structure. File A 200-feet monolith of black basalt rock, Gilbert Hill in Andheri is a Grade II heritage structure. File

SOME BRILLIANT, mysterious lights have randomly appeared on the Gilbert Hill. A 200-feet monolith of black basalt rock, Gilbert Hill is a Grade II heritage structure in Andheri. Said to have formed due to volcanic activity, the hill is arguably one of the oldest structures in Mumbai formed during the Mesozoic Era about 66 million years ago.

And does it have mysterious lights? Of course not. Omar Iyer, the maker of the film Gilbert, just made it up to raise some awareness about the hill. The 25-year-old freelance filmmaker had grown up watching the black structure from his window. Yet he never knew its significance.

Over the years, his view to the hill got blocked by tall buildings and the rock itself seemed to be eroding away. Many years later, when he embarked on a trip to the hill, he was surprised to know its story, and upset at the growing buildings around it.

Reminiscing a time when the Gilbert Hill could be seen from the Juhu circle, he says, “Around two decades ago, the area around the hill was clear. But with time, the hill only found more buildings around it. This has an adverse effect on the ancient structure and I wanted to raise awareness about it.”

Being passionate about films since childhood and a sci-fi fan, Iyer knew what he wanted to do to acquaint people with the rock. He came up with the idea of the seven-minute film, Gilbert.

Soon after it was uploaded on Facebook, the film received over 5,000 views and was also nominated at Mumbai Academy of Moving Image (MAMI) Film Festival, 2016 for the Under 25 and the short film category.

Watching his film at the Film Festival was an exhilarating experience for Iyer, who says, “It is always fun to watch something you made on the big screen.”

Iyer felt most satisfied by the audience’s response to his film.

“I only wanted my film to be watched and was not expecting anything more than that. But after people watched the film, they wanted to find out more about the hill. Many were curious enough to go visit the area. One even wrote a blog about it.”

Speaking about the government’s responsibility towards the heritage structure, he says, “The civic body should prevent further construction around it. It would greatly benefit the hill if it could get a Grade I status. Also, the BMC should take steps to make the hill more tourist-friendly.”