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Capitally curious

Delhi is not just the favourite city of Bollywood filmmakers. Many aspects of its ‘character’ are being explored by documentary and independent filmmakers.

Written by Prajakta Hebbar |
June 22, 2012 5:14:26 pm

The rustic lanes of Old Delhi,student union elections at Delhi University,upscale neighbourhood of South Delhi and the vibrant West Delhi are now familiar to the global audience,thanks to Bollywood. It has been years since the Capital has been attracting filmmakers,providing them with a visually and contextually rich landscape.

But now,it is time for a new wave. It’s not just the biggies but also young indie filmmakers who are enchanted by Delhi. “It is the vibe of the city,the culture and the people,” says documentary filmmaker Spandan Banerjee,who is coming up with three short films and fiction films with characters based in Delhi. The first to release will be the short film To Let,which talks about the woes of tenants in Delhi. “Delhi is my studio and Mumbai is my workplace. People like Amol Palekar and Farooque Shaikh have showcased Delhi earlier. So,I would not say that indie filmmakers have suddenly discovered Delhi. I’d say that they have become more experimental,” says Banerjee.

His belief seems to be shared by several others. If big names in the independent film industry such as Vani Subramanian and Paromita Vohra are known to be fascinated by Delhi,Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh’s film Dilli (2011) projected the stark comparison between the modernised and revamped Capital and thousands who are left homeless. “In the earlier days,documentaries were usually commissioned by Doordarshan or the government,and since the ministries are based in Delhi,more projects were sanctioned here,” notes Banerjee,pointing out that one of the first cult independent movies in the ’80s,In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones,based in the School of Planning and Architecture — starring Arundhati Roy,Roshan Seth and Shah Rukh Khan — was showcased on Doordarshan.

The infrastructure of the city also attracts filmmakers. The low production costs,rich heritage,architectural monuments and easily available technical expertise in Delhi are a positive. “Delhi has a vibrant culture and it’s exciting to set the stories here,” says scriptwriter Rupleena Bose,who teaches English in Delhi University. Currently,Bose is working on an untitled short film,based on the lives of three people from the “golden triangle of tourism” — Delhi,Jaipur and Agra. Delhi-based filmmaker Yasmin Kidwai adds,“Any story depends on its subject and Delhi as a city has so many stories to tell. It has cities within a city and the ‘political’ Delhi is different from the rest of Delhi,” says Kidwai. In April,she premiered India By Choice,based on the life of foreigners who chose to move to India for good,and features many expats who are based in Delhi. Her upcoming television series for Doordarshan Taste Ki Baat Hai showcases special families in India,including Chinese Indians living in Delhi.

According to some filmmakers,Delhi is also in the limelight because people are fatigued with Mumbai. “Mumbai as a studio-playground has been overused. Voices from Delhi are becoming prominent now,and that is why Delhi is featuring in more films,” says Vinay Shukla,a Mumbai-based filmmaker.

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