Make way Mumbai, Bollywood has a new leading light. In the last few years, Delhi has moved from being a backdrop — literally and figuratively — to a vibrant canvas on which filmmakers are basing their stories in. Be it Imtiaz Ali’s recent, Rockstar, Rajkumar Gupta’s No One Killed Jessica (NOKJ) earlier this year, Yashraj’s Band Baaja Baaraat last year, Dibakar Banerjee’s Love Sex Aur Dhokha (2010) and Oye Lucky Lucky Oye (2008), Rakeysh Mehra’s Delhi-6 (2009) and Rang De Basanti (2006)… more films are finding their ethos based in the nation’s capital. The reasons are several: from Delhi-bred filmmakers moving to Mumbai, to Delhi offering a range of culture, language, seasons, locations and infrastructure.
For Ali who spent his salad days in Delhi University’s Hindu College, (Rockstar’s Jordon is a Jat boy from Pitampura also studying in Hindu) the “flow and flair” of Hindi was the biggest draw. “Since we make movies in Hindi, it’s fascinating to explore the linguistic variety — the nuances are greater here than in Mumbai. Also, there’s fresh blood in Delhi, even state support has improved. For Rockstar, we were amazed at how refined the Delhi police has become from the time I was a student,” he says. Gupta says NOKJ couldn’t have been set anywhere but in Delhi. “Any script that belongs to the subject then belongs to the city.” The city has become shooting friendly he adds. “I studied at DU and find Delhi has become a different city in the last ten years. The first ten minutes of NOKJ were my tribute to it.”
Director Kunal Kohli who shot here for his earlier films — Hum Tum (2004) and Fanaa (2006) — says Mumbai makers largely used Delhi as a backdrop which is changing now. “The senior batch of filmmakers such as Yash Chopra shot in Delhi but didn’t base their characters here. Now with the crop of Delhi filmmakers such as Habib Faisal (Do Dooni Chaar, 2010) moving to Mumbai, they are bringing their ethos to the industry.” Those on the ground have a pragmatic take.
A senior producer with a well-known production house says it makes sense only if the script demands else costs go up. “Delhi’s well equipped to handle news and documentary shoots currently. Infrastructure for feature films exists but it has to get better.”
But the capital is bringing back its boys whose films resonate with their lives. Mehra who made the cult film RDB, came back to shoot Delhi-6 and is now bringing Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (BMB) to the city. While RDB was based on Mehra’s college years, Delhi-6 was on his childhood in Old Delhi and BMB is from the years he spent at Delhi’s National Stadium, growing up on the folklore of sportsman Milkha Singh. “Mumbai’s a dying city; Delhi’s mushrooming with possibilities: both creative and logistical. Geographically, it is central to locations such as Rajasthan, Leh, Punjab etc. Our government can get into PPPs and offer it as a billion dollar industry to the world. I’d shift the centre here and help create infrastructure to sustain films for the next 100 years,” he says.