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Bollywood seeks Capital gains

Delhi, the historical city, has grown larger than ever before in the Bollywood frame, writes Saibal Chatterjee.

india Updated: Jun 24, 2006 17:06 IST

Two of the biggest Bollywood hits of the year, Rakeysh Mehra's Rang De Basanti and Kunal Kohli's Fanaa, were set in Delhi.

Not all that long ago, the action in another big Mumbai film, Farhan Akhtar's Hrithik Roshan starrer Lakshya, was located in the national capital.

However, the film that put Delhi the city on the world map was Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding, which after bagging the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival went on to rake in big bucks in the US market.


 Kunal Kohli's Fanaa was set in Delhi

Is it any wonder, then, that Delhi, an ancient city steeped in history, has grown larger than ever before in the Bollywood frame? Small independent films like Shonali Bose's


and Manu Rewal's

Chai Paani

Etc, among others, have in recent years used Delhi as their stage, but it is only in the wake of the super success of


that the city seems to have become the favoured destination of filmmakers who have 'realistic' stories to tell.

At least two major upcoming films will use Delhi as their backdrop. Rakeysh Mehra will soon return to the city, indeed the locality, he grew up in to shoot Delhi 6, produced by UTV Motion Pictures and featuring Abhishek Bachchan in a stellar role.

According to reports, Delhi 6, the postal number of the locality where Mehra spent a part of his childhood, will draw elements from real-life experiences. The film will be shot in parts of Old Delhi where large slices of the past still linger on.

In a rather unlikely development, the late Sivaji Ganesan's Chennai-based production company is bankrolling a film titled Delhi Heights, directed by first-timer Anand Kumar.

Delhi Heights, which is as much about life in the city as about corporate warfare spilling into the domestic space, will have Jimmy Shergill and Neha Dhupia playing a couple who work for rival companies.

Significantly, the music for Delhi Heights is being composed by one of the city's best-known musicians, Rabbi Shergill. The spirit of Delhi will clearly be omnipresent in this particular film.

Though not quite to the same extent, the city of Delhi will figure prominently in yet another upcoming Hindi film, Cheeni Kum. Directed by adman Balakrishnan, the film stars Amitabh Bachchan and Tabu, as unusual a pairing as any.

Delhi has cropped up frequently in recent Bollywood films, but the city has rarely been given full play. Dharmesh Darshan shot a scene in Bewafaa in a spanking new Delhi Metro station. It looked great on screen but said little about the city.

A portion of the action flick Fight Club was set in what was supposedly a Delhi nightclub, while the female protagonist of Karan Johar's multistarrer Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham was presented as a Chandni Chowk resident. But these attempts at turning the spotlight on Delhi lacked cultural authenticity.

It is probably a sign of the growing maturity of a certain kind of Bollywood cinema that clearly defined geographical locale and cultural spaces are increasingly getting their due. Filmmakers like Vishal Bhardwaj are among those spearheading this thrust towards an element of realism as an underpinning for larger than life melodramas.

Bhardwaj's new film, Omkara, has been shot on real locations in Lucknow and Allahabad, although the central setting of the film, Meerut, had to be recreated in Wai in Maharashtra's Satara district.

For a generation of Indian filmgoers who have grown up on fantastical stories located in indeterminate spaces, the move towards real, tangible backdrops is certainly welcome. It gives the general run of Hindi cinema the sort of depth that it has lacked for several decades now.