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Chota Mahal drawing big kings from Bollywood

india Updated: Nov 04, 2006 00:03 IST

CHOTA MAHAL is well known in Malihabad.

From Shashi Kapoor’s Junoon to Anil Sharma’s Ghadar, Chota Mahal has been in hot demand by filmmakers seeking to reconstruct the life and times in ancient Lucknow on celluloid. The demand for about 3 other hawelis here as well as the 11-odd hawelis in Kakori is high too.

But, Chota Mahal, which is said to be about 150 years old, is more famous now simply because like Muzaffar Ali in 1980s for his Umrao Jaan, JP Dutta too traveled here along with his crew to shoot his period flick Umrao Jaan earlier this year. 

The three-day ghazal sequence picturised on Aishwarya became the talk of Malihabad.

Their curiosity was two fold. Most of them were aware about Ali’s Umrao Jaan.

“Mirza Hadi Ruswa’s novel on which both Ali and Dutta based their films depicted Umrao as a beautiful woman with a wheatish complexion. This image fitted Rekha perfectly. But, Dutta’s Umrao is strikingly fair. This, besides Ash’s popularity counted for the crowds that flocked to the Mahal,” recalled Zuhaib Khan, a resident of the Mahal. There was other reason too. For, the ghazal sequence that Dutta wanted to picturise on Ash, a lot of time was taken. “It took three days for Dutta to picturise the ghazal sequence. It was shot at different times of the day and this also made people curious as they were seeing a modern girl trying to portray the life and times of a courtesan of Lucknow in the 19th century,” Zuhaib recalled.

As the word spread people started coming to the Mahal. And that’s when Dutta’s crew decided to act tough. The crowd, in sheer anger, passed some comments against Ash. Dutta became furious. After this, people already angry at being denied entry inside the Mahal, resorted to pelting stones. “Ash fortunately escaped unhurt but couple of stones landed close to Dutta’s daughter. That was a frightening moment simply because anything could have happened then,” Zuhaib recalled. His mother, Shabnam Khan said that it was only after police intervention that shooting could resume.  On being asked why Dutta chose Chota Mahal for shooting, Shabnam said that it was because he wanted to show a place, which suited his period flick. “Our place because of its location was better suited for shooting as Dutta’s crew could drive right up to the Chota Mahal,” she said.

Both Zuhaib and Shabnam haven’t seen Dutta’s Umrao Jaan yet. But, Zuhaib is aware of the controversy surrounding the remake.

“I think as far as dresses go, probably the criticism is right against Dutta’s Umrao,” Zuhaib added. But, then both Zuhaib and Shabnam aren’t actually complaining. For they are probably hoping another filmmaker, interested in making a period flick, driving up to the Chota Mahal soon. After all, Bollywood seems to have suddenly discovered its love for the re-make!