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‘Ghode Ko Jalebi Khilane Le Ja Riya Hoon’ review: Life in the sweatcity 

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The film reminds of Kamal Swaroop’s imagery and Terrence Malick’s audacity, but director Anamika Haksar has aimed for her own space in the realm of creative non-fiction

The film reminds of Kamal Swaroop’s imagery and Terrence Malick’s audacity, but director Anamika Haksar has aimed for her own space in the realm of creative non-fiction

Presenting a kaleidoscopic view of Old Delhi, Anamika Haksar’s ode to Shahjahanabad captures the drama of real-life in all its hues. Taking us beyond the romanticised version of the Walled City, Anamika probes and recreates the dreams and nightmares of the poor and the dispossessed and finds there is a lot to cherish, plenty to ponder.

There are moments where you feel you have walked into a museum of illusions only to be nudged by a stark reality, waiting at the next turn. A collage of different forms of storytelling, it is hard to fit  Ghode Ko Jalebi Khilane Ja Riya Hoon into one genre. It reminds of Kamal Swaroop’s imagery and Terrence Malick’s audacity, but Anamika has aimed for her own space in the realm of creative non-fiction. It wanders and meanders, but finds a way with the audience who is ready to lend both eyes and ears to the experiment. There are strands that seem disjointed, but so are the lives of people that the film speaks about.

Drawn from the interviews of the pickpockets, daily wage labourers, rickshaw pullers, band wallahs, street vendors, drug addicts, and garbage collectors that populate the area, Haksar, a seasoned theatre practitioner, laces the narrative with the sights and sounds that often remain unseen, unheard in our cinema. 

Those who have seen Old Delhi only through a touristy lens will find it baffling; those who have read about it as part of subaltern studies will call it surreal. But those who have smelt Khari Baoli will easily get the whiff of what Anamika has conjured up in two hours.

The title might suggest a particular dialect, but the film suggests how Delhi is a melting pot of people with different accents and cultures. If it talks of Mirza Ghalib, it also mentions Pandit Amarnath and juxtaposes the bigotry of emperor Aurangzeb with the humility of people’s faqir Sarmad. It refers to a tradition that is fading away. Where an Urdu speaker is not judged by his religion, where a plateful of food can still be bought for ₹10, and where life is droll so that when you are at work, you could take your horse to have jalebi, instead of grass.

Anamika has drawn some thoroughbred theatre artists to present the never-say-die spirit of the city. The plot revolves around pickpocket Patru who doubles as a musician in a wedding band (Ravindra Sahu), a street food vendor Chhadaami (Raghubir Yadav), a tourist guide Akash Jain (Lokesh Jain), and daily wager Lal Bihari (N Gopalan). She has located the actors in real surroundings with real people and their peeves.

All the fun and puns about pockets being picked and unsuspecting tourists being fooled alternates with heart-rending references to everyday sexual abuse and hunger in labyrinthine lanes where life and death live in close proximity. Where the dead are removed and the beggars are relocated only to find their way back on the streets. It raises pertinent questions on the exploitation of labour, unemployment, and simmering discontent that often finds reflection in dreams, carefully designed by Soumitra Ranade.

The animation doesn’t attempt to beguile you; it only helps you in taking closer to the reality behind the fantasies of these people where rats, snakes, and corpses abound. Similarly, cinematographer Saumyananda Saha’s frames are artistic portraits of the common man, immersed in everyday chaos.

Watch it see what lies beneath the facade of the national Capital, watch it to experience what the have-nots dream about. There is a scene where somebody asks Patru what will he do if he gets Allauddin’s lamp. The pickpocket says he will distribute the gifts equally. Perhaps, the musician in him took over at that moment…



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