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A glimpse of Old Delhi, life of street dwellers

We have seen filmmakers making movies on Old Delhi. But how many of them spend time with real people and take a deep dive into the lives of street dwellers? Anamika Haksar took this challenging task. Through ‘Ghode ko Jalebi Khilane Le Ja Riya Hoon’, she has showcased the dreams and aspirations of street dwellers.

Anamika Haksar, Director, Ghode Ko Jalebi Khilane Le Ja Riya Hoon

More than three decades ago, when Anamika Haksar’s aunt visited old Delhi, she asked a tangewala to drop her home. But he responded: ‘ghode ko jalebi khilane le jaa riya hoon bibi. Aabhi waqt nahi hai.’ (I am taking the horse to feed madam. I don’t have time right now). This sentence and its diction stayed with Anamika. So when she decided to make a film independently, she thought of giving it the same title.

Ghode ko Jalebi Khilane Le Ja Riya Hoon sheds light on the life, dreams and ambitions of people living on the streets of Old Delhi.

Talking about the film’s title, Anamika shares, “Feeding jalebi to horses is an age-old tradition in Delhi. It was a norm that tangewalas followed after their horses competed in races. Since I was making a film on the people of Old Delhi, it was important to retain their culture. That’s why I gave the film this title.”

The film is a docu-fiction that stars Raghubir Yadav, Ravindra Sahu, K Gopalan and Lokesh Jain. It features 300 people living on streets.

Though the title talks about horse, Anamika says that it has been used as a metaphor.

“The film shows Delhi through the lives of different people. There is a Delhi that Akash Jain (played by Lokesh Jain) shows historically and there’s also a Delhi through the eyes of a pickpocket (played by Ravindra Sahu), who portrays people perspective. Raghubir ji plays the role of a sweet seller (mithaiwala). The film brings alive people’s dreams, ambitions and thoughts through the characters. It does not have a traditional storyline that you see in other films,” she shares.

The title’s pronunciation has been chosen keeping Old Delhi's dialect in mind.

“People in the Old Delhi speak like this - ‘main a riya hoon’ (I am coming), ‘jaa riya hoon’ (I am going). We have tried to capture the essence of Old Delhi and have retained the culture and traditions of the region as is,” she clarifies.

Lokesh also wrote the film’s dialogues. He spent two years and interviewed 80 vendors, labourers, etc. These anecdotes were used to portray the on-screen characters. However, communicating with people wasn’t easy. Anamika says that the questions about their lives made the people uncomfortable.

“We asked them personal questions like what are their dreams, fears and aspirations in life. The respondents thought we were government employees so they were scared to answer the questions. But eventually, as Lokesh spent time with them, they trusted us and narrated their stories.”

The team discovered that some people dreamt of the most horrific things. One of the women shared that she dreamt of slipping inside a well. Another one revealed that she saw her child being left alone in a house. A man shared that he sees a small temple in the clear sky.

Incorporating the dreams realistically in the film was a task. The team relied on VFX, animation as well as paintings to showcase these dreams.

“In some places, I have treated the stories collected in the interactions realistically. However, showcasing a temple in the sky, for instance, was difficult. So, we added animation and painting in some cases,” she says.

The film’s trailer originally released in 2018. But it took the makers four years to bring the film to the people. Besides research, a lot of time was spent in post-production.

“Adding VFX and editing took us six months,” shares Anamika.

In November 2018, the film originally released in the Mumbai Academy of Moving Image (MAMI) Film Festival. In 2019, participated in several national and international festivals. But due to COVID-19, the film’s release was delayed. But as soon the restrictions were lifted and cinemas started operating normally, the team decided to release the film.

Shot in shanties and on the chowks and roads of Old Delhi, Ghode Ko Jalebi Khilane Le Ja Riya Hoon has received eight national and international awards so far. It has been taken to the Sundance Film Festival, the New Frontier, the Museum of Modern Art, MAMI and several other prestigious film festivals held in Brazil, France, Canada, Los Angeles. The makers now hope that the film woos Delhiwalas as well.

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