Monday January 27, 2020

Mandawa: Rajasthan town’s havelis and forts attract Bollywood filmmakers

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By Sugandha Rawal

Mandawa (Rajasthan): Away from fancy foreign locales, this small but culturally rich town in Rajasthan is attracting Bollywood filmmakers with its rustic essence, quaint surroundings, havelis exuding old-world charm and intriguing maze-like by-lanes. For Salman Khan’s “Bajrangi Bhaijaan”, parts of Mandawa were used to give a ‘look’ of Pakistan.

The movie is about how a man discovers love during his journey from India to Pakistan, and to add to its visual appeal, director Kabir Khan panned his cameras in the Kashmir Valley, Delhi and Mandawa.

Remember the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer “Paheli”, the journey song “Hum jo chalne lage hai” from “Jab We Met” and the “Tharki chokro” track from “PK”? Those were also filmed in the little town, which is part of the Shekhawati region and is dotted with forts, havelis and museums.

It is this bucolic essence of life in Mandawa, 270 km from the national capital, which is making filmmakers ditch fancy foreign locations.

Sandeep Singh, who helps filmmakers scout locations and arrange shootings in Mandawa, said: “Mandawa is becoming popular among directors for its natural locale, cheap production cost, no star-struck crowd, calm life with people emphasizing on their day-to-day work rather than crowding around vanity vans.”

The town’s beauty – which lies in appealing elements like golden yellow mustard fields, long winding roads, and gentle wind whistling in the ears – mesmerized the “Dabangg” star too.

Brunnen westl. von Mandawa
A water-well in Mandawa.

“I was shooting in Mandawa…it is such a beautiful city. When we were shooting there and wanted to watch a movie, Arbaaz’s (Khan) movie ‘Dolly Ki Doli’, the entire unit had to travel for 1 hour and 15 minutes because there was just one theater,” said Salman, who attracted fans galore outside the theatre when he went there.

Salman’s “Bajrangi Bhaijaan” co-star Nawazuddin Siddiqui also feels Rajasthan is full of “shooting-friendly destinations”, as the “locales are very beautiful and good”.

For the film, one of the village’s havelis became a Pakistani jail to lodge Salman’s character and an open field with long grass turned into the Indo-Pak border area. Sand dunes also added to the film’s visual background.

Mandawa is however not a new-found shooting destination for Bollywood filmmakers. Movies like “Zed Plus”, “Sooper Se Ooper”, “Kachche Dhaage”, “Love Aaj Kal”, “Shuddh Desi Romance” and “Manorama Six Feet Under” were also filmed there.

Even Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra chose Mandawa for parts of his yet-to-release “Mirzya”.

But, largely, the locals seemed ignorant of the stardom of Bollywood stars.

On a visit this IANS correspondent met a ‘chaiwala’ (tea-seller), who narrated how he had failed to recognize Aamir and his wife Kiran Rao and treated them as any other tourists, only to be stumped by the actor himself. Now, he has a memory for a lifetime and a selfie with the star, hanging at his shop. And he flaunts it with pride.

Singh notes that people’s life is not hindered by the influx of stars and film crews as locals are “enjoying the spotlight”. But outsiders and fans from other places thronging the area to catch a glimpse of their favorite stars do create chaos.

With filmmakers increasingly looking towards the small town, it’s turning out to be profitable for villagers. “There is a boost in income for people as they get more work on the set with film crews, and even more hotels have cropped up with time,” Singh said.

Haweli Mandawa

Who aids filmmakers is a middleman, who knows the language and has a personal rapport with people in authority.

Singh described that once from his end, the photographs of the locations are sent to the movie’s crew, the director and cameraman come for a recce. After finalizing the spots, all formalities are taken care of.

“The owners of havelis and other properties are supportive, but have just one condition : that no damage should be caused,” said Singh.

Also, most shootings here are mainly held in February and March when the weather is pleasant. Otherwise, the scorching sun keeps the stars away!

(IANS)

Next Story

How did Comedians Disappear from Hindi Films?

The term comedian carried as much weight as the phrase hero in Hindi films.

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Comedy films
Back in the old times, no films were complete without a dose of comedy. Pixabay

BY VINOD MIRANI

The term comedian carried as much weight as the phrase hero in Hindi films. Almost no films, especially a family drama or even a romantic film, was complete without a healthy dose of comedy. Often, the comedy track had little to do with the main narrative and, if at all, a thin connection was devised to keep it relevant to the story.

Like every lead actor who enjoyed his place under the sun, had his period of glory, so did a comedian. There were leading comedians and then there were gap filler comedians. There were comedians who were superstars in their own right. There were comedians who could be loud and there were those who fitted the bill just in B or C-grade movies; loud and crass mostly. And, there were the suave type who made you laugh while not seen to be making an effort at all.

Not only Hindi, every regional language film had its own star comedian with a following of his own. There were a few female comedienne as well. But, they were given just a few minutes of footage and more than their acts, their very appearance made one laugh. The examples are Manorama or Tun Tun.

Bollywood films
Usually bollywood films were designed to cater to the family audience, the often heavy scripts needed to break away from the narrative and comedy was brought in. Pixabay

Usually, the films were designed to cater to the family audience, the often heavy scripts needed to break away from the narrative and comedy was brought in. This was called comic relief. The length of films being longer compared to the films now, this comic relief helped.

The comedy created its own superstars. But, going back to 1950s and ’60s, of course, there were other comedians but the one who ruled the roost was Johnny Walker. He became so popular that roles were written for him especially while giving him all the liberty to improvise as he thought fit. But, as best of filmstars fade out, so did Johnny Walker.

The other comedian actor was on the horizon: the era of Mehmood was here. While Johnny Walker had a typical style of his own with a shrill voice, Mehmood was more versatile. His career spanned to almost two decades and a film without Mehmood, was unthinkable.

Then there was Kishore Kumar. Again, a multifaceted actor who also produced and directed films, he also went on to become the most sought-after playback singer in the 1970s. Kishore Kumar may now be remembered more for his songs but he, along with his brothers Ashok Kumar and Anup Kumar, are always remembered for their evergreen comedy film, “Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi”.

Mehmood did not stick to comedy alone. He loved to indulge in emotional content. His aspirations to make films the way he wanted them, made him start making his own films, some independently and some in joint ventures with other established production houses. Among his most memorable films are “Padosan” and “Bombay To Goa”, which have proved to be evergreen. Mehmood is also remembered for his triple role of father, son and grandfather in “Humjoli”. His three roles are a take on the Kapoors: Prithviraj, Raj and Randhir. Not to forget his character in “Padosan”, which is etched in the memory even today.

Mehmood became so popular that some of his co-stars, the lead actors, felt insecure and thought Mehmood was hogging the limelight in their films and became reluctant to work with him, forgetting that often it was Mehmood who made their films popular and successful.

Writing scenes for comic situation was a job not many could justify. In the case of Johnny Walker and Mehmood, the written script was just an indicator, it was these comedians who made them clapworthy.

Then came a time when writers came at a premium and the filmmakers who believed that a major star was enough to make and market a film, never thought much about a writer who could give him a solid, tight script. The quality of writing was deteriorating. The scripts were poor, forget writing a track for comic relief.

The actor who did comic roles and stood a class apart at that time was Deven Verma. His expressions were always deadpan and yet he could evoke the laughter among the audience from all, the frontbenchers as well as the balconies. While, Verma was a universal choice for all makers, he remained very popular with filmmakers like Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Basu Chatterjee and others who preferred subtle comedy the over loud kind that the others delivered.

Deven Verma’s mantle was taken over by Paresh Rawal. Again, a deadpan face and the way he delivered his lines, did the job for him. Irrfan Khan, Boman Irani and Anu Kapoor are such actors in the presentday Hindi film industry. Their films are always looked forward to.

Johnny Lever can safely be called the last comedian who enjoyed, one may say, a connect with the audience.

In earlier films, buffoonery was not part of the routine. The exception was comedian Rajendranath. He usually played the hero’s sidekick and he would be paired with the heroine’s ‘saheli’. He resorted a lot to buffoonery. Vulgarity and double meaning dialogue had yet to invade the filmmaking.

The 1980s saw a flood of South remakes in Hindi. The remakes followed the original where a pack of villains also served as comedians. They were sinister in intent but comic at the same time. These films would have six to seven comic players at the same time, with Kader Khan leading the pack.

Kader Khan, originally a writer who wrote satire skits, specialised in oneliners and repartees, and usually kept the best lines for himself. He was so busy acting in films that he wrote his scripts/dialogue while shooting. He dictated the dialogue on a Dictaphone and had an assistant transcribe them.

Kader Khan films
Kader Khan was so busy acting in films that he wrote his scripts/dialogue while shooting. Wikimedia Commons

The Kader Khan Gang included lesser comic stars like Asrani, Ranjeet, Jankidas and CS Dubey, while Shakti Kapoor and Amjad Khan, Prem Chopra, Jagdeep, and Tej Sapru alternated between villainy and comedy.

There were those limited-footage comedians like Mohan Choti, Paintal, and Jugnu but the one who drew maximum laughter among them was a teetotaller, Keshto Mukherjee, who specialised in playing a drunkard. People lapped up his act. And there was Bhagwan Dada, who was added to a dance number in many films only to repeat the dance steps he did in his own film “Albela” (1951). It so happened that “Albela” was re-released in late 1970s or early ’80s and proved to be a huge success. Still, Bhagwan Dada was financially not secure and some makers added him so that he got work.

Then, there were Satish Shah, Rakesh Bedi, Satish Kaushik, Tiku Talsania, Deven Bhojani, Dilip Joshi, Krushna Abhishek, and Kapil Sharma who went on to do better on the television.

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But soon, this breed of comic stars became extinct. What drew them away? There were no slots for them and, to start with there were no writers who could create side-tracks for them.

Most of all, the lead actors, from top down, had resorted to doing comic roles even while playing the lead. From Amitabh Bachchan to Govinda, and from Anil Kapoor, Ajay Devgn, Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar to Ranveer Singh and Ranbir Kapoor, the present lot is more into comedy or comic movies.

They leave no special category for comedians. (IANS)