'Ghode Ko Jalebi Khilane Le Ja Riya Hoon' review: Beguiling
Haksar's film is dense with nuances of poverty, inequity and oppression but it also celebrates humanity in all its resilience, vibrancy and vivacity
For many, the act of viewing Anamika Haksar’s Ghode Ko Jalebi Khilane Le Ja Riya Hoon could itself correspond with the sequences within the film where the educated, apathetic elite are taken on walks through the indigent parts of Old Delhi. They react to the ugly reality that they get to witness for the first time with a mix of bewilderment, shock and vagueness. Haksar’s debut film is a similar unforeseen, uncharted and beguiling ride into the world of sight and sound for the uninitiated, albeit in a striking and stimulating way.
The opening placard talks about how the film is a result of seven years of documentation of the lives of street people of Shahjahanabad in Old Delhi—beggars, pickpockets, workers, street vendors, ragpickers.
It looks at the world from their eyes, approximates their vision of the reality that is banal, shabby and distressing. Yet the clogged life also finds a way out through kitschy fantasies. Where an abusive businessman can be made to writhe in pain, like a lizard trapped in a bottle.
Haksar sets the ball rolling from the very start—free-flowing, unstructured form; fluorescent yellows and pinks; souped up visuals; ambient soundscape, a gaze that alternates between the microscopic (when it looks at the muscles and sinews of a rickshaw puller) and the panoramic (the cheek by jowl universe of the workers as they sleep nonchalantly, oblivious of the morning din or the well-oiled network of pickpockets) and the inventive edit, the kind that leads the narrative easily on to the red flag of communism immediately from the flowers offered to Goddess Saraswati, all in the blink of the eye. Kachoris, money and a young lad all get tossed in the air with an equally playful felicity. Animation figures pop up from nowhere. There’s something delightfully absurd and dream-like in the film that only magnifies the dismal human condition as though calling for a trenchant probe into the ruthless and unfair power dynamics, rampant in Delhi’s
underbelly but invisibalised in cinema. Haksar doesn’t exoticise or romanticise this world of inequities but enters it with curiosity to spot the quirks and empathy for the discriminated and takes the viewer along on a heady journey..
Not all, however, is surreal. Woven into the narrative is also the footage shot with real people—the ragpickers for instance. Docu-realism intertwining with magic realism.
There is a spine of a story with four main characters at the helm of it: pickpocket Patru (Ravindra Sahu), the food vendor Chhadami (Raghuvir Yadav), Akash Jain (Lokesh Jain), the conductor of heritage walks and labourer-activist Lal Bihari (Gopalan). From games of love and proclamations of faith to giving in to the pleasures of food, qawwalis and the kite-flying Haksar packs in a lot of the life, culture and history of the place. The sense of community and syncretism is implicit in the anthropological exploration.
Haksar also doffs her hat to the raconteur, to the tradition of storytelling and to her own roots in the proscenium in the performative elements in how the heritage walks are conducted for instance, or in the monologues and proclamations of her protagonists, particularly Patru.
Aided with uber accomplished Saumyananda Sahi’s camera, Paresh Kamdar’s dexterous editing and Gautam Nair’s grounded sound, Haksar fashions a film dense with nuances of poverty, inequity and oppression but one which also celebrates humanity in all its resilience, vibrancy and vivacity.