Thursday, February 26, 2009

Banarsi Babu

I leave tomorrow for a couple of weeks; the highlight of my trip will undoubtedly be my four or five days in Varanasi (pictures to follow, of course), a city I have never been to, and one which promises a "singular" urban experience, even in an era when ever more places have come to resemble places one already knows...

Recent Bollywood films that have featured Varanasi: Bas Itna Sa Khwab Hai, Bunty aur Babli (I don't think the relevant scene made it into the final cut, but you can watch it among the deleted scenes in the DVD; the only trace in the film is a shot of the lead pair fleeing in saffron robes, presumably pursued by those they have scammed), Laaga Chunari Mein Daagh, and the turgid Benares. The last-named was the most Varanasi-centric of the lot, but its city was also the Kashi of postcards, all Ganges ghats and not much else. Goldie Behl's directorial debut, Bas Itna Sa Khwab Hai, was also quite ghat-centric, but in a self-consciously "down home" way: the young Abhishek Bachchan goes for his morning run along the banks of the river, Behl no doubt conscious of Abhishek's claim to the chora Ganga kinaare waala legacy, returning home to dream of making it in bigger, more worldly cities. Pradeep Sarkar's vision partakes of both of these visions of the city in Laaga Chunari Mein Daagh . His Varanasi focused more on what the city might be like than with Benaras' concern with the sweep of the Ganges and the space it opens up -- a dominant and striking motif in Pankaj Parashar's otherise plodding film. Sarkar's attention to the city's genteel mansions that have seen better days, is especially noteworthy. Undoubtedly his is a Yashraj-ized cityscape, populated by beaming, helpful shopkeepers (but, and this is an un-Yashraj touch, also with scheming relatives and a desperate longing for the brigh lights of Mumbai), but more vivid, more plausible than the city of Benares.

UPDATE: abhishekr and abcd tell me that more of Bunty aur Babli was shot in Varanasi than I had believed.

9 comments:

anantha said...

Not a Bollywood reference, but recently Bala's Naan Kadavul also featured Benaras/Varanasi as a backdrop. But you dont wanna see that movie unless you are going to be watching a double bill of Andaz Apna Apna and mebbe Chalbaaz one after the other.

Qalandar said...

Yes, I can hardly wait for Naan Kadavul (I have to wait for the sub-titled DVD, so I won't be able to watch it for a few months), especially as I liked Bala's Sethu, Nandha, and Pithamagan. I wish Vikram had been in Naan Kadavul though, from the previews I felt his presence was sorely missed...

Chevalier said...

Also 'Water', though that may not entirely qualify as a Bollywood movie, it did start out that way.

'Chokher Bali' has some scenes set in Benaras too, FWIW.

Teddy said...

I am sure, you will enjoy the place,Q! Take pics of all those Ghaats.

rk said...

Aapki Yatra Magalmaya ho. There was another movie Banaras (Urmila).

Qalandar said...

Thanks! Banaras is the Pankaj Parashar film I was referring to in this post...

sm said...

Qalandar, I'm sorry to be off topic, but this is the only way I can reach you. I have been reading your posts at Naachgaana.com for a while and now. I am interested in finding the new blog by Satyam that has been referred to in the current discussions at Naachgaana, as I always enjoyed his writing. Is it possible to give the URL here, or is it only for invited friends?

Thanks for any help you can give me.

Qalandar said...

sm: there's a link to it on this blog's main page, but the url is: satyamshot.wordpress.com.

sm said...

Qalandar, thanks so much for the link. I didn't know if you would see this before you left. I hope you have a wonderful trip. I will look forward to your comments on Varanasi.