A band being played by men in misfit and cheap glittering uniforms at a local marriage suddenly turns its way to an abandoned house giving a disturbing feeling.
As the deceased who die of hunger are cleared from the roads, one suddenly gets up to announce he is not dead.
Many years after their glorious past, the king, queen and their prince live in a plastic cover beneath a cheap food joint. The plastic cover is lifted and the harsh reality of their subterranean existence is exposed to the world. The kingdom has usurped, and their existence is unknown.
A few frames into the movie Ghode ko jalebi khilane le ja riya hoon and we surrender willingly or reluctantly to this kaleidoscopic vision of sorts. It's a vision of broken dreams and desires that are in turn magical, poignant and scary. Many shots, scenes and montages seem unexplained but so are the conditions in this part of town. You will be disappointed if you dare to make sense of it. Made up of stark realities and broken dreams, this movie can only be felt.
Experiencing bits of the glorious past of Mughaliya food and lifestyle at Delhi’s Shahjahanabad has long been recreation for the middle and urban middle classes. Yet, as we enjoy the palpable food and tales, we conveniently ignore the squalor, beggars and flies from Old Delhi. The romanticized origin of Chandani Chowk is juxtaposed with the ordinary lives surviving in the dark squalor.
Against the magnificent monuments of The Mughal empire such as the Delhi Gate and Jama Masjid are narrow gullies encircled by dump yards and shambling houses which remain outside the realm of the city administration, civic facilities or even a sense of your understanding.
Anamika Haksar’s surreal realistic film Ghode ko jalebi khilane le ja riya hoon captures pictures from beneath the shutters, the side of Purani Dilli that you do not see in heritage walks. The aforesaid extravagance mixes with dirt to create a magical potion that can at times bedazzle, tickle or haunt you.
The movie revolves around four major characters along with many other small characters- a pickpocket and part-time marriage band player, a local vendor, a labourer and a historian. An epilogue to the 2-hour 2-minute film tells that the film has been made by studying the dreams, hopes, fears, and happiness of the working class of Old Delhi. Lali, the labourer falls deep into the ground as he sleeps.
The director who is originally a director of theatre makes use of several forms of storytelling including animation in the movie. It feels at times like Tarkovsky’s The Mirror or the 2019 movie Eeb Aale Oo. Yet, still an extremely unique take to Hindi cinema. The disjointed structure and absolute blurring of time and space, and reality and illusion is a deliberate choice here.
Aptly put by IMDb, Ghode ko jalebi khilane le ja riya hoon is like a “testament of time written in Old Delhi, past and present plotted in its lanes. The narrative moves like a homeless migrant, changing space and structure with each unfolding event, living in the twilight between the real and the dream.”
There are moments of dark comedy in the film that evoke little laughter and sequences that celebrate the heroism of the ignored. Through the movie, we take a journey beyond the walled city, where there is a lot to appreciate and even more to ponder.