Anamika Haksar: On Ghode Ko Jhalebi Khilane Le Ja Riya Hoon!

Ghode Ko Jhalebi Khilane Le Ja Riya Hoon – the title itself piques curiosity and intrigue. And it comes from an anecdote shared by the film’s director, Anamika Haksar. At IFFSA 2019, Asis Sethi had the opportunity to have an exclusive chat with the brilliant director, who also delivered a very unique workshop. Speaking about the film, the way it was stylized, and the way the film crystallized, Anamika Haksar was lovely to speak with.

Here’s our chat:

So Anamika Ji, thank you so much for your time. I wanted to get right into the film because I’ve been so excited after I watched it so I want to talk about the film “Ghode Ko Jalebi Khilane Le Ja Riya Hoon”. So the title is great, it has so many different meanings and I can come up with so many different meanings as well. I want to know what came into your mind when you placed that title for the film.

Well, for me, the title was actually to do with an anecdote which my aunt told me when I was about sixteen or seventeen years old. She went to Old Delhi and she hailed a taanga, and the taanga person said “Arrey Bibi, Ghode Ko Jalebi Khilane Le Jaa Riya Hoon!”. So that kind of stuck in my mind, what a unique thing to say to someone, when hailing a taanga. When I was writing the script, somehow I felt that Ghode Ko Jalebi Khilane Le Jaa Riya Hoon is the apt title. The apt title because it's such a, you know, not synchronic at all. Isn't it? Because there is a Ghoda, kyun jalebi khilane le jaa riya hoon? Ghode ko vaise bhi, matlab, jalebi naseeb hoti hai ya nahin? You know? Is it possible for a horse? So by itself, it already gives you a peculiar kind of juxtapositioning. And it already starts raising a question. It's kind of slightly real and a bit surreal. So you can actually think of many things. It's also local humour. It's also that the horse is so emaciated usually. Usually, he is poorly fed and so, can he eat jalebis? So there are a lot of ways of looking at it. And I thought that was also the way we are doing the film. There are lots of perspectives to looking at things so that was why we kept the title.


What I found very interesting, there are many things that are interesting, but one of the most interesting things that I found in the film was that you had a theatre element, you had a little bit of documentary element, you had realism, it was an experimental film at the same time. You had so much happening and you had put it into a narrative. So, why did you decide to take that route?

First of all, I think that the life in India and Old Delhi, even more so, has multiple layers. You know there is no one layer of living and I thought it cannot, therefore, be either documentary or a fiction film, it has to be multi. So the original script was a fictional script which I wrote. A skeletal script. And then of course, I asked my colleagues, like Lokkesh Jain and other people to research it out so that whatever we are saying is actually authenticated by documentary evidence - and that gives it the depth. And also when we started interviewing people, we really realized that people have such extraordinary images, such extraordinary dreams to share, their fears also! And for that, you also have to use multiple levels of expression. 


Also my friend, Archana Shastri - who is painter friend, she said, that you know mindscapes can be created sometimes through painting, sometimes through folk art, sometimes through illustrations, sometimes through metaphorical, allegorical references in cinematography so there was a lot of thought about it. 


The film was so beautiful. Every single frame, from the first shot, and until the very end. There were times that I wanted to get out of my seat and clap. I was sitting and I had goosebumps. There were so many different feelings that I had throughout the film. A large part of the film is about dreams - going into the dreams, was it a decision that you made as a creative part? Or was this something that came out of the situations that you were dealing with?

Actually when I wrote the fictional script, I had written that people have dreams. In fact the three - the loader, the vendor and the pick pocket. But what are these dreams? I didn’t know. And I had said that these dreams are going to get mixed up also. The red flag gets mixed up with the Devi gets mixed up with him falling into that abyss and his toffee eating and all that. But then I said we must find out what the authentic dreams are, which then came from our research and so therefore it was very much an intentional thing. We wanted to deal with that subconscious mind of that person who is pulling that rope, who is on that rickshaw. So that was very, very much a conscious decision. 

Looking at the film, it seemed like you went through a lot of pre-production, a lot of development. I mean it must have taken a lot to make a masterpiece like this. It was so creative, you used a lot of metaphors, symbolism, everything was there. And it was so intelligently made and I just want to know, how long did it take you to actually prepare before you started to shoot?

Well, actually from the day I wrote the fictional script, and then as I said, we documented it for two and a half years. My colleagues, locations also, my poor script writer. It took two and a half years to document. Then I took my fictional script and I took all the transcribed material and I started splicing it together. So we had the document, we had the fiction. We were splicing it together. And then the shooting, but it has all taken about seven years.

I also remember one scene which is very heartbreaking for me. It took me a while to even take it in, when the two ladies were talking to each other and they are collecting garbage and we see someone come into that frame and I almost thought “is that a guy?”, “no, is that a girl who was raped?”, “what happened?”. And you know she is saying “Aa mujhey choos le” and it was so touching. Was that a real story? What was that story and how did you make that? Was that an actor or someone who was really within herself at that moment?

Actually, that's a wonderful question. It was a very important moment for all of us in the film. Because when Lokkesh and Chavvi were documenting the city, they found this woman who was absolutely raving mad, and she had picked up her own urine and was creating a circle of urine around her and she had been raped several times. Now, when we saw that image, we said “how do you, with respect, and also there is a political stand, also as a woman, as a filmmaker, I mean, how do you depict something like this? Who is the person that is actually going to play this? Because the woman herself had disappeared by then. You know how street people are, they keep moving. You know, they move from street to street. They may disappear, they may die on the roads. 


So then, we had been going to night shelters with the help of some friends who actually worked with night shelters. And we went to this place in the Hanuman Mandir in New Delhi and this girl named Sapna was there and I had gone with the dialogues which that original person had said. So I showed Sapna. She was roaming around and I said “yeh hai”, “is tareeke se hai” (this is her) and she said “oh yeh to meri kahani hai!”, “mera to aisa hua hai na, didi, dus baar mere saath rape ho chuka hai”. So she said, “main kheloongi na, kis cheez ka darr hai tumhe?”. “I’ll do it for you, kyunki, main nahin chaahti hoon ki kisi aur ke saath aisa ho” (oh, this is my story, I have been raped ten times. I will help, what am I scared of? I don’t want anybody else to go through what I went through). 


So she played the role. She’s also a street person. She’s not the person that we actually documented but she is a person who went through the same experience. And she was actually willing to come into this and the real person, it's very interesting, the real person was absolutely oblivious of her appearance. Now, Sapna has died. She was 35 and she died very recently (pauses). So these are all people who have actually given us so much, despite the fact that they have lived these difficult and abusive existences. 


Out of all the people that were on screen, how many of them were actual actors and how many of them were real people in real situations?

The four people, you know the three people on the roof and the guide and the police people and there were one or two of the pehelvan (body builders), these people were actually theatre actors, very well trained theatre actors and about 350 people were authentic people from the streets of Delhi. 


Now, from the exercises we did today in your theatre workshop, that flowing exercise, now I see that within the film as well. There is one specific scene where there is a wall and the pickpocketer is talking about his love and he’s just in his world. And now I know how and why we did those exercises. I could see him, you know, in that world and it was so realistically portrayed on screen. Which was beautiful. That casting was amazing!

I’m so glad you liked it! Rabindra Sahu, he is a brilliant actor, the pickpocket. And Gopalan who is also from theatre, the lal bihari and of course Lokkesh. But these guys are really special, they're really, really great actors. Of course, Lalu Bhai is very well known. But this was like a psychological gesture. It's like an inner gesture along the wall so it's not even realistic, its slightly stylized, a bit larger than life. We are trying to show that inner state of mind rather than sort of realistically depicting it. 

If it wasn't for them, the film would not have been where it is. I mean they played their characters so well. I mean, I actually thought that they were real people.

Yeah but then a lot of them, I mean, Rabindra is actually from that city. You know, there is that connect to the city. You don't feel like he is some urban actor who is away and who is doing his bit. They blend very well! Raghu Bhai (Raghuvir Yadav) himself is also from a rural background. He has grasped that whole scenario. So they are all very close to reality. 

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Asis Sethi

Bollywood Film Fame Canada has been a source of original content consisting of real conversations, reviews, and news of everything film, music, and entertainment for 15 years.

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