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Dilli as it is

Sweet and sour: A scene from Ghode ko Jalebi Khilane Le Ja Riya Hun

Sweet and sour: A scene from Ghode ko Jalebi Khilane Le Ja Riya Hun | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Some 40 years ago, noted filmmaker Anamika Haksar’s aunt wished to hire a tonga in Old Delhi. As she waved to a tonga wallah, he was taking his horse to feed. He replied rather quizically, “G hode ko jalebi khilane le ja riya hun! Abhi nahi ruk sakta hun [I am taking the horse to feed. I cannot stop now].”

The expression and the accent stayed with young Anamika as her aunt recounted the tale at home. Many decades later, it has led to a film by the same name! Ghode ko Jalebi Khilane Le Ja Riya Hun releases next Friday, promising to bring to the silver screen all the eccentricities of Old Delhi, a part of the Capital which is a world of its own. Urdu, Hindi, English, everything is spoken here but the pronunciation is peculiar to the area.

Different dialect

Most men on the street speak a dialect where every other sentence is laced with lingo, not spoken elsewhere. Like the tonga wallah, men are often heard saying, “ Main aa riya hun” [for ‘Main aa raha hun’/I am coming] or “ Khana kha riya hun” [I am eating food] instead of “ Khana kha raha hun”. Likewise, many use the expression, “ parey” for “dur” or far, and “ warey” for close. For calling a person to come closer, they would say, “ Parey na baitho, warey aa jao” [Don’t sit at a distance, come close].

While Gopi Chand Narang and Maheshwar Dayal have written richly recalled books called ‘Karkhandari Dialect of Delhi Urdu’ and ‘Aalam Mein Intikhab Dehli’ respectively, two works of great distinction and profundity were penned by Syed Zameer Hassan Dehlavi who used to teach at Delhi University’s Zakir Hussain College.

He wrote ‘Dehlavi Urdu’ and ‘Dehli ke Muhaware’, bringing alive the idioms of Shahjahanabad. It was then that one realised Old Delhi to this day has lanes and colonies named after different vocations. So we have a street called Choodi Walan (Bangle-Makers’ Street) just as we have Sui Walan (Tailors’ Lane) or Kinari Bazaar (Brocade Market). Interestingly, once it used to have Urdu Bazaar where Urdu literature flourished, poets and writers visited, discussed, and debated issues. Today, in Urdu Bazaar one finds kabab, biryani, and fish tikka sellers doing roaring business even as shops selling Urdu books have receded into the distance.

A scene from Ghode ko Jalebi Khilane Le Ja Riya Hun

A scene from Ghode ko Jalebi Khilane Le Ja Riya Hun | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

As for the film, it brings to screen some facets of life you will often find in Old Delhi. Like men who pull carts during the daytime and sleep on them at night, beggars often with hands missing, at times both hands and legs are not there. Or sweetmeat vendors who manage to defy the challenge of multinationals. Not to forget the conductor of heritage walks. We see Old Delhi through their eyes.

As Haksar says, “There are several connections with that part of Delhi. My grandfather’s brother used to be there. We ran an acupressure camp at Hamdard Dawakhana for the underprivileged. People used to tell us their stories, their problems. Over a period of time I realised, there were many periods of history at the same time. There was migrant labour; then there were Mughal buildings with arches, niches, etc. And those age-old havelis with modern syntax water tanks. It was fascinating to find all kinds of people there.”

80 interviews

That fascination grew, and Haksar set about collecting funds from well-wishers to make this wonderful film uniquely titled, Ghode ko Jalebi Khilane Le Ja Riya Hun! The film was shot all over the Walled City, at places like Sadar Bazar, Jama Masjid, Rai Chowk, Bahadurgarh Road akhara and Khari Baoli. It has real-life labourers and cart pushers too while a seasoned actor like Raghuvir Yadav lends greater dignity with his presence.

“It has 80 interviews with vendors, labourers, etc. What you will hear in the voice of fictional characters are documented interviews we held,” says Haksar, adding, “The film was made on a budget of ₹2 crore. We are showing it at six theatres in six cities.” The film has seven dialects of the area. One hopes old Dilliwallahs are tuned in.


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Printable version | Jul 31, 2022 1:25:34 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/dillias-it-is/article65485123.ece