A perfect pastiche of realism and surrealism

Ghode Ko Jalebi Khilane Le Ja Riya Hoon Story: The film documents the lives and dreams (literally) of street dwellers of Old Delhi. The main characters are a pickpocket, Patru, a heritage walk conductor, Akash Jain, a food vendor-turned-soothsayer, Chhadami, and labourer-activist, Lal Bihari. Patru poaches Akash’s clients and takes them on a heritage walk of the underbelly of Old Delhi. This doesn’t go down well with local merchants and cops. As his last gig, Patru decides to conduct a ‘Dream Walk.’ In the meantime, fired from his job, Lali urges labourers to unite and rise up, and ends up in jail with Patru and Chhadami.

Ghode Ko Jalebi Khilane Le Ja Riya Hoon Review: The title is a prelude to the absurdist drama that’s set to unfold. In reality, it’s a tonga rider’s quirky way of saying that he doesn’t have the time to ply fare. But the movie is not about oddballs or the ‘real’ common (middle class) man. It’s about a section that we unsee every waking (or walking) hour — the underbelly; in this case, from the dirty and dingy lanes of Shahjahanabad. Here, bedraggled labourers are exploited and abused, street dwellers are randomly picked up by police, junkies are thankful that addiction numbs their pain, and beggars are packed off outside the city before international events.

The film is from the point of view of Patru (Ravindra Sahu) — a pickpocket and trumpet player in a wedding band. He looks after his ailing father and has his heart in the right place — if he gets Rs 1 Crore, he will uplift widows, educate children and send his friend Lali to Dubai as he was fleeced by agents and ended up on the streets. Patru steals a chaste Urdu-speaking heritage walk guide Akash’s clients but instead of the usual historical sites, takes them to the grimiest and grittiest bylanes of Old Delhi. It’s through these walks that the audience is introduced to the real lives of labourers, pickpockets, beggars, vagrants, migrants, hawkers, sanitation workers, ragpickers, and suchlike.

The film has weaved in interviews of these people. The documentation of their dreams is at the crux of the non-linear narrative — from dead bodies wrapped in white sheets floating mid-air, flooded houses, a victim of domestic violence dreaming of being desired by three men, and snakes with raining apples and oranges. The story is replete with symbolism and metaphors, and the constant barrage of images will need your undivided attention. After a point, this also makes it a bit of an overwhelming watch. Anamika Hariksa’s writing and direction present magic-realism, and strike the right balance between documentary style of filming and surrealism. Languid shots by Saumyanand Sahi, editor Paresh Kamdar’s tight grip on the narration and sound design by Gautam Nair add to the finesse.

The film is a nod to Saeed Mirza’s realism in Mohan Joshi Hazir Ho!, Kamal Swaroop’s absurdism in Om Dar-B-Dar or in more recent times, the existential crisis in Rajat Kapoor’s Ankhon Dekhi. From the cleverly-shot sleight of hand scenes, 2D animation and VFX, folk art, Qawwali, the story of Armenian jewish mystic poet Sarmad Shaheed, Madhubani painting and whatnot, the film is as heady a mix as the sights and sounds of Old Delhi. The cinematic experience does complete justice to the lucid dreams, the cacophony, the constant explosion of visuals, hints to everything that’s wrong with society: politics of religion, oppression, lack of value for human life, to name a few. It’s also a tongue-in-cheek look at the privileged folks who glamourise the subaltern side but can only stomach sanitised reality. A corporate walker says, “Our CSR will never accept this,” NGO workers would rather save polar bears, and a foreigner wants to hear ‘folk’ stories but not about the tea vendor or the labourer. This drives home the point that this section continues to remain unseen and unheard.

Theatre thespians Raghubir Yadav, Ravindra Sahu, K Gopalan and Lokesh Jain give flawless performances but it’s also the real people taking centrestage who will appeal to you. This is the kind of film that reveals a new layer each time you watch it, and will be remembered for being a cut above the norm.

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