With towers of glass and steel kissing the sky at one end, submerged underpasses at the other, the affluent and wealthy living in their mansions and condominiums, daily wagers living for months on end without a roof over their heads or much money in their pockets, Gurugram is a city of deep contrasts. The last decade has seen a marked rise in filmmakers’ interest in the Millennium City, both as a backdrop as well as a subject.
Many creative minds have gone on to build stories that revolve around the megapolis and its residents, made it star in titular roles and in other instances, used it as the perfect backdrop for a noir thriller or a movie about ambitious youth.
‘Gurgaon’, Shankar Raman’s 2017 dark noir thriller, named after the city, is a story of toxic masculinity, alcoholism, murky motives and bloodbathed disintegration of a Gurugram-based real estate tycoon. Films such as Arjun Kapoor starrer ‘Aurangazeb’ and Vishal Bharadwaj’s ‘Matru ki Bijli ka Mandola’ also emphasise similar features and assert the character of Gurugram and the overarching Haryana milieu as being synonymous with patriarchy, rage, restlessness of the nouveau rich, feudalism, urban-rural divide and a vicious circle of wealth and desire. Haryana boy Randeep Hooda’s 2016 crime drama ‘Laal Rang’ too evokes and internalises the same conflicts and a lack of moral compass.
As filmmaker Raman puts it, “I have lived in Gurugram and seen it change and grow before me. Gurugram evokes multiple emotions, with fear, aggression and anxiety underlying most of them, which is why just the name of my movie says so much without saying anything.”
Raman is of the opinion that filmmakers don’t deliberately try to portray Gurugram as the underbelly of crime in their movies, but it is a matter of fact that constant undertones of violence, fear (experienced especially by women) and power struggle loom large in the city. “I have no stereotypes or a prefixed notion of this city. What translated onto the screen was a reality lived and experienced here,” said Raman.
Another movie based on the Gurugram experience is Navdeep Singh’s NH-10, starring Anushka Sharma. The premise of the movie is the transformation of the lives of a working couple who witness an honour killing on the highway. The movie puts into the spotlight the deep-rooted misogyny woven into the fabric of the state and how women themselves are, sometimes, torchbearers and upholders of patriarchy.
Gurugram may be the heart of modernity in Haryana, but the recent spate of movies give the audiences a glimpse of an earthy, almost dystopian facet of the city.
Saibal Chatterjee, a national award-winning film critic, says, “Bihar as the hotbed of power, politics, class struggle and corruption has been overused and overexposed in films. The Mumbai gang stories have been done to death. Gurugram is always in news for crime, but Gurugram and its dichotomy is still a captivating subject and not yet cliched.”
Chatterjee says that Gurugram is the ideal location for portraying a power struggle, a socio-political or economic conflict of the present times.
Nupur Asthana is another filmmaker who shot a large chunk of her film ‘Bewakoofiyaan’ in Gurugram. She says, “In my movie, Ayushman and Sonam played suave white collar individuals in high-flying jobs. I needed their offices to look plush and sleek, something that only Gurugram’s swanky chrome and steel buildings could offer in 2013.”
While Delhi, with its history-steeped buildings, grand monuments, narrow alleys and picturesque roads and gardens, has appeared in various movies and has been a favourite of directors, filmmakers’ fascination with Gurugram is rather recent.
From India Gate to Chandni Chowk, Delhi has defined identity markers. Gurugram, on the other hand, is a city in evolution, punctuated with the most glamorous and contemporary high-rises and architectural marvels, a symbol of modern India’s wealthy and successful, who have big dreams and even bigger incomes.
The new part of Gurugram is posh, modern and comes with a stunning skyline. It can easily be passed off as an international locale and does not have identity markers like Delhi yet. This also allows Gurugram to be the perfect setting when you want to narrate urban India’s stories.
Asthana says, “I wanted a landscape in my film that bore a stark contrast to Delhi. Gurugram’s ultra-modern spaces were the ideal contrast to the low slung chambers of Delhi’s babus. The fast-paced private sector that makes this city was a complete antithesis to Delhi’s opaque, bureaucratic and dominant public sector.”
If Gurugram was the perfect muse or backdrop for her reel life, real life experiences surprised her to no end. Asthana says that Gurugram, to her, appeared ‘unbridgeable’.
With luxe offices and bumpy roads, dysfunctional streetlights and dazzlingly lit bars and restaurants existing side by side, Gurugram seems, to many people, like a city lost in translation between the old and new, rural and urbane, which attracts many creative minds to dissect and explore this city in their words and frames.
Another important factor that attracts filmmakers to Gurugram is the ease of procuring licences and completing other formalities. Filmmaker Raman said he found shooting in the city hassle-free and smooth, while Asthana is of the opinion that shooting in Gurugram is much easier than shooting in Mumbai, because of rapid permissions and the non-interfering nature of professionals.
Viraf Sarkari, director of ‘Balle Balle’ a Bollywood musical showing at the Kingdom of Dreams, says, “Gurugram, as a location, has huge potential. Once permissions are in place, it’s a breeze shooting here. With the kind of infrastructure the city has, it can have its own film city or film studio, where you can shoot entire movies.”
The administration and law enforcement bodies also welcome the flocking of filmmakers to Gurugram. Deputy commissioner of police(crime), Sumit Kuhar, says, “Gurugram’s diverse diaspora attracts many filmmakers. While the administration facilitates the licences and permissions, the police department ensures that complete safety and security is provided to the cast and crew.”
To simplify the process further, the state government recently approved Haryana Film Policy, under which a single window system will be set up for providing permissions and clearances to filmmakers. Officials said the new system will attract more filmmakers to Gurugram, as it offers urban and rural landscape within short distances.
There is also a steady trend, among filmmakers, of bringing Haryana to the silver screen in the context of sports films.
Gurugram resident Abhishek Sinha, a producer and founder of Pondicherry Film Festival, says, “Gurugram makes a perfect backdrop for crime thrillers, but filmmakers are also taking a keen interest in the vibrant sports scene in the state and the less explored but charming nuances of the rustic Haryanvi culture.” Sinha also believes that some of the biggest films of recent times such as Dangal and Sultan have had Haryana as an integral part of the narrative, and that such movies showcase the zest and flavour of the area.
From dark crime thrillers to honour killings or showcasing a young India that is unafraid and unabashed in reaching its goals and achieving its desires, Gurugram is a nugget of complexities and contradictions that strikes a chord with the people behind the lens and those in front.
First Published: Sep 24, 2018 04:33 IST
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