A DESERT IN BLOOM
by M C Raja Narayanan
Pioneer, December 13, 1996
As you pick some sand, you have a fistful
of history. Each grain singing you a mute song you have only to listen
to states the Rajasthan tourist brochure. Documentary film maker
Manu Rewals 45-minute film on the enchanting city of Jaisalmer opens
with a close shot of golden sand that one feels like touching with the
fingers. Rewal captures the essence of the city which is the jewel in
the crown of Rajasthan. Rajasthan is a bewitching land, colorful with
its many traditional festivals. The Rajasthani women wear brightly colored
dresses and the men have equally bright headgears that not only convey
their sense of color but mark out the class barriers too. The State has
hardly any place or city without a fort or monument. Satyajit Rays
film Sonar Kella (Golden Fortress) which was shot in Jaisalmer has glorious
shots of the citadel town in the Thar desert. It is quite apparent from
the shots Ray composed that the filmmaker had fallen in love with the
city of Jaisalmer .
One could see the same thing happening with young
filmmaker Manu Rewal. He has always been fascinated with ancient cities
of historical and architectural importance. Jaisalmer naturally arrests
his attention with its captivating marvels. The havelis (mansions) of
Jaisalmer are every architects dream and every conaisseurs
delight. This film has various shots of the most famous of all havelis
- Patwon Ki Haveli. It has a mesmerising effect on the viewer. The intricately
carved walls, jails, decorated doors and window with embossing and engraving
stand as silent witnesses to a glorious past.
Manu Rewals camera captures different features
of the architecture of traditional dwellings. And the commentary aptly
throws light on the legend and history behind this desert city made of
yellow stones. It provides information on the citys past importance
as a trading center and the forces that led to its decline.
It gives details and facts in a very interesting manner
about the fort; its walls, the design and function of various buildings
and enclosures. It also depicts the impact of tourism and infrastructure
development in this segment. There are shots of winding passages going
up the hill from the entrance gate to the royal court through four portals.
The contrast between architectural elements such as balconies with jalis
and the massive walls are adeptly focused on. The film has excellent shots
of the royal courtyard and the structures around it, its raised platform,
the temples and the royal palace.
Apart from the monuments and the architectural splendor
of the havelis and the fort the director focuses his attention on the
life in and around the city, its streets throbbing with life. His film
show the overall urban planning of the city, the lively thriving market
during the day and night and the inevitable arrival of an industrial consumerist
Jaisalmer has its own distinct construction techniques
that have been followed for centuries. Activity of the builder craftsmen
cutting Jalis and doing carvings and designs are also shown in adequate
measure to make it a well-balanced film in its presentation of historical
contents and modern- day living. ..
This well-made documentary on one of the most popular
tourist destinations of our country will be shown on Doordarshan as part
of the series Heritage of India.