FROM A CITY OF JOY TO FORGOTTEN CITY
by Devyani Onial
Indian Express, November 13, 1996
The quest for beauty often culminates in an architectural
design. A house built at the fag end of ones life or a memorial
to love they are all part of this journey. And the designs find larger
meaning if they combine beauty with function- which our traditional structures
seemed to have achieved.
This was the theme of Manu Rewals three documentaries screened at
the India Intrenational Centre last week .
Rewal who has obtained an M. Phil in cinema and audio -visual studies
from Paris has based his film Resonance on six projects of his architect
father Raj Rewal
The film makes interesting parallels between historical structures and
Raj Rewals work. The shots of the mandala, jalis and minarets are
interspersed with shots of the historical structures which inspired them.
The Asiad village and the National Institute of Immunology built on the
pattern of Jaisalmer and havelis repectively show the original designs.
Thankfully, the director has done away with any superfluous narration
letting the shots, blend beautifully and unobtrusively with the narration
The film on Mandu is riveting from the first shot. Skilful direction and
the haunting music of Shubha Mudgal takes the audience on an enchanted
Mandu - City of Joy begins with the advantage Resonance never had - the
subject itself. The latter lacked the charm contemporary structures cannot
hope to possess, whereas Mandu is washed with the charm that only the
past can lend. The film attempts to trace Mandus Journey from a
city of joy to a forgotten city.
Once an important crucible of art and culture, Mandus architecture
is a union of Hindu and Muslim cultures, best illustrated in Hoshang Shahs
tomb. The film captures the Islamic dome with Hindu features, while a
sufiana qalam is sung in the background. The use of a sufi song at this
juncture reinforces the theme of Hindu - Muslim unity. In fact, music
is used aptly through the move. Recitation of a shloka while showing a
Jain Kalpasutra and its harmonious blending with the aazaan
while showing the Jama Masjid are effective devices
After showing Jahaz Mahal, the concluding bit of the film concentrates
on Baz Bahadurs palaces and the famed love story of the singer Roopmati
and Baz Bahadur.The film ends with beautiful shots of Mandu at sunset
while the narrator relates the legend of Mandu. It is said if a person
who is pure of heart visits Roopmatis palace at midnight, he can
hear her sing still. And the haunting romance of the now ghost city lives
The third documentary on Jaisalmer to be telecast with Mandu on Doordarshan
as part of the Heritage series, captures the deserts beauty as it
is hit by a sandstorm. Well executed the film explores the impact of tourism
on Jaisalmer. Scenes of busy lanes, market places at night and radios
blaring Hindi move songs all show the city as it stands today. The film
shows the link between architecture and lifestyle effectively.
The documentary also underlines the main features of Patwon Ki Haveli
a masterpiece of Jaisalmer architecture.
The director makes good use of light. Light filtering through jalis or
a view from a dark room lend a beautiful quality to the movie. The music,
too, is apt and lifting. Traditional instruments and songs like Ghoomar
and Holi mein arhat gulal, bring Rajasthan alive.
With its densely packed houses built back to back (there are no back streets
in Jaisalmer) without going to high, Jaislamer stands as a model in space
and energy conversation. And Rewal and his team succeed intelling us one
thing - even in architecture, we could take a lesson or two from history.