FRAGRANCE OF PASSION
by M.C Raja Narayanan
The Hindustan Times, January 10,1997
The name Mandu evokes the legendary
love story of King Baz Bahadur and Rani. Roopmati. Centuries after its prime
and glory, Mandu stands lost in time and a visitor to this medieval town
in Madhya Pradesh is transported back to an era of romance and passion.
Rani Roopmatis melodious songs are still sung by the village women
in the Malwa region keeping the legendary love story alive and its fragrance
of passion blend with the air of Malwa. Manu Rewals documentary on
Mandu brings alive a bygone era known for its saga of passion.
Legend has it that the ruler of Mandu, Baz Bahadur
known for his hunting skills once went to the forest searching for his
prey when he himself fell a prey to a different kind of arrow- that of
the melodious voice of Rani Roopmati. They fell in love and Roopmati moved
to his palace in Mandu. But, Baz Bahadur had to fulfill certain condition
before Roopmati agreed to become his queen. She was the princess of an
adjacent kingdom and grew up on the banks of river Rewa which she did
not want to part with. According to myth, a divine intervention helped
King Baz Bahadur to connect the river Rewa with the lakes of Mandu and
water flowed freely filling the lakes of Mandu with Rewa water.
Mandu is an architects delight and the
marvel of Mandus arichitecture shows in the Royal Palace complex
with its merging water and landscape, the Jal Mahal and the innovative
Jahaz Mahal. As indicative of the name Jahaz Mahal is in the shape of
a ship anchored. In its texture and symmetry, the Jahaz Mahal stands out
as one of its kind, (though broadly it follows the pattern of Indo-Islamic
architecture ). It is a feast for the eyes of a connoisseur.
Manu Rewals camera brilliantly captures the
close connection Jahaz Mahal has with two lakes, Munj Talab and Kapur
Talab, the beauty of its halls and pavilions, its Hawa ghars on the roof
terrace, its central entrance defined by white marble with black inlay
and its two amazing swimming pools. The more classical architecture of
Baz Bahadurs Palace is also shown. Its lake, swimming pool, courtyard
and typical Mandu Pavilion. The images of the buildings are intercut with
sequences with miniature paintings associated with dialogues and sound
effects that are meant to evoke the ambience and life that once existed
in these palaces.
Director Manu Rewal has made use of the miniature
paintings adding dialogue aptly to recreate an exotic era buried in the
sands of history., This innovative and accurate method pays rich dividends
and a viewer is able to relate with its past and the stories of love,
valor and death. The final seizure of Mandu by Akbars General Adham
Khan in 1561, the defeat of Baz Bahadur and the death of Roopmati and
from the pages of history the viewer is taken to the land of reality,
showing Mandu at sunset. ..
In 1401 Dilawar Khan Ghori created an independent
kingdom in the Vindhya Hills of Madhya Pradesh called the Malwa sultanate,
the capital of which was Mandu. It had inherited the composite Hindu -
Muslim culture that already existed in the North India at that period.
The ambience of the court, the encouragement given to the arts of paintings
and calligraphy as well as to Kathak by the Sultans is highlighted through
miniature paintings from that period. Their love for the novel and exotic
in the natural world is illustrated by the Baobab tree which was imported
It is said that the best time to visit Mandu is when
it rains. Mandu in monsoon is like heaven on earth. This documentary does
not have any shots of rain but it adequately compensates it with the shots
of lakes full of water. it is quite apparent that the shooting was done
after the monsoon. A documentary film - maker of repute, Manu Rewal took
his technical training in film at the New York University specializing
in camera and lighting. Music by well-known singer Shubha Mudgal and excellent
photography by Pradeep Kumar add to the charm of this well-made film on
the city of joy - Mandu.