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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 Roopmati’s 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 Rewal’s 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 architect’s delight and the marvel of Mandu’s 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 Rewal’s 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 Bahadur’s 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 Akbar’s 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 from Africa.

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.


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FROM A CITY OF JOY TO FORGOTTEN CITY by Devyani Onial, Indian Express, November 13, 1996.



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