The Hinterland strikes back
The aspirations and imagery of small town India are being played out on celluloid like never before. While Mumbai continues to be the filmmakers’ muse, the action has shifted to Delhi over the last few years. But now, the industry’s lens has zoomed even further inward. Shyam Benegal’s Welcome To Sajjanpur (2008) was set in a fictitious village in central India. Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs Of Wasseypur I and II is rooted in Dhanbad, Jharkhand. Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Paan Singh Tomar (2012) finds its hero in Chambal, Madhya Pradesh. Abhishek Chaubey’s Ishqiya (2010) sees much of its action in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh and Habib Faisal’s Ishaqzaade (2012) gives Almor (a fictitious village in UP), its three hours of fame.
The films may be set in the hinterland, but are nothing like the stereotypical village stories of old Bollywood – no village belles in short, ghera skirts; no tales of famine, and definitely no dancing on crushed glass. This time, the locations are real, the plots believable, the details authentic. It’s a world where the new idea of entertainment is Huma Qureshi telling Nawazuddin, “Permeeson to lo! Aise kaise touch karoge?” in small-town Hinglish. It’s changing the way the stories are being told, and larger cities appear to be lapping it up. “We are tired of living our cinematic dreams abroad,” says author and film critic Anupama Chopra. “Filmmakers have explored the world, set stories and characters in New York and London and anywhere else fancy. This concept has done its time.”