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A hundred odes to New Delhi: Celebrating a city & its people
NIDHI GUPTA  18th Dec 2011

Stills from the documentary Delhi Diary

s the year comes to a close, New Delhi's centennial celebrations are in overdrive. Paying tribute to the city and its history are 100 class VIII students of Modern School, Barakhamba Road, who have created, directed and produced a documentary called Delhi Diary, which was recently screened at the Azad Bhawan by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and Cine Darbaar.

The documentary traces the history of Delhi, from 1911 when the capital was first shifted from Kolkata, to the modern day bustling metropolis that it has become, with the Metro, skyscrapers and a distinct cosmopolitan character. Narrated from a child's point of view, the movie looks at the cultural and economic hubs of the city, focussing on Connaught Place, India Habitat Centre, India International Centre, Rikki Ram Music Gallery and the Indian Coffee House, that have survived through time and flourished.

It looks at the accommodative character of the city, taking in refugees from Pakistan, Tibet and Bangladesh and migrants from all over the country and making them its own. It also features interviews with historian William Dalrymple, Chief Minister Sheila Dixit and architect K.T. Ravindran, among others.

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The documentary traces the history of Delhi, from 1911 when the capital was first shifted from Kolkata, to the modern day bustling metropolis that it has become, with the Metro, skyscrapers and a distinct cosmopolitan character.

It all started when Cine Darbaar, an NGO working for the promotion of cinema, approached the school to host a filmmaking workshop in March. "We proposed a two-week long workshop for the summer vacation, since we thought it might be useful for the children to get an insight into this form of art. When this was successful, the principal thought of expanding it into a film project, to celebrate the school's 91st Founder's Day as well as Delhi," says Supriya Suri, creative director, Cine Darbaar.

The students were divided into groups of ten each, with two editors, directors, producers, writers and cameramen and were given a choice of themes to work on. Imaad Shah, a class VIII student, was deputed as director to cover cultural hubs and to interview Ravindran. "This was my first experience behind the camera and it was awesome," he gushes.

The entire production process was carried out under the guidance of Aviroop Mazumdar, who directs Star Plus' popular soap Sangam. "This has been the most challenging project I have undertaken so far, but it was also the most rewarding," he laughs. Working with children meant he had to teach without using jargons. Also, any project on Delhi would require intense research, but making the movie from children's point of view meant it had to be simplified, he pointed out.

Rita Gupta, headmistress of the middle wing calls it a proud moment. "We've been approached by the Delhi Tourism board for a copy of the movie, and by way of congratulation, they have given us an open offer to take the entire school on their Hop-On-Hop-Off rides," she says.

But does this translate into long-term interest in filmmaking for the kids on the project? "No, I'd still like to consider it as a hobby," says Shah, who hasn't really decided on a career. "Parents are always wary of creative pursuits like cinema," explains Mazumdar. "The idea behind our entire endeavour is to inculcate in the young a better understanding of the exciting language of cinema," concludes Suri.

 
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