Filming the Taj - a pointless exercise?

August 15th, 2011 - 11:41 am ICT by IANS  

Agra, Aug 15 (IANS) The Taj Mahal’s beauty is best left to the eye of the first-time visitor. The gaining consensus follows the city administration’s proposal to package the monument in a 10-minute film capsule, leading to fears of predisposing the beholder.

Argues tourism photographer Vishal, “Once you are over-familiar with the object of your fascination, will you display the same level of intensity when the real (monument) confronts you?”

Aesthetics aside, there are academic reservations too. “Crass commercialisation bordering on vulgarisation of history and culture must stop,” says renowned authority of Indo-Islamic architecture R Nath.

“A handful of chosen ones and bureaucrats will decide on the script which could distort the correct perspective by spicing up the story of the Taj,” Nath told IANS on phone from Ajmer. “This should not happen.”

Author of 60-odd books on Mughal architecture, in his latest book, Nath compares the beauty of the Taj Mahal with a chaste and graceful woman. Nath says more than an exquisitive architectural piece, the Taj is a work of creative art at its best.

The proposed film will show everything from all angles and furnish all information. In short, once a visitor has seen the film, he may lose interest in the ‘real thing’. Even tourist guides would become a drag burden, some tourism industry leaders fear.

“It’s a pointless exercise and they have involved some of the country’s top filmmaking companies that have promised to rope in the likes of Javed Akhtar, Gulzar, Amrish Puri and Shyam Benegal,” a hotelier says.

“At a powerpoint presentation the other day, representatives of 10 companies made very tall claims, virtually dissecting every stone of the Taj and packaging their products with special effects to depict the changing moods of the Taj Mahal,” he says, not wishing to be named.

Fear of the film leaving nothing to imagination has been expressed by others too. “The beauty and charm, as also the spiritual aspect of the monument, could be affected by this film,” conservation activist Shravan Kumar Singh said.

The first glimpse of the monument that leads to unsullied delight might go once tourists are shown a comprehensive film at the Noor Jahan auditorium in the Shilpgram complex, where ticket windows are located, well before they see the actual monument.

Historians and architects agree that the best view of the Taj is from the main gate. “The unsuspecting visitor gets a majestic view of the whole white marble mausoleum that seems to emerge from infinity against an azure sky,” says Surendra Sharma.

“Many poets in the past have compared the Taj Mahal with a veiled beauty, slowly uncovering her face as you move closer and taking you by pleasant surprise,” adds Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society.

A poem said to have been penned by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan himself describes the Taj Mahal thus: “Jannat ka gulshan hai dilkash hai yeh makan, jiski aasmani khushbuon ka kya ho bayan,” (Like the garden of heaven a brilliant spot, full of fragrance like paradise….the nymphs of paradise use their eye-lids for cleaning its threshold.)

Definitely a monument of love, peace, purity and elegance in simplicity are features that make the Taj Mahal unique and distinguished, say historians of the city. The film should only provide basic information to the tourist and show minimum of the Taj Mahal.

A film on the Taj Mahal should ideally be shown after the visit. “If you show him everything and predispose him with theories and so-called insights, one may not fully appreciate the full flow of creative energy that an artistic piece inspired by divinity,” say senior mediaperson Rajiv Saxena.

(Brij Khandelwal can be contacted at brij.k@ians.in)

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