'Other Kohinoors: The Rocks of Hyderabad' is a Love letter to Hyderabad

The film focuses on the protection of the city’s rocks and the habitats they support from being destroyed by rapid modernisation.
Uma Magal
Uma Magal

HYDERABAD: Calling it a love letter to Hyderabad, filmmaker Uma Magal says her film Other Kohinoors: The Rocks of Hyderabad was initially a response from children when they saw the rocks of the city getting destroyed. The granite rocks of Hyderabad are some of the oldest in the world, about 2500 million years old and cannot be replaced. They are part of the natural habitat of the city, supporting a wide range of flora and fauna. People have developed their livelihoods, homes and cultures around these rocks over the years. 

Spreading awareness about the disappearing rocks of the city and initiating discussions around the protection of these rocks, the makers of the film are holding free screenings in schools, colleges and community spaces. A screening was held at Marley’s Joint Bistro, Sainikpuri recently, followed by a Q&A session with the filmmaker and a spontaneous rap song by Aishan Vali. 

“My son was very young at the time I started researching for this movie. As we used to live in the Gachibowli area, we would go to Greater Hyderabad Adventure Club to spend time on weekends, to the rocks for picnics, etc. As the rocks slowly started disappearing, the children started questioning where their ‘playgrounds’ had gone. The inquisition of the children gave an impetus to make this movie,” she said. 

Produced under Uma’s home production, Fenugreek, the documentary feature film aims to spread awareness about the rocks of the city, which are intricately fused with the Hyderabadi culture, such that they can be found in the names of places, stories, art, textiles, food, jokes and even in everyday language. The film has been co-produced by filmmaker and drama therapist Mahnoor Yar Khan. 

Deploying animation with live-action footage, the movie has minimal narration, powered by an extremely catchy rap song, representing the fact that the city has huge-heartedly embraced modern elements while keeping its traditions intact. “The film took ten years to research and a huge number of people were involved in making it a success, from rappers, geologists, urban planning experts, linguists, scholars, poets, animators, folk theatre performers, to singers and more! All contributors shared their expertise, demonstrating a signature Hyderabadi generosity of spirit!” said Uma. 

The multilingual rap song is a mix of Telugu film songs, Dakhani-Urdu Shayari, original poetry in English, original background music composition and sound design. The animation in the film interests children and adults alike and takes up the formats of several traditional art forms.

The stories associated with the rocks are presented in these art styles, for example, the story of Amir Ali is in the style of Tholabommalata/ Shadow Puppetry, that of Renukamma Yellammma is presented in the style of Cheriyal paintings; the story of the Kagazi Burj is done as a combination of live action and animation in the Deccan miniature painting style. The live-action footage throughout the film presents the current transitioning city. 

The film has also curated a large selection of stories and folklore. Starting with the story of the Kohinoor diamond itself, which is from the Krishna basin and the Golconda mines, the others include gems like the Jacobs diamond, Dariya-e-Noor, Taj-e-Mah etc.

“It is a wonderful initiative as it works well for children, telling them about the city they are growing in. Each and every aspect of Hyderabadi culture is associated with rocks and we all need to know about it,” said Neelima, a music teacher who had come to watch the movie with her children and students. 

As part of a larger ecology, the rocks have multiferous functions, for example, they have gaps, aquifers and ducts that gather and hold water and recharge the groundwater table. They provide a barrier to sharp winds and enrich the soil with minerals, and they, very importantly, impact rainfall. They form critical lung spaces for the city. They are inextricably linked to wildlife that abound in the lakes such as flamingos and buffaloes, the snakes and peacocks they house, and the goats and cattle that graze in their shade.

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The New Indian Express