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Ode To A City
Text by Deepali Nandwani
Published: Volume 14, Issue 4, July-August, 2006

Film-maker, Madhushree Dutta's Seven Islands And A Metro capsules the larger than life canvas of a throbbing metropolis

Any film buff familiar with the alternative stream of film-making, especially the non-fiction format, would tell you that Madhushree Dutta's Seven Islands And A Metro, is one of her finest works. The film, about the underlying currents that make Mumbai a dynamic city, could have done with smoother transitions between two narratives though. That doesn't, however, prevent you from admiring her sheer audacity in tackling a subject whose canvas that's larger than life. Diverse narratives about the ancient settlers like the kolis and the new migrants blend in this two-hour film. The entire structure is held together by the two sutradhars (narrators), actors impersonating writers - Ismat Chugtai and Sadat Hussain Manto - whose writings reflected deep bonds with Mumbai.

A quick session with the zesty film-maker who has tried to map the city's subconscious:

Q. What are the several strains of narratives you have tied together in the film?
Mumbai, as a metropolis, exists in several different underlying layers. I was trying to peel them off to create a narrative that interprets a city which provokes an equal measure of love, passion, hate and desire. The more it progresses, the more alienated we become. But it also has porous borders and everybody gels in, so much so that even if a train compartment is crammed, there's always a helping hand to pull in another passenger. I have juxtaposed several stories of different people hemmed in by circumstances - the bar girls, the stuntwomen and the poor labourers.