Will movies be the only way to preserve memories of the city’s heritage? “Oru thadava sonna, nooru thadava sonna madiri. Baasha oka saari cheputhey, vanda saarlu cheppinattu”. The words have a resonance beyond the Rajinikanth starrer Baasha of 1995. Sitting on a luxury office chair inside his lair as he quizzes a criminal and wags his finger, the eyes of the viewer rarely wander beyond the dramatic expressions of the hero.

But it is the dark, low, long corridor with massive pillars and flickering light that catches my attention. The darkened space is the sepulchral chamber of Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah in Hyderabad’s Qutb Shahi tombs complex.

In Hero Heeralal, auto driver Naseeruddin Shah serenades Sanjana Kapoor in a tor and boulder landscape with a single road leading to nowhere; it is difficult to imagine it is the location where the outer ring road now girdles the city near Nanakramguda. A few months back, a photograph that went viral showed Telugu movie industry’s legendary actors Akkineni Nageswara Rao and NT Rama Rao zipping away in a red open-top convertible.

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Many found it difficult to believe that the road is now the spanking wide Jubilee Hills stretch which is forever clogged with vehicles. The Residency building in the Koti area is another favourite spot for film shootings.

The rise of movie industry in Hyderabad from the early 70s and easy availability of exotic locations has had an interesting side effect. The movies are a gift for anyone trying to understand the evolution of the city. Till a few years back, many of the heritage sites were available for film shooting, for a nominal payment of a few thousand rupees. But film shooting and documenting the city don’t naturally gel together.

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Even now, an abandoned crane lies inside the stepwell near the Bala Hissar of the Golconda fort. At other times, film shooting schedules inside heritage premises have been known to harm the structures as artists and technicians focus on the aesthetics and intensity of the shot and lighting rather than the safety and integrity of the heritage site.

For the shooting of a song in the 2007 Telugu movie Yamadonga starring NTR Jr., the Naya Qila portion of Golconda fort was virtually vandalised by painting the rocks black and planting fibreglass objects across the landscape and even on the bastions. The film technicians also created waterfalls at the location.

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Imagine generations down the line; children will see Telugu and Hindi movies and reminisce about what Hyderabad looked like. The 500-year-old city is morphing into something else in front of our eyes.

Documenting the history of a city through movies might seem a wee bit odd. But when the city’s history is being erased as if it is nobody’s business, then perhaps, watching a movie and reminiscing about the city might not seem so weird after all. #KhabarLive