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July 2, 2024

8 films where the quintessential haveli takes centre stage

A testament to India’s architectural heritage, the haveli is uniquely Indian. Many films have been set in these quintessential buildings, replete with stunning facades, frescoes, and courtyards. From Bhansali’s opulent mansions to the worn-down residences in Delhi-6 and The Sky Is Pink, havelis have many faces, all worth remembering. Here are 10 films that will transport you to India’s most stunning and culturally rich havelis.

⁠Lamhe, 1991


In Yash Chopra’s Lamhe, the sprawling haveli that belongs to Viren serves as a vital narrative and visual element, showcasing traditional Rajasthani architecture with intricate carvings, ornate jharokhas, and expansive courtyards. The central courtyards, surrounded by rooms and corridors, offer communal spaces that highlight the cohesive layout typical of such havelis. Chopra masterfully juxtaposes this majestic and culturally rich setting modern, sophisticated environment of England, creating a stark visual contrast that accentuates the protagonist’s journey and internal conflicts. The haveli stands as a cultural motif representing tradition and heritage, providing a backdrop for moments of reflection, emotional turmoil, and personal growth. It serves as a narrative device that bridges the past and present, symbolising continuity and change while anchoring the story’s emotional core in a tangible, culturally rich setting.

Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, 1999

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Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam

Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam featured stunning production design and architecture that was integral to the film’s visual grandeur. Art director Nitin Chandrakant Desai was the mastermind behind the film’s opulent sets and locations. The centrepiece of the film was the lavish haveli where the protagonists lived, which was meticulously designed with intricate details and ornate decor that evoked the opulence of traditional Gujarati architecture. Shot at the Vijay Vilas Palace in Mandvi, Gujarat, this opulent palace, known for its Rajput-style architecture, served as the primary filming location. Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’s visual splendour, brought to life by Desai’s exceptional production design remains a hallmark to date.

Paheli, 2005

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The 2005 Bollywood film Paheli featured an impressive production design, with the highlight being the stunning haveli used as a key location. The haveli, located in Seswas near Mandawa in Rajasthan, was replete with the typical Rajasthani style interiors, intricate carvings, jharokhas and a central courtyard. The cinematographer Ravi K. Chandran captured the haveli’s grandeur beautifully, making it an integral part of the movie’s visual appeal. The film’s warm and earthy colour palette, dominated by shades of ochre, terracotta, and deep blues, enhances its traditional and mystical ambiance.

Parineeta, 2005

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The haveli, the palatial mansion of the Roy family, is a central location in the 2005 film Parineeta, directed by Pradeep Sarkar. The production design team, led by art director Keshto Mondal, meticulously recreated the opulent 1960s setting, with the haveli serving as a key element of the film’s atmosphere and narrative. The haveli is depicted as a grand, multi-story structure, reflecting the architectural grandeur typical of the period. Built with traditional materials such as brick, sandstone, and wood, the haveli exudes an old-world charm and authenticity. The structure features intricately carved wooden doors, stained glass windows, and ornate balconies. Inside, the haveli boasts arcaded corridors that provide a sense of continuity and flow, leading to an expansive courtyard that serves as the heart of the household. The haveli’s design is not just a backdrop but an integral part of the film’s storytelling. It symbolises unity and separation, serving as a witness to Shekhar and Lalita’s evolving relationship.

Bhool Bhulaiyaa, 2007

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Bhool Bhulaiyaa

In the 2007 film Bhool Bhulaiyaa, directed by Priyadarshan, the production design brilliantly captures the essence of a traditional Rajasthani haveli, where much of the film unfolds. The 300-year-old Chomu Palace, in Jaipur, became the haveli that was haunted by Manjulika in the film. The dimly lit corridors and shadowy rooms heighten the eerie atmosphere, enhancing the film’s blend of horror and comedy. Beyond its visual allure, the haveli becomes a character in its own right, influencing the narrative’s twists and turns. The haveli has always housed Indian folklore within, and Akshay Kumar’s Bhool Bhulaiyaa is a testament to that sentiment.

Delhi 6, 2009

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Delhi 6

In Delhi-6, directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, the haveli plays an important role in encapsulating the essence of Old Delhi. The film captures the bustling lanes, rich culture, and historical heritage of Chandni Chowk and its surrounding areas with remarkable authenticity. The production team, led by the late Samir Chanda, utilised real havelis located in Chandni Chowk to serve as the film’s backdrop. These traditional mansions represent the heart of the community and the intricacies of family life in Old Delhi. The haveli features intricately carved wooden doors, spacious courtyards, jharokhas (overhanging enclosed balconies), and traditional Mughal-era design elements such as arches and latticework. These elements not only enhance the visual appeal of the film but also provide a deep connection to the cultural and historical roots of the area, making the haveli an integral part of the film’s narrative and atmosphere.

Ram Leela, 2013

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Ram Leela

The production design of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Ram Leela is a sumptuous visual tapestry. Set against the vibrant backdrop of Gujarat, the film vividly brings to life the fictional town of Ranjhaar through its two rival havelis, bustling streets, and lavish interiors. Central to the narrative are the havelis, meticulously designed to showcase intricate Gujarati craftsmanship, vibrant hues, and a harmonious blend of historical and modern design elements. Particularly noteworthy are spaces like Leela’s living quarters, adorned with tranquil fountains and intricately carved jharokhas, where her romance with Ram blossoms amidst the graceful presence of peacocks.

Sky Is Pink, 2019

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Sky Is Pink

The Sky Is Pink directed by Shonali Bose features a beautiful and warm haveli right in the center of Old Delhi, in Chandni Chowk. Production designer Aradhana Seth incorporated elements like carved stone pillars, domes, arches, and intricate patterns in the flooring to establish the living quarters of the Chaudhary family. Shot in Mohsin House, right in front of Jama Masjid. Subtle lighting was used throughout the haveli to create a warm, intimate atmosphere. Principal photography for the film’s exterior haveli scenes took place in Delhi, where director Shonali Bose specifically chose to shoot to showcase the “character and beauty” of the city’s historic localities.

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