It is a long, winding road that leads to 7/7, Daryaganj. Equally long-winding is the celluloid history of this house, dating back as it does to 41 years. But for three men - Ismail Merchant, James Ivory and Shashi Kapoor - this house is not just about celluloid history: it is about a partner ship which was forged on February 24, 1962 - a partnership which has stood the test of time. For this huge house is where Merchant, Ivory and Kapoor canned the first shot of The Householder - the movie which brought them together for the first time.
Sepia-toned memories spring to life on this trip down memory lane. "I recall how we were doing an all-night shoot and Shashi was so tired that he slept in the floor, using a brick for a pillow," reminisces Ivory. "Yeah, I remember that too," confirm Kapoor. One incident will never forget is how a monkey picked up cameramen Subrata Mitra's lens. We really had to coax him to return it," relates Merchant.
As the three men walk down the steep, well-worn stairs, there is a sense of familiarity. . . the walls, the rooms. "This is where the kitchen was," says Merchant. It is still there. "Maaji made rotis for me here. I was not too fond of the food ordered from outside," adds Kapoor. Maaji is the mother of Prakash Narain, whose ancestral home is where The Householder was not.
The mood is reflective as a million memories come rushing back. And then, a voice speaks when the earnestness of a sudden total recall. "And here is Leela's (Naidu) make up room," says Kapoor. "I didn't know Leela had a meditation room," says Ivory, "She must have needed one for sure!"
7/7, Daryaganj. Another mansion within a maze of structures. Why did they choose this particular house? "The view. With a mosque in the background, this made for the perfect location," offers Merchant. "Did you?" interrupts Ivory. "Of course," quips Merchant, adding, "James was clueless about Delhi when I got here and saw the place." "I was not," grumbles Ivory. The friendly arguments continues. . .
While sipping on a glass of cola, Ivory points to the beverage and reminisces, "This was the one thing that kept me alive through those 10 weeks of shooting here." "Yeah! You were always so quiet and bothered," says Kapoor. "Absolutely, I was always standing under the fan," confirms Ivory.
Having returned to the roots of a 40-year bond, the thoughts of the three men is insightful. How do they feel? "Old," laughs Kapoor. "Good," quips Merchant. "Happy," says Ivory, and gets a picture clicked on what was his first film set.
As Merchant, Ivory and Kapoor turn the clock back, time stops for a moment - as if to pause. It's not everyday that it's yesterday once more.