Varanasi is one of the oldest inhabited cities on earth. The American author Mark Twain famously said this about the city (also known as Benaras): “Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together!” Indeed there are few things that come close to the Varanasi experience. The city that seems older than time itself has been immortalized not just in literature but also in movies. As the city gears up for two major festivals — Mahashivratri that falls on March 7 and Holi that falls on March 23 and 24 — it is only fair that we look back at four movies that have captured the spirit of Varansi in the recent past. Also Read - Lift Lockdown Gradually to Prevent 'Second Wave' of Coronavirus, Experts Warn China As Wuhan Allows People to Travel

1. Raanjhanaa

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The Sonam Kapoor and Dhanush-starrer does a rather neat job of not just capturing the sights and sounds of Varanasi, it also explores the more sensitive issue of religious divide in the city. Also Read - Do You Have Celiac Disease? You May Die Prematurely

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2. Masaan

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Starring Shweta Tripathi, Richa Chadda and Vicky Kaushal, Masaan is yet another film that is not just set in Varanasi but also shot here. Far starker than Raanjhanaa, Masaan is a heartbreaking story of the young attempting to break away from the shackles of the rigid value systems of the ancient town.

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3. Ghatak

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While Masaan showed the youth succumbing to the Varanasi’s rigid values, in Ghatak Sunny Deol’s character derived his strength from the very same value systems. While only a part of the film was shot (and indeed set) in Varansi, Sunny Deol’s shots against the ghats and the city’s famous wrestlers are some of the most memorable ones in the movie. And as the young Deol leaves the town for the big city, the morals of the holy city work as his moral compass in the bad big city world.

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4. Water

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Perhaps the most critically acclaimed movie to be set in Varanasi was never shot in the city. Deepa Mehta’s Water wonderfully narrated the story of the city’s widows but could never be shot due to fierce protests by the locals. Eventually Water would be shot in Sri Lanka but with its supreme storytelling and wonderful camerawork (Giles Nuttgens) did a darned good job of capturing the spirit of the city.

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