Mumbai's 66-million-year-old 'secret' fires up the internet

Jaskunwar Kohli hopes the Internet support for his short film on Andheri’s West’s Gilbert Hill translate to on-ground preservation


The 200-ft-high Gilbert Hill faces threat from haphazard real estate growth around it. Pic/ Sayyed Sameer Abedi

Tucked inside the concrete maze of Andheri West is Mumbai's -- nay India's -- best-kept 'secret': a 66-million-year-old volcanic structure that can be found at only two other locations in the world. And, a filmmaker from Delhi is outing it. Jaskunwar Kohli, 24, who studied filmmaking at St Xavier's College two years ago, has released a short film -- Nobody Knows -- on YouTube that throws light on 200-ft-high Gilbert Hill, a volcanic structure from the Mesozoic era believed to have been formed at the time of the mass extinction of dinosaurs due to an asteroid hit.

The short film, 4.57 minutes long, was uploaded on July 10 and became an instant hit. It has so far garnered 1,14,888 views.
The film begins on a note of suspense --"there is an ancient secret hidden in the heart of Mumbai, except that it is not really a secret" -- and explains the natural phenomenon through a photo walk held in June-end by a group of photography enthusiasts who call themselves the Klicktorians.

Also Read: Mapping Mumbai: Annoying, yet amazing Andheri

Awareness is only aim
Kohli, a freelancer, says like many Mumbaikars, he knew little about the geographical phenomenon till he began working on a college project. "I like delving into unique subjects. While researching the secrets of Mumbai, I learned about Gilbert Hill. I was awestruck. Can you believe that such a geographically significant structure sits in the city and people barely know about it?"
The short has been produced under the banner of AlterEgoCrew, and Kohli worked on it for a month.

His aim is to create awareness around the prehistoric structure and lend to its preservation. "Many people admitted to seeing it during their day-to-day travel, but never thought of finding out what it was," he says.

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The video offers scenic views of the hill and its surroundings, and even borrows clips from Discovery Channel's simulation videos to depict how the meteor strike led to the hill's formation. Although the film aims to be expository, it restricts itself to the realisation that few people know about the rich history of the hill despite it sitting right before their eyes. There is no open talk of its preservation. That, says Kohli, was intentional. "We only wanted to emphasise its significance and keep it open-ended so that people can decide how they want to preserve this piece of history."

In contrast, a 7-minute-long science fiction film -- Gilbert -- released by Mumbai-based filmmaker Omar Iyer in November last year, had delved into encroachments around the hill, through elements of the supernatural. Although Nobody Knows isn't the first film on Gilbert Hill, none of the others rose to viral fame. "We just wanted to make a video on the hill. We didn't imagine that it would become a hit," says Kohli. Iyer's Gilbert had received 5,000 views.

What's eating Gilbert Hill?
Despite its geographical significance -- it was declared a Grade II heritage structure in 2007 -- Gilbert Hill faces the threat of collapsing owing to haphazard real estate growth. Extensive quarrying was carried out around it for years until 2007, when the BMC declared it a heritage structure and put end to quarrying. However, construction activities around it are still allowed. Grade II tags are given to precincts with the regional or local importance that possess special architectural, aesthetic or historical significance. They are local landmarks, which contribute to the image and identity of the region.

In 2006, a boulder rolled off the hill, raising concerns of its deteriorating condition. Worried about its erosion, the Bombay High Court then directed IIT-Bombay to prepare a report on measures to preserve the hill.

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