Mumbai. A city brimming with life and bursting with people that is at once unforgiving, wonderful, freeing, restrictive and isolating. There is perhaps no better way to fully comprehend the city than to look to the movies which call it home. Movies in which Mumbai is a setting, a backdrop, a catalyst, and in many cases, a character. At a time where films like Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy and Ritesh Batra‘s Photograph are offering their own interpretations of Mumbai, we look back at the 10 films over the years which have shown different sides of the city. Each so different from the next and yet all commenting on the same space.
Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay! offered an unforgettably specific interpretation of the city, one that depicted the harshness, isolation, and unforgiving nature of life in the maximum city like few films before it. Salaam Bombay! was a rare, sensitive look at poverty without resorting to exploitation.
Ram Gopal Varma’s landmark crime drama about Mumbai’s infamous underworld gave new meaning to the term seedy underbelly. The film’s portrayal of the city shows its claustrophobic, grimy side but equally the freedom it provides to those who feel trapped by circumstance. Who can forget Manoj Bajpayee’s iconic gangster shouting ‘Mumbai ka king kaun? Bhiku Mhatre!’ into the ocean.
Sometimes this city doesn’t have to be a living, breathing character. Sometimes it can just serve as home and setting for a simple rom-com between friends. A place of refuge which offers hidden corners to escape into, to be free of your troubles as Bandra Fort was for Aditi.
Wake Up Sid
Much like Jaane Tu, here Mumbai served as the backdrop to a blossoming romance. Wake Up Sid was a tale of self-discovery and by extension discovering the city. As Sid came out of his shell and embraced the world, he also came out of his privileged suburban bubble and explored more of the city. Wake Up Sid spoke to those of us who’ve lived in the city without truly seeing it or experiencing its wonders. It leads to a rain-soaked closing sequence on Marine Drive where Sid has finally come into his own as has his relationship with Aisha.
Anurag Kashyap’s Black Friday offered a rare perspective of Mumbai, making you feel like one amongst the crowd, rather than providing the larger, sweeping shots of the city we are so used to. Black Friday put you in the streets, amongst the people, amidst the chaos and into the bylanes, especially during that seemingly never-ending, iconic slum chase sequence.
Few films were about life in the big city quite like Raj Kapoor’s Shree 420. A film that personified the city of dreams and the hopes of the people who come here every day, seeking opportunity and a better life only to be sidelined, trampled upon and devoured whole by its uncompromising nature.
Ruchika Oberoi’s absurdist Black Mirror-esque tale satirised the use of technology but also explored different shades of Mumbai life. Be it a worker drone seeking freedom, a family’s need for escapism in the face of hardship or simply one woman’s longing to connect and feel less alone. Perhaps none more so as Vinay Pathak’s mechanic corporate worker lost in the repetitive daily grind.
Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro
Aside from being a classic Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro was steeped in Mumbai life. From the revolving building site shot to the hilarious antics involving a dead body under a flyover or that last iconic shot of the Gateway Of India forever imprinted in our subconscious. Amidst the satire and social commentary, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro snuck in a whole lot of Mumbai.
A landmark film in which you couldn’t segregate the narrative from the city even if you tried. Another film that touched on the Mumbai underworld but unlike Satya, Parinda was less about seedy underbelly and more of an ode to the city. Key sequences take place in and around significant areas of the city such as the Gateway Of India serving as the backdrop during a shootout in which armed assailants wait to attack brothers Anil Kapoor and Jackie Shroff.
Few films in recent years personified isolation in the city quite like Vikramaditya Motwane’s Trapped. The tale of a man caged in a high rise right in the heart of the city served as the perfect metaphor for all those voices lost among thousands of people whose cries for help go unheard.