35th anniversary special: 35 greatest movies about Mumbai
#01 'Once upon a time in Mumbaai', 2010/Directed by Milan Luthria
This film, produced by Ekta Kapoor, was set in the Bombay of the 1970s. The underworld had just begun to spring its head up. The story talks about the rise of a petty criminal Sultan (the character presumably loosely based on Dawood) and his aide Shoaib. The story maps the journey of these two petty criminals as they get more and more entrenched in the world of crime. What is also fascinating is that the film touches upon the Bollywood scene of the 1970s as Kangana Ranaut plays an actress and Sultan's love interest. The painstaking detailing of that decade made this film especially memorable.
#02 'Salaam Bombay!', 1988/Directed by Mira Nair
TWENTY years before Slumdog Millionaire was made and walked away with many accolades, the talented Mira Nair had made a movie on an almost similar theme called Salaam Bombay! This film sensitively chronicled the lives of two street kids. The children desperate to make money to survive get into crime. Nair's gritty film won many awards in India and abroad, which included the National award for the best Hindi film. It can also boast of being featured as one of the 1,000 greatest films ever made by The New York Times. This was Nair's debut directorial venture and it catapulted her to becoming a well known name on the circuit.
#03 'Slumdog Millionaire', 2008/Directed by Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandon
This British production is a realistic yet optimistic portrayal of a bunch of children from the slum ridden area of Bombay making their dreams come true, in spite of adverse conditions. This film won much critical acclaim and managed to win eight out of 10 academy nominations. Apart from many other awards, it won Oscars for best picture, best director, best adapted screenplay, best cinematography, best original score, best song, best film editing and best sound mixing. Even though technically it is not produced by an Indian company, it can be easily called a Mumbai film, considering that most of the shooting took place in real locations, around the city.
#04 'Life in a Metro', 2007/Directed by Anurag Basu
Anurag Basu's musical film had three stories running simultaneously, later culminating into a similar kind of buoyant climax. The film spoke beautifully about the urban lives of nine citizens of Mumbai and how they dealt with loneliness and despair. How they cling on to traces of love, even if forbidden. Also, it speaks about the sacrifices one makes to keep climbing the professional ladder. The film travels through Mumbai's famous locals, gets into a typical corporate and advertising office and even gives a glimpse of the kind of neighbours you are expected to find here.
#05 'Aamir', 2008/Directed by Rajkumar Gupta
This chilling thriller takes you through the nooks and corners of Mumbai, as its protagonist Aamir Ali (Rajeev Khandelwal, in one of his finest performances) goes round looking for a missing link, in order to save his family. Through the film, the film-maker explores some seen and some unseen corners of the city, even as the film moves at a speed matching the steps of the fast paced city. The film didn't open too well but soon managed to do good business, thanks to word of mouth publicity.
#06 'A Wednesday', 2008/Directed by Neeraj Pandey
Based on the 2006 Mumbai train blasts, this gritty film talks of a common man who is out to avenge the terrorists using the same techniques that they did. Naseeruddin Shah and Anupam Kher play pivotal roles in this thriller. Taut, tense and terrific it maintains momentum and keeps you on the edge of the seat throughout.
#07 'Bombay', 1995/Directed by Mani Ratnam
Mani ratnam's gem of a movie talks about a Muslim girl (Manisha Koirala) and a Hindu boy falling in love with each other back in Chennai. When their respective families oppose their match, they elope to Mumbai, then Bombay. But their blissfully, simple life gets shattered as they get caught in the 1992 Bombay Hindu-Muslim riots and their twin boys go missing. Mani Ratnam's sensitive handling of a riot situation and how the common people get affected by it, went on to win many accolades. A R Rahman's soul stirring music, one of his best, added to the magic of this movie.
#08 'Black Friday', 2004 / Directed by Anurag Kashyap
This highly controversial Anurag Kashyap film was based on well known crime journalist Hussain Zaidi's book 'True Story of the Bombay bomb blasts' on the 1993 bomb blasts in the city. The gritty film painstakingly details out the various incidents that finally led to the bomb blasts. The film traces the growing tension between the two communities, which finally resulted in the series of bomb blasts. Even though the film had won accolades abroad, the censor board in India decided to ban it because of its inflammatory subject. The film finally released two years later, to great acclaim.
#09 'City of Gold (Lalbaug Parel)', 2010/Directed by Mahesh Manjrekar
Adapted from a play by Jayant Pawar, this film speaks about the sorry plight of millions of mill workers in Mumbai who lost their livelihood because of mills being shut down to give way to malls and fancy buildings. The hard hitting story set in the 1980s is about one particular family which becomes one of the victims to the changing face of the city. This realistic portrayal of those mill workers and their families who are suddenly left to fend on their own, speaks of a shameful fact of this selfish, uncaring city and how a poor mill worker suffers due to the toxic nexus between the union leaders and politicians. Manjrekar later received a legal notice from union leader Datta Samant's family for "false portrayal".
#10 'Satya', 1998/Directed by Ram Gopal Varma
Exceptionally bold and perhaps the first film to take us so close to the gritty underworld of Mumbai, Ramu's Satya went on to earn cult status. Manoj Bajpai brilliantly played the now-famous Bhiku Mhatre. Satya and Bhiku Matre went on to become the inspiration for many films that followed, in that genre. Yet, no one could recreate the kind of world that Ramu managed to create.
#11 'Striker', 2010/Directed by Chandan Arora
This film did below average business at the box office, but the critics loved it. Set in the bustling area of Malwani in Mumbai, 'Striker' talks about Surya (Played by Siddharth), a champion carrom player who gets no opportunities to fan his passion because of his economic conditions. His dream of going to Dubai gets dashed when he is duped by an employment agency. The story takes a twist when Surya meets Jaleel, a local don and challenges him.
#12 'Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro', 1989/Directed by Saeed Akhtar Mirza
This film which clearly fell into the category of arthouse cinema, might not have got the box office jingling, but is still remembered for its bold, gritty content. The film is set in the unrest in the 1980s because of the Hindutva movement. It highlights the effect that the movement directly and indirectly has on the Muslim youth in the city. It particularly trails the poignant story of Salim Pasha (brilliantly played by Pavan Malhtora), a youth belonging to the lower middle class strata, forced to face the world of crime in his neighbourhood. Pasha, with his slight limp, comes across as the epitome of helplessness caught in a situation which is much beyond his control. This modest film was produced by NFDC (National Films Division of India). Pasha’s journey from vulnerability to the discovery of acquiring fake strength through the flash of a weapon is what Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro about. Written realistically and poignantly by Saeed Akhtar Mirza, this film recieved a lot of critical acclaim. Shot in real locations in Mumbai, it is a film before it’s time. Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro got the status of a cult film much after it was released. The film not surprisingly, won two national awards, one in the best Hindi film category and another in the best cinematography category.
#13 'Dombivili Fast', 2005/Directed by Nishikant Kamat
This Marathi film typically depicts the life of a working-class family man in Mumbai. In a city where people are too busy to notice anything, the protagonist of this film, Madhav Apte goes around fighting for what is right. He fights with everyone who is corrupt and does not act according to his righteous principles. When Apte finds himself alone in this battle against wrong doing, he loses control and creates havoc on the streets of Mumbai. A small but effective film that made quite a talking point and opened up doors for the director.
#14 'Agnipath', 1990/Directed by Mukul Anand
Who can forget Vijay Dinanath Chauhan? Or Kancha Cheena? These one of the most talked about characters in the history of cinema belonged to an action packed film by late director Mukul Anand. Young Vijay is traumatised by the murder of his father, plotted by Kancha Cheena and grows up to become a henchmen of one of the dons of Mumbai. Vijay later becomes the don of Mumbai herself. An interesting study of the underworld scene in the 90s, this film was remade in 2013 with Hrithik Roshan playing the lead. However, Bachchan’s baritone identifying himself in a scene remains one of the most memorable ones.
#15 'Shootout at Lokhandwala', 2007/Directed by Apoorva Lakhia
Loosely based on the encounter of the dreaded underworld don Mahindra alias Maya Dolas, this film also talks about the burgeoning underworld terror in Mumbai in the 1980s and 1990s. The film mainly talks about the four hour long encounter that took place to eliminate Maya Dolas (played by Vivek Oberoi in perhaps his career-best till date) at the bustling area of Lokhandwala in Andheri area. The gangsters had holed themselves in the flat after kidnapping a builder's son. This was one of the grittiest films one had seen, based on a true police encounter. It made quite a stir and was a big box-office success too.
#16 'Dhobi Ghat', 2010Directed by Kiran Rao
This directorial debut by Kiran Rao, Aamir Khan's wife, takes a realistic look at Mumbai life through multiple stories fitted into one film. This film, had its world premiere at the Toronto film festival. It received much critical acclaim. Aamir Khan features as an artist in the film, who is intrigued by the life of a tenant, Yasmin, in his house before he moved in. Also starring Prateik Babbar and Monica Dogra, this film tries capturing the different worlds of people in the city. It also talks about the love, longing and loneliness of the people in the city, even when some of them are desperate to make ends meet.
#17 'D', 2005/Directed by Vishram Samant
This film, touted as the prequel to Ram Gopal Varma's 2002 release Company is presumably inspired by dreaded underworld don Dawood Abraham's rise in the Mumbai underworld. It traces the life of Deshu (played by Randeep Hooda), who, from a mere mechanic in Dubai becomes one of the most feared and powerful gangsters in Mumbai.
#18 'Company', 2002/Directed by Ram Gopal Varma
This film, which went on to become a blockbuster, is said to be inspired by the life of gangster Dawood Ibrahim and his once upon a time aide Chhota Rajan. The story talks about their friendship and then misunderstandings leading to enmity and a rift in the D-mafia company. Ajay Devgn plays the dark and brooding Don, Malik and Vivek Oberoi plays the earnest and ambitious Chandu. The south superstar Mohanlal makes a rare appearance in Hindi films with this one. He plays the IPS officer who takes advantage of the rivalry between Malik and Chandu.
#19 'Rangeela', 1995/Directed by Ram Gopal Varma
This light-hearted film looks at Bollywood, a mainstay of Mumbai, through the eyes of two strugglers, Munna (Aamir Khan) and Mili (Urmila Matondkar). The aggressively ambitious Mili manages to become an extra in films, while Munna continues to sell tickets in black outside cinema halls. Their life changes after a chance encounter with a star (Jackie Shroff), Mili's life begins to change and it seems like her dreams might come true, after all. A true reflection of the many strugglers who come with dreams to make it big in Bollywood, this film went on to become a roaring box- office success. A part of the credit for this should also go to Urmila, who shed inhibitions and some of her clothes in what was considered a bold move at that point of time.
#20 'Saathiya', 2002/Directed by Shaad Ali
A soft, romantic film, this Vivek Oberoi-Rani Mukherjee starrer is a mirror to how love takes a backseat when one is faced with the everyday issues of the city. One of the films that depicted Mumbai railways in the most realistic manner, it also goes through the nook and corners of the city without using any rose tinted glasses. Suhani (Rani) and Aditya (Vivek ) walk out of their respective cosy homes when their parents don't agree to their wedding. But soon they realise how difficult it is to survive on their own in the city and misunderstandings start creeping in. This was a lovely film with great music.
#21 'Taxi no 9211', 2006/Directed by Rohan Sippy
This Hollywood style fast paced thriller is truly a Mumbai film, as it explores nooks and crannies of the city. A revenge drama that involves a taxi driver (Nana Patekar) and his bete noir and passenger (John Abraham), this film involves a intriguing cat and mouse chase between these two protagonists.
#22 'Chandni Bar', 2001/Directed by Madhur Bhandarkar
This national award winning film is set in the chawls and dancing bars of Mumbai. It talks of the travails of a woman having to earn her livelihood by hook or crook in the big bad city but also in a way it celebrates the spirit of Mumbai through it's protagonist, a bar dancer Mumtaz (played brilliantly by Tabu). Mumtaz, a simple village belle, gets caught in a vicious web after Potlya (a goon working for the underworld), marries her. This gritty film deservedly went on to win four national awards that year.
#23 'Katha', 1983/Directed by Sai Paranjape
THIS beauty by Sai Paranjape is a simple, endearing story of a guileless middle-class clerk Rajaram (Naseeruddin Shah), who lives in a chawl in Mumbai. Deliciously capturing the classic culture of the chawl system in the city (it is shot in a chawl in Churchgate), this film is loosely based on the folk tale of the hare and the tortoise. Rajaram is secretly in love with Sandhya (Deepti Naval), his neighbour, and dreams of getting married to her some day. Then enters Rajaram's glib talking shrewd friend Bashudev (Farooque Shaikh) and it looks like he is out to take away all of Rajaram's dreams. An exceptionally funny film with a close look on the reality of chawl life, Katha remains one of the epic films in Bollywood history.
#24 'Page 3', 2005/Directed by Madhur Bhandarkar
A hard-hitting film about the ugly underbelly of the glamorous world of Page 3 parties and the likes, this film was well appreciated by both the audience and the critics. Looking at the shallow glamorous life of socialites in the city, through an upright lifestyle journalist, Madhavi (played earnestly by Konkona Sen Sharma), this film gets too close to reality at points. Madhavi starts getting disillusioned by her job and her friends, when she realises that most relationships in her world are need based.
#25 'Shor in the City', 2011/Directed by Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK
This delightful little film highlights the lives of five residents of the city, their hopes and despairs and how they get caught up in the daily grind of making a living. This film brought together a unique mix of actors which included American actor Sendhil Ramamurthy, Tusshar Kapoor and Nikhil Dwivedi. Much close to reality, this film generated a lot of interest and got many positive reviews. The smart screenplay and dialogues, rich with black humour, added to the appeal of the film.
#26 'The Lunchbox', 2013/Directed by Ritesh Batra
EVEN though dabbawalas are an integral part of this city, strangely films have not focused on them. The Lunchbox speaks of a unique love story between a housewife and a widower, thanks to a goof up by the dabbawalahs. The film sensitively walks us through the awkward then full fledged romance between the couple (Nimrit Kaur and Irrfan Khan), was well received by not only the local critics but also by various film festivals. A refreshing love story where the two protagonists only know each other through the letters that they write to each other, there was a bit of a controversy attached to the film too, when it was not chosen to be sent as the official entry for Oscars and one of the producers of the film, Anurag Kashyap took objection to that. Guneet Monga and Arun Rangachari along with Kashyap produced this little gem of a film.
#27 'Parinda', 1989/Directed by Vidhu Vinod Chopra
Produced and directed by Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Parinda is about two brothers, Kishen (Jackie Shroff) and Karan (Anil Kapoor), who have grown up on the streets of Mumbai. This powerful film has Nana Patekar playing a vicious Anna who has connections with the underworld, and Kishen joins him. Kishen wants his brother to lead a normal life but he gets entangled in the murky world of crime, after he witnesses the murder of his best friend. Shot at various locations in the city, the film is still remembered for its story, songs and of course, Patekar's intense performance and dialogues. Madhuri Dixit, who plays Karan's love interest, also had an interesting role. One of those landmark films which touched upon the underworld scene of the city. The film helped Kapoor showcase his talent.
#28 'Miss Lovely' 2012/Directed by Ashim Ahluwalia
A BOLD take on the B and C grade film industry in Mumbai, Miss Lovely was started as a documentary on this sleazy business or horror and sex based films which thrived in 70s to 2000s. The film, in a brutally honest manner, follows the world of Duggal brothers who produce these kind of films. The best thing about this film is that nowhere does it compromise while showing the stark realities and you get a real glimpse of a world which most of us might not be familiar with. Unapologetic and unpretentious, Miss Lovely speaks of the younger Duggal, Sonu (Nawazuddin)'s ambitions and his struggle to get out of the world that he thinks he doesn't belong to. Miss Lovely boldly shows a facet of the city that most of us would be embarrassed by and want to not talk about.
#29 'Mashaal', 1984/Yash Chopra
This film is most remembered for an iconic scene in it, where Dilip Kumar standing on the road pleads with motorists to stop and help him even when his wife (Waheeda Rehman) is writhing in pain nearby. Dilip saab brilliantly played Vinod Kumar, an honest and upright newspaper editor, who takes on S.K Vardhan (Amrish Puri), who is in deals with drug trafficking. When Vardhan trumps him, Vinod Kumar decides to get into the business himself to gain victory over the evil man. Anil Kapoor plays Raja, who is heartbroken to discover that his idol and Godfather has turned a new leaf and entered the criminal world. This dramatic film is mostly shot in the city.
#30 'Dharavi', 1991/Directed by Sudhir Mishra
This NFDC-Doordarshan production is primarily shot in the slum areas of Dharavi in the central suburbs of the city. Dharavi, which is said to house the largest number of slums in the world, is shown with all it's warts et all in the film. The film talks about the hopes and desires of a common man, a taxi driver (Om Puri), who refuses to accept his fate and dreams of getting out of his mundane poverty ridden existence. He fantasises of romancing a film actress and makes big plans of striking rich, as his hapless wife (Shabana Azmi) is a mute witness. The cabbie's big dreams land him in big trouble as he gets caught in the nexus between local goondas and corrupt politicians. This film went on to win three national awards.
#31 'Mee Shivajiraje Bhonsale Bolto', 2009/Directed by Santosh Manjrekar
This hit Marathi film focuses on the lives of Maharashtrian people who think they have lost their identity in Mumbai as it has turned into a city beyond recognition. The film's protagonist Dinkar Maruti Bhosle (Sachin Khedekar) is getting more and more frustrated as he feels that the cosmopolitan business capital of the country has lost its Maharashtrian roots and might as well belong to some other place in the country. He goes on a self pitying trip and this is when the Shivaji Maharaj's spirit gets aroused. Shivaji, the much revered king of the Maharashtrians, chides Dinkar for blaming other communities for "polluting" the city's culture and asks him to look within. Quite a radical and bold film, Mee Shivajiraje Bhonsale Bolto Aahe attempts to work as a wake up call to Mumbaikars who wallow in misery instead of working towards the progress of the community.
#32 'Ankush', 1986/Directed by N Chandra
Set in the 1980s Ankush focuses on the social conditions of that time in Mumbai when the textile mill strike had left thousands of people jobless, and millions of youths disillusioned. It speaks of four friends, all unemployed, whiling away their life bitching out the system and not really doing anything towards bettering their condition. A new girl (Nisha Singh) who moves into their neighbourhood tries to change their perspective and goads them to look for employment. But soon Nita gets raped and commits suicide. The boys decide to take revenge and the film ends on a tragic note. This gritty film, which depicted the life of a lower middle-class youth of the 1980s in Bombay pretty realistically. Nana Patekar played a pivotal role in the film. Without glossing over the harsh truth, N Chandra talks about the despair and helplessness of poor, unemployed citizens and the drastic steps that they take for want of alternatives. This small budget film resonated with the youth of that time and went on to become a huge hit, despite having all newcomers in the cast. Ankur is considered a cult classic now.
#33 'Chakra', 1981/Directed by Rabindra Dhammaraj
Chakra is one of those innumerable small budget films that came from arthouse cinema, as it was called in the 1980s. Chakra is a close to soil kind of a story about the people in the slums of Bombay. Smita Patil plays the lead protagonist Amma who struggles to make ends meet for herself and her son. She takes on two lovers (one of them being Naseeruddin Shah) to keep the kitchen fires burning even as she struggles to get through life trying to get the basic necessities. Focussing on the life of slum dwellers and their desperation to lead a life of decency in spite of the lack of basic amenities makes for a fascinating story. A scene from this film, when Smita takes a bath out in the open, made much news as it was considered quite a bold move in the 1980s. One of Smita Patil's most memorable performances.
#34 'Jaane bhi do yaaro', 1983/Directed by Kundan Shah
Undoubtedly one of the best films to come out of Hindi film industry, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron deservedly enjoys a huge cult status. A hilarious account of two friends, also struggling professional photographers in Bombay, Vinod Chopra (Naseeruddin Shah) and Sudhir Mishra (late Ravi Baswani) chance upon a big assignment with a newspaper where they have to keep a tab on unscrupulous builder, Tarneja (Pankaj Kapoor) and a municipal commissioner (Satish Shah). A brilliantly satirical story and screenplay (jointly written by Sudhir Mishra and Kundan Shah), and an ensemble of some of the greatest actors of the industry has made this film absolutely unforgettable. Shah plays a corpse for almost the entire film resulting in a rip roaring sequence of events. Three decades after release, this film has stood the test of time and is still used as a reference point for comic films. The film shockingly didn’t do well when it released. A digitally restored print of the film was re-released in 2012, which got a warm reception.
#35 'Dayavan: Truth of Power', 1988/Directed by Feroz Khan
This film, which was a remake of a 1987 hit Tamil film 'Nayakan', was said to be based on the real life story of the underworld don, Varadarajan Mudaliar. While the original had Kamal Haasan playing the don, in the Hindi version, director Feroz Khan chose his good friend Vinod Khanna to play the controversial role. Mostly shot in different locations of Mumbai (then Bombay), Dayavan talks of the rise of Shakti Velu, a Robin Hood kind of character, who goes on to become a powerful, much feared but also admired don of the city. Madhuri Dixit plays Neelu, a sex worker that Velu pities, falls in love with and eventually marries. A sensuous song between the lead pair 'Aaj Phir tum pe pyar aaya hai' became one of the highlights of this hit film. Khanna was much appreciated for his convincing performance as a deadly don with a soft heart.