“Mumbai is a city, but Bombay is an emotion.” We’ve all heard this phrase multiple times, but there are a few films and books that bring it out for non-locals too. The city is home to dreamers—both young and old—and to the glitzy and gritty Bollywood film industry, but it is also home to ordinary folks going about their daily lives. Our selection hopes to bring forth the essence of maximum city, and leave you with a smile.
Ayan Mukherjee’s Wake Up Sid is the movie to watch before making that big, scary move to maximum city. While the chaotic overdrive of Mumbai has been featured in many a movie, Wake Up Sid is a reminder of its softness. Managing rent for a rundown house within budget to turning it into a home, cranky but helpful neighbours across the corridor who’ll offer you breakfast on dreary days, an opportunity to start from nothing and still make it… and of course, Bombay rains. Sid is unlike the ‘real Mumbaikars’ (aka locals), who will say that monsoons at Marine Drive are overrated and clichéd. To a newcomer (like Aisha), who needs a moment to catch her breath amid the tumultuous wave of the city—it’s everything and more. Needless to say, it has inspired many to come to the city looking for a job.
– Sanjana Ray
Mandook (Pitobash Tripathi), Tilak (Tusshar Kapoor) and Ramesh (Nikhil Dwivedi) are laggies trying to hustle their way to a shinier life in the city that peddles merry-go-round dreams wrapped in dirty bandages. An unusual loot from a Mumbai local escalates their petty goals, and throws them in the way of something larger, more sinister—the sensuous, hissing, beast that is their city. Toss into the mix an aspiring national cricketer in the need of fast money and an NRI businessman looking to hoodwink the local mafia, and the motley crew of characters moves to the fast-changing tunes of sapno ki nagri Bambai. The actual soundtrack of the movie coats the star protagonist (the city, of course) in funky grime, tinging Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D.K.’s 2011 dark comedy with plenty of heart and heartbreak.
– Sohini Das Gupta
Aditya (Dulquer Salmaan) and Tara (Nithya Menen) compliment each other in every way. They both believe in love, but not so much in marriage. They’re both career oriented. And when they meet, they’re both about a month away from leaving India to pursue their dreams. Naturally, they decide to seize the moment and move in together into the home of a doting, elderly couple. Mumbai plays a modern-day muse in this Mani Ratnam romance, and the movie-watching experience is further sweetened with a groovy soundtrack. In the very first scene, we see a train pulling into Mumbai CST, where the protagonists first catch glimpses of each other through the gaps in the coaches of moving trains. The film craftily weaves in other iconic spots: the stairways outside The Asiatic Society of Mumbai, fun-filled BEST bus rides, Gateway of India and the Opera House neighbourhood.
– Pooja Naik
Ritesh Batra’s directorial debut was meant to be a documentary on Mumbai’s unflappable dabbawaalas. Come rain or shine, the dabbawaalas are there to collect and deliver food to millions of office-goers in the city—they don’t make mistakes. In this slice of life film, they make one. Two lonely souls, the inimitable Irrfan as widowed accountant Saajan Fernandes and lovely Nimrat Kaur as neglected housewife Ila, find their paths colliding when the dabba meant for Ila’s husband gets delivered to Saajan instead. What follows is an old-school romance, filled with longing, letters and homemade food, all essayed through everyday Bombay—Bandra’s crumbling houses, local train commutes, old-time cafés, and box-sized apartments.
– Lubna Amir
Kundan Shah’s film about two photographers, Vinod and Sudhir (Naseeruddin Shah and Ravi Vaswani), who turn into bumbling gumshoes after they uncover the corpse of a public official, is a pitch-black farce about many things—urban sprawl, power, wealth and ambition but mostly, it takes aim at Bombay, that seductive miasma of tall buildings, fast trains, fleeting desires and crushed expectations. Bombaywallahs will knowingly shake their heads when they realise how much still remains the same—be it the lonely footbridge near Marine Lines railway station or the banal indignities of everyday life. Oddly, the movie never sinks into hopelessness, and breezes through with a savage wit. Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro is one giant inside joke about the city, and everyone can see the punchline coming. When it arrives, we laugh anyway.
– Lakshmi Sankaran
Bombay’s history, geography, soul, and scabs are the subjects of Arun Kolatkar’s seminal book of poems. He saw the elite area of Kala Ghoda for what is was—is—beyond the museums, cinemas and festivals. Kolatkar’s poems are about the people on the fringes, the ones who got charity meals of idlis when dal ghosht was being served at nearby Baghdadi and baida gotala at Oriental. Kala Ghoda through his eyes is the area of pi-dogs and street cleaners, and his poems with all their dark humour, bring the city’s reality to light.
– Kareena Gianani
Compiled and edited by Velim-born Bomoicar and journalist Reena Martins, this book of 31 short stories is packed with as much flavour as a baangda fry nicked from a Sunday Bandra kitchen. The book, of course, covers larger swathes of the city, across time and space. Consider each story a deeply personal memento lent to the reader by these Goan ‘immigrants’ who had to find their foothold in the bustling commercial capital. Told simply in their own words, it is also an ode to the strange shores they went on to call home. Published in 2014, the book is a sepia storm of feasts, fairs and old-fashioned romance, jostling with the spirited scramble for accommodation, education and livelihood known to anyone who has moved cities. Pick it up to see Dhobi Talao, Byculla, Mazgaon, Ballard Estate and other history-rich pockets of the city in an old, new light.
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