Bombay (film)

This article is about the film. For other uses, see Bombay (disambiguation).

Release poster
Directed by Mani Ratnam
Produced by S. Sriram
Mani Ratnam
Jhamu Sughand
Written by Mani Ratnam
Starring Arvind Swamy
Manisha Koirala
Music by A. R. Rahman
Cinematography Rajiv Menon
Edited by Suresh Urs
Aalayam Productions
Distributed by Aalayam Productions
Ayngaran International
Release dates
10 March 1995
Running time
138 minutes
Country India
Language Tamil

Bombay is a 1995 Indian Tamil-language drama film directed by Mani Ratnam, starring Arvind Swamy and Manisha Koirala in the lead, and featuring music composed by A. R. Rahman. The film is centered on events that occurred particularly during the period of December 1992 to January 1993 in India, and the controversy surrounding the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, its subsequent demolition on 6 December 1992 and increased religious tensions in the city of Bombay (now Mumbai) that led to the Bombay Riots. It is the second in Ratnam's trilogy of films that depict human relationships against a background of Indian politics, including Roja (1992) and Dil Se.. (1998).[1]

Eventually becoming one of the highest-grossing films of the Chennai film industry, the film was well-received both critically and commercially, and it was screened at many international film festivals including the Philadelphia Film Festival in 1996 where it was an audience favourite. The film's soundtrack sold 15 million units, becoming one of the best-selling film soundtracks of all time, and earning composer A. R. Rahman his fourth consecutive Filmfare Best Music Director Award (Tamil). However, the film caused considerable controversy upon release in India and abroad for its depiction of inter-religious relations and religious riots. The film was banned in Singapore and Malaysia upon release.

In July 2005, a book on the film by Lalitha Gopalan was published by BFI Modern Classics, looking at the film's production, the several issues it covered, and its impact upon release in India and abroad.[2][3] The film was ranked among the top 20 Indian films in the British Film Institute's rankings.[4] The film was also dubbed in Hindi and Telugu.The film is loosely inspired by the 1990 movie Come See the Paradise.[5]


Shekhar (Arvind Swamy) is the son of an orthodox Hindu Narayana Pillai (Nassar) living in a coastal village in Tamil Nadu. A journalism student studying in Bombay, Shekhar visits home to be with his family. On one of his return trips, he notices Shaila Banu (Manisha Koirala), a Muslim schoolgirl in the village and loses his heart to her. Initially shy, Shaila seeks to distance herself from Shekhar, but after frequent run-ins, and days of pursuit, Shaila begins to like Shekhar. Eventually, they both fall in love.

Shekhar meets Shaila's father Basheer Ahmed (Kitty) and reveals he wants to marry her. Basheer throws him out, citing difference in religions. Shekhar reveals his interest to his father Pillai, who becomes angry, meets Basheer and gets into an abusive argument with him. Upset with rejection from both families, Shekhar leaves the village and returns to Bombay. Through Shaila's friend, he sends her a letter and a ticket for her to travel to Bombay. However, she is undecided; Basheer comes to know of her regular letters from Shekhar and plans to get her married immediately to stop this relation growing further. Left with no choice, Shaila leaves the village with the ticket sent by Shekhar and reaches Bombay. They get married and lead a happy life. Shaila conceives and delivers twins who are named Kabir Narayan and Kamal Basheer. The twins are raised in both religions. Shekhar continues to work as a journalist, while Shaila takes care of home and children. After six years, Shekhar and Shaila settle down in their life and begin the process of re-establishing relationship with their respective families.

When the Babri Masjid is demolished by Hindu fundamentalists on 6 December 1992, riots break out in Bombay. Kabir and Kamal, who have gone to buy groceries, get caught in the riots; eventually, Shekhar and Shaila save them and reach home safely. Narayana Pillai, who receives the news of the riots, rushes to Bombay to meet his son and his family. Everyone is happy with his arrival, and he stays with them. Soon, Basheer also comes with his wife and all of them live together happily for a few days. Both Pillai and Basheer are happy with their grandchildren and wish to be with them.

On 5 January 1993, when two murders are interpreted as communal killings, another riot breaks up in Bombay, raising tensions between Hindu and Muslims and they clash in the streets. Hundreds of poor people belonging to both the religions die. The mansion where Shekhar stays with his family also gets burnt. When Shekhar evacuates everyone, Narayana Pillai, Basheer and his wife get caught in the fire accident and die. The children who run to save themselves get separated from their parents. Shekhar and Shaila begin to search for them and they go through several tense moments. Shekhar participates in the movement to stop the riots with other religious leaders (who realise the futility of the riots by then) and succeeds. When the riots stop, the children who were saved by people from different religions, also turn up and join their parents.


Credits adapted from Conversations with Mani Ratnam:[6]

Additionally, Sonali Bendre and Nagendra Prasad make a special appearance in the item number "Humma Humma".[7]


Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal where "Kannalane" was shot

Mani Ratnam had initially planned to make the movie in Malayalam, and requested M. T. Vasudevan Nair to pen the script. This was supposed to be his second straight film in Malayalam. But since it did not work out, Mani decided to make the movie in Tamil.[8] He held a photo shoot for the film with Vikram and Manisha Koirala, but eventually did not choose Vikram as he was unwilling to remove his beard and moustache that he had grown for the production of another film during the period, Vikraman's Pudhiya Mannargal (1994).[9] According to Ratnam, Bombay was not originally planned as a political film: "It was a phase India was going through and these things affected me and found their way into my work."[10]

When Ratnam approached cinematographer Rajiv Menon to shoot Bombay, he described it as a film about the riots and said that he (Menon) needed to "(make what came before) the riots as beautiful as possible". So, Menon suggested shooting in the rains to achieve the effect. They shot the interiors of homes in Pollachi in Tamil Nadu and the exteriors were shot in Kasargod in Kerala. Several scenes of the city of Mumbai during riots were recreated with the help of photographs.[8] Menon also explained in his interview that "The camera moves a lot-there would be long takes followed by three-four small cuts. It made lighting continuity easier for me and I was able to move fluidly." He said that Mani and he both have a fascination for how Guru Dutt shot his song sequences. They were also inspired by Satyajit Ray's style.[11]


Box office

Bombay was a huge blockbuster and is regarded as one of the most acclaimed Tamil films of the 90s. The Hindi version of the film earned 140 million (equivalent to 580 million or US$8.7 million in 2016), as reported by Box Office India which was phenomenal for a dubbed film.[12]

Critical reception

The Times of India rated it 3.5 out of 5, saying "Bombay might not be a masterpiece, but is certainly a bold attempt".[13] In 1996, James Berardinelli rated the film 3.5 out of 4 and said, "Largely because of their limited North American appeal and dubious quality, Indian movies are routinely ignored by distributors [...] Occasionally, however, a worthwhile picture causes enough people to take notice that it becomes a favorite on the international film festival circuit. One such movie is Bombay, the fourteenth feature from celebrated director Mani Rathnam." He concluded, "Director Rathnam has shown great courage in making this picture (bombs were thrown at his house after it opened in India), which speaks with a voice that many will not wish to hear. Bombay recalls how forceful a motion picture can be."[14]


The film has won the following awards since its release:


1996 National Film Awards
1996 Filmfare Awards
1996 Filmfare Awards South
1996 Matri Shree Media Award
1995 Tamil Nadu State Film Awards
1996 CineGoer's Award
1996 Film Fans' Award
1996 Kalasaagar Award


1995 Edinburgh International Film Festival (Scotland)
1996 Political Film Society Awards (United States)[16]
2003 Jerusalem Film Festival (Israel)


Main article: Bombay (soundtrack)

Further reading


  1. Pat Padua. "FROM THE HEART – The Films of Mani Ratnam". Retrieved 4 April 2011.
  2. "BFI Books: Bombay: The film". July 2005. Retrieved 1 February 2007.
  3. "Bombay (film): BFI Modern Classics". University of California Press. July 2005. Archived from the original on 7 January 2007. Retrieved 1 February 2007.
  4. "Features | South Asian Cinema | A Guide to South Asian Cinema | 50 essential South Asian films | Top 10 Indian Films". BFI. 17 July 2007. Retrieved 4 October 2011.
  6. Rangan 2012, p. 292.
  7. "1997-98 Kodambakkam babies Page". Indolink. Retrieved 4 October 2015.
  8. 1 2 Dhananjayan 2014, p. 340.
  9. "Man of Steel". The Caravan — A Journal of Politics and Culture. Retrieved 30 October 2014.
  10. Melwani, Lavina (26 September 2015). "Up close and personal with Mani Ratnam". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 27 September 2015. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  11. "Notable cinematographers on their films". Retrieved 9 October 2016.
  12. "Box Office 1995". Box Office India. Retrieved 24 January 2012.
  13. "Music DVDs VCDs". The Times of India. 30 May 2008. Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  14. Berardenelli, James (1996). "Review: Bombay". Archived from the original on 30 October 2014. Retrieved 30 October 2014.
  15. 1996 : 20th Matrishree Awards Indian Express & Swatantra Bharat : 6 May 1996
  16. "Political Film Society Awards – Previous Winners". Archived from the original on 28 October 2009.

External links

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