Bombay (film)

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

Bombay is a critically acclaimed and national award-winning 1995 Tamil film directed by Mani Ratnam, starring Arvind Swamy and Manisha Koirala, with music composed by A. R. Rahman. The film met with a strongly positive reception upon release.

The film is centred on events, 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 and Dil Se...[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.


Shekhar (Arvind Swamy) is the son of a traditional Hindu father in a seaside village in Tamil Nadu. A journalism student studying in Bombay, Shekhar visits back home to see his family. On one of his return trips, he lays eyes on Shaira Bano (Manisha Koirala), a Muslim schoolgirl in the village. Initially shy, Shaira seeks to distance herself from Shekhar, but after frequent run-ins, and days of pursuit, Shaira begins to like Shekhar. Eventually, they both fall in love.

A marriage proposal is vehemently opposed by the lovers' fathers. Shekar's father refuses to accept Shaira as his daughter-in-law, telling Shekhar to find another partner, whilst Shaira's father announces the need for an immediate marriage between his daughter and a Muslim man. Shekhar's father says if the two ever get married, he will cease talking to his son. Shekhar reacts angrily to his father's refusal to accept Shaira, and so leaves, back to Bombay. Shaira, under increasing pressure from her father, escapes from the village and joins Shekhar. At first, Shaira is overwhelmed by the city, having relocated for the first time from rural surroundings to a city life. However, with time she adapts to her new lifestyle. The two get married. The newlyweds move into a new apartment.

A few months later, Shaira becomes pregnant and gives birth to twins, Kabir Narayan and Kamal Basheer. The twins are raised in both religions. Shekar continues to work as a journalist, whilst Shaira works at home, looking after the children. For six years, the family live in Bombay, settling in well, and begin the process of repairing relations with their respective families. The relatives visit the family in the city for the first time in over half a decade, and are overjoyed to see their two grandchildren.

Meanwhile, in India, religious extremism launches each community against the other, causing a wave of Hindu/Muslim riots that leave hundreds dead in Bombay. Targets of violence from both sides, Shaira and Shekhar worry increasingly over the safety of their children, whom they raised with both Hindu and Islamic traditions. They are constantly under threat. The growing tension threatens to bring tragedy to the family and how they cope with it form the crux of the story.



Mani Ratnam 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).[5]

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 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. 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 him, both have a fascination for how Guru Dutt shot his song sequences. They were also inspired by Satyajit Ray's style.[6]


Box office[edit]

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 INR140 million (US$2.3 million), as reported by Box Office India which was phenomenal for a dubbed film.[7]

Critical reception[edit]

The Times of India rated it 3.5 out of 5, saying "Bombay might not be a masterpiece, but is certainly a bold attempt".[8] The theme of Bombay opened to high responses from the public and media. The theme is known for its high divine quality. Even the theme is still remembered by Newspapers citing it as one of the best track where one feels the real joy of music. The Hindu also revealed that the score is the best one where one can't avoid crying while enjoying the soul of the film. The theme really portrays the feel as a mirror of a common man due to 1992 riots.


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


1995 Edinburgh International Film Festival (Scotland)

2003 Jerusalem Film Festival (Israel)

  • Won – Wim Van Leer in Spirit for Freedom Award – Best Feature – BombayMani Ratnam

1996 Political Film Society Awards (United States)[10]


Further reading[edit]


  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. 
  5. ^,5
  6. ^ "Shot breakdown". Time Out Mumbai. Retrieved 24 January 2012. 
  7. ^ "Box Office 1995". Box Office India. Retrieved 24 January 2012. 
  8. ^ "Music DVDs VCDs". The Times of India. 30 May 2008. Retrieved 13 August 2013. 
  9. ^ 1996 : 20th Matrishree Awards Indian Express & Swatantra Bharat : May 06, 1996
  10. ^ "Political Film Society Awards – Previous Winners". Archived from the original on 28 October 2009. 

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