Bombay (film)

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Release poster
Directed byMani Ratnam
Produced byS. Sriram
Mani Ratnam(Uncredited)
Jhamu Sughand
Written byMani Ratnam
StarringArvind Swami
Manisha Koirala
Music byA. R. Rahman
CinematographyRajiv Menon
Edited bySuresh Urs
Aalayam Productions
Distributed byAalayam Productions
Ayngaran International
Release date
  • 10 March 1995 (1995-03-10)
Running time
130 minutes[1]

Bombay is a 1995 Indian Tamil-language romantic drama film[2] directed by Mani Ratnam, starring Arvind Swami and Manisha Koirala in the lead. The film tells the story of an inter-religious family in Bombay (now Mumbai) before and during the Bombay riots, which took place between December 1992 and January 1993 after the demolition of the Babri Masjid led to religious tensions between Hindu and Muslim communities. 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).[3] The film was dubbed in Hindi, Telugu and Malayalam with the same title.

Eventually becoming one of the highest-grossing films of Tamil cinema, 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 earned composer A. R. Rahman his fourth consecutive Filmfare Best Music Director Award (Tamil), and is considered one of the greatest Indian soundtracks of all time.[4] 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.[5][6] The film was ranked among the top 20 Indian films in the British Film Institute's rankings.[7]


Shekhar is the son of an orthodox Hindu Narayana Pillai 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, a Muslim schoolgirl in the village and falls in love with 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 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.

Shekhar and Shaila marry 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 a relationship with their respective families.

When the Babri Masjid is demolished by Hindu extremists on 6 December 1992, riots break out in Bombay. Kabir and Kamal, who had 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 8 January 1993, when two murders are propagated as communal killings, another riot breaks out in Bombay, raising tensions between religious communities. Hindus and Muslims clash in the streets, resulting in hundreds of deaths on both sides. During the conflict, arsonists set fire to the apartment where Shekhar lives with his family. Shekhar tries to evacuate everyone, but Narayana Pillai, Basheer and his wife fail to escape in time and are killed when the building explodes. In the confusion of the panicking crowds, Kamal and Kabir are 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 moderate religious leaders, ultimately succeeding. When the riots end, Shaila and Shekhar are reunited with their children, who were saved by people from different religions.


Credits adapted from Conversations with Mani Ratnam:[1]

Additionally, Sonali Bendre and Nagendra Prasad appear in the item number "Humma Humma",[8][9] while Akash Khurana portrays a fanatical Muslim leader.[10]


Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal, where "Kannalane" was shot.

During the recording of the background score of Mani Ratnam's Thiruda Thiruda (1993), the Bombay riots broke out. Mani Ratnam planned on making a film in Malayalam about a boy who gets lost in the riots, and requested M. T. Vasudevan Nair to write the script. This was supposed to be Mani Ratnam's second Malayalam film after Unaru (1985). But since the idea did not materialise, he decided to make it in Tamil as the film that would later be titled Bombay.[11]

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).[12] 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."[13] Koirala's voice was dubbed by Rohini.[14] Nassar, a Muslim in real life, was cast as the father of Arvind Swamy's character (a Hindu) while Kitty, a Hindu in real life, was cast as the father of Koirala's character (a Muslim). Ratnam deliberately cast them in those roles as a statement.[15][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 Kasaragod, and Kannur village in Kerala.[16] The song "Kannalane" was shot at Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal,[17] and "Uyire" was shot at Bekal Fort.[18] The demolition of the Babri Masjid was shown onscreen through newspaper headlines and photographs, as the Censor Board did not want the makers to show the actual destruction.[19][20]


Mani Ratnam described Bombay as "a positive film about communal harmony". He said the Bombay riots were not the main focus of the film, but "a helpless, innocent man caught up in violence not of his own making."[10]


Bombay was released on 10 March 1995.[21] The Telugu-dubbed version, Bombayi, was released on the same day.[22]

Box office[edit]

The Hindi version of the film grossed 140 million (equivalent to 620 million or US$9.0 million in 2018), as reported by Box Office India, making it one of the year's top ten highest-grossing Hindi films.[23]

Critical reception[edit]

Ananda Vikatan, in a review dated 19 March 1995, rated the film 53 out of 100.[24] Anand Kannan, writing for Planet Bollywood, said, "I wouldn't call this the best of Mani Ratnam [...] But good acting, a socially conscious theme and a quick pace make the movie well worth watching."[25] In 1996, American critic 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."[26]

Bangalore Mirror noted that the film had similarities with the 1990 film Come See the Paradise.[27]



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
  • Best Music (Tamil) – A. R. Rahman
1996 Film Fans' Award
  • Best Music (Tamil) – A. R. Rahman
1996 Kalasaagar Award
  • Best Music (Tamil) – A. R. Rahman


1995 Edinburgh International Film Festival (Scotland)
1996 Political Film Society Awards (United States)[29]
2003 Jerusalem Film Festival (Israel)
  • Wim Van Leer in Spirit for Freedom Award – Best Feature – Bombay – Mani Ratnam

Further reading[edit]

  • Chatterjee, Partha; Jeganathan, Pradeep (2005) [2000]. Community, Gender and Violence. Permanent Black. ISBN 81-7824-033-5.
  • Gopalan, Lalitha (2005). Bombay: BFI Film Classics. London: BFI Publishing. ISBN 978-0-85170-956-7.
  • Rangan, Baradwaj (2012). Conversations with Mani Ratnam. India: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-670-08520-0.


  1. ^ a b Rangan 2012, p. 292.
  2. ^ "Bombay". The Times of India. 30 May 2008. Archived from the original on 12 June 2017. Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  3. ^ Pillai, Sreedhar (29 June 2008). "Tryst with terrorism". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 23 June 2016. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  4. ^ "Sound of Cinema: 20 Greatest Soundtracks". BBC Music. BBC. 19 August 2014. Retrieved 25 December 2018.
  5. ^ "BFI Books: Bombay: The film". July 2005. Archived from the original on 27 October 2007. Retrieved 1 February 2007.
  6. ^ "Bombay (film): BFI Modern Classics". University of California Press. July 2005. Archived from the original on 7 January 2007. Retrieved 1 February 2007.
  7. ^ "Top 10 Indian Films". BFI. 17 July 2007. Archived from the original on 3 August 2004. Retrieved 4 October 2011.
  8. ^ "1997–98 Kodambakkam babies Page". Indolink. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 4 October 2015.
  9. ^ "AR Rahman birthday special: Five most popular songs by Mozart of Madras". Mumbai Mirror. 6 January 2017. Archived from the original on 21 September 2017. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  10. ^ a b c Rai, Saritha (15 January 1995). "Mani Ratnams Bombay views communalism through eyes of common man". India Today. Archived from the original on 15 September 2017. Retrieved 15 September 2017.
  11. ^ Rangan 2012, p. 147.
  12. ^ Rangan, Baradwaj (1 December 2013). "Man of Steel". The Caravan. Archived from the original on 8 January 2015. Retrieved 30 October 2014.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ Srinivasan, Meera (12 July 2010). ""Success of dubbing artist lies in not letting audience know who you are"". The Hindu. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  15. ^ Rangan 2012, p. 158.
  16. ^ "Shot breakdown". Time Out. Mumbai. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  17. ^ Teena, L (29 April 2012). "Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal gets a facelift". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 17 February 2017. Retrieved 17 February 2017.
  18. ^ Aishwarya, S. (3 July 2010). "Indian locations provide stunning backdrops for film shoots". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 21 September 2017. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  19. ^ Rangan 2012, p. 146.
  20. ^ "Bombay: The Making of the Most Controversial film of the Decade". Sunday. 2–8 April 1995. p. 76.
  21. ^ Devaki, A (2004). 1985 முதல் 1995 வரையிலான விருது பெற்ற தமிழ்த் திரைப்படங்கள் ஒர் ஆய்வு [A review of award winning Tamil films from 1985 to 1995] (PDF) (in Tamil). Bharathiar University. p. 226.
  22. ^ Chatterjee & Jeganathan 2005, p. 158.
  23. ^ "Box Office 1995". Box Office India. Archived from the original on 17 October 2013. Retrieved 24 January 2012.
  24. ^ "சினிமா விமர்சனம்: பம்பாய்" [Movie Review: Bombay]. Ananda Vikatan (in Tamil). 19 March 1995.
  25. ^ Kannan, Anand. "Bombay". Planet Bollywood. Archived from the original on 11 July 2001. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  26. ^ Berardenelli, James (1996). "Bombay". ReelViews. Archived from the original on 15 September 2017. Retrieved 30 October 2014.
  27. ^ "Bypassing copycats, Sandalwood style". Bangalore Mirror. 29 January 2012. Archived from the original on 9 October 2016. Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  28. ^ "1996 : 20th Matrishree Awards". 21 September 2013. Archived from the original on 21 September 2013.
  29. ^ "Political Film Society Awards – Previous Winners". Archived from the original on 28 October 2009.

External links[edit]