FINAL RESEARCH PAPER – Analysis of Bombay (Mumbai) City through the eyes of “Bollywood”. Comparison of contrasting perceptions about Mumbai – is it a City of dreams or a nightmare in disguise?

Figure 1: Movie posters

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 “… Johnny Walker romps on the breathtaking Marine Drive in the film CID, sweet-talking his girlfriend in the voice of playback singer Mohammed Rafi, the songs warns of the perils that await the unwary in Bombay and offers a biting critique of the industrial city’s soullessness: “Kahin building, Khahin tramen, Kahin motor, Kahin mill, milta hai yahan sab kuch, ek milta ek milta nahi dil, insaan ka nahi namo-nishan” (In this city of buildings and trams, motorcars and mills, everything is available except a heart and humanity).

(Excerpts from Mumbai Fables by Gyan Prakash, 2011)

The paradox that is Mumbai city has amazed many an immigrant, enchanted many a writer and touched many a heart. The daytime Bombay greets everyone with a prosperous sight of future while at night it surrounds the city with the dark menace of society like prostitution, drug trafficking, kidnapping, smuggling etc. Bollywood tries to portray Bombay’s injustice to its struggling immigrants.

Research Topic

Analysis of Bombay (Mumbai) City through the eyes of “Bollywood”. Comparison of contrasting perceptions about Mumbai – is it a City of dreams or a nightmare in disguise?

A critical analysis of Mumbai’s perception and reality is done in this research paper. Three different Bollywood feature films have been examined. Understanding “The Specters of the Postcolonial City” and relating it with the true picture of the research argument. It intends to reveal the dark side of Mumbai veiled by the projection of few melodramatic Bollywood movies. The three movies represent three different points of view of authors and filmmakers.

Quite a few Movies, Books, Journals and Articles have been researched in completion of this paper. Theoretical frameworks of Utopia and Dystopia have helped the paper take an orderly shape. The films I will discuss are:

  1. Page 3
  2. Fashion
  3. Love Story 2050
  1. Page 3 (2005)

Director: Madhur Bhandarkar

Page 3 portrays the nightlife of Mumbai and highlights the exaggerated and boastful conversations of the celebrities. Madhvi Sharma (Konkona Sensharma) works as a Journalist with a publication in Bombay. She writes articles on the third page and does a good job. Madhvi struggles to navigate the world of the rich and famous. She found escape from the glitter of showbiz by turning to crime reporting and social work.

2. Fashion (2008)

Director: Madhur Bhandarkar

The story is about a small town girl who enters Mumbai City with big dreams. ‘Fashion’ is a story that talks about the negatives such as betrayal, cheat, lust, fraud and the positives such as courage. A small town girl Meghna Mathur (Priyanka Chopra) learns that world of glamour won’t treat every individual with success and prosperity. A successful career and life of model Kangana Ranaut (Shonali Gujral) went south; this teaches Meghna Mathur about the terror that a downfall of famous personality bears.

3. Love Story 2050 (2008)

Director: Harry Baweja

It is a story of two lovers Karan Malhotra (Harman Baweja) and Sana (Priyanka Chopra) who travel to 2050 in time machine along with their uncle Dr. Yatinder Khanna (Boman Irani) who dedicated fifteen years of his life to invent a time machine. It is a fictional film in which the future of Mumbai is shown; flying cars, robots and 200 story buildings. Karan wins his love and travels back in time.

Bombay Cinema exposes the urban Dystopia and explains how Mumbai copes with urban violence, the, political instability, the hazards of market driven globalization. Melodramas of Dystopia are well painted in the movies of Bollywood.

The Modern concept of Utopia depicts a perfect society and a dream like world. However a Dystopia presents a society full of human political evils.

The movies that are selected for the research will be analyzed under the framework of Utopia and Dystopia theory as well.


The movies: Page 3 and Fashion depict the fast, busy and hectic life of Mumbai City projected by “Bollywood”. The city of dreams shows a magnificent view of Mumbai allowing the ordinary common man to see their dreams to be fulfilled quickly without any obstacles as shown in the projected movies. However, the (projected) reality speaks of a bad bargain, trading peace of life for the comfort of life.

Mumbai holds a cinematic pull where majority of dreams and stories appear to be fulfilled. The excitement of its speedy life and greater rewards, attract immigrants from all over India; Mumbai is considered like a magical cauldron that can change fortunes.

“If there’s a city that can truly be called a city of the imagination, it is Mumbai.” (Helio San Miguel, 2012).

“Page 3”

‘Page 3’ (2005) is an Indian drama film directed by Madhur Bhandarkar. It is not merely a story of a journalist but a wise protrusion of the dark film world that promises success, fortune and prosperity to those who wish to get settled in Mumbai.

Rich aristocratic socialites and celebrities are always busy in throwing extravagant parties and boasting their extraordinary life styles and standards. The journalist Madhvi Sharma focuses on the victims of such culture.

The Page 3 world portrays a utopian model where on the face good and moral deeds are lauded and the dystopia is cleverly kept hidden under the make-up that lasts as much as a page 3 story. The film unfolds the drama by revealing the atrocities that are inflicted upon children as physical and sexual abuse. The control and abuse of law and order, the abundance and acceptance of prostitution, the exploitation of working class is the shield that protects the elite class of Mumbai. For example the rich businessmen Romesh Thapar (Nasser Abdullah) and his foreigner business partners were arrested by police inspector Arun Bhosle (Upendra Limaye) for a heinous crime of sexual assault on children; the men were later released because of Romesh’s political influence.

Madhavi Sharma’s choice of working with the crime department was an open rejection of her support to the world of glamour where glitter sells more than the gold. Madhavi Sharma became a different human being after witnessing the Mumbai attack. The illusive curtain of page 3 was lifted with the sight of a dead body; this opened the windows of self-realization and she started yearning for truth.


‘Fashion’ (2008) is an Indian drama film directed by Madhur Bhandarkar. ‘Fashion’  tells a story about the desirous people who come to Mumbai to drink from the glorious well of the glamour world. The avid crowd is mostly unaware of the fierce competition that awaits them. The shortsighted are blinded by the lights while the faint hearted cant bear the sights and sounds of haka by their competitors.

The big, complicated and exploitative world of modeling promises small town girls a successful and prosperous future. In the film, the company “Panache” treat models as valuable but disposable toys. Shonali Gujral’s (Kangana Ranaut) modeling contract was terminated and Meghna Mathur (Priyanka Chopra) was announced as a new fashion face of Panache. The modeling world of Mumbai attracts young girls and boys from all part of the country showing them a utopian world in the form of successful package Meghna. It promises a social circle that is an envy of many but a distant dream nonetheless. The models in search of successful careers lose their morality. The “Eye candy” class culture treats women as inferior and someone who gets paid only for showing their body for the glamour world. A dialogue from the movie sums up the agenda of life in Mumbai city. One of the designers in ‘Fashion’ at back stage quoted this crude statement to a model “The less you think, the more you will earn here”.

The smashing of grapes by using their feet in order to produce wine at the evening party in ‘Fashion’ is a metaphor for crushing the principles and morality.

Famous designer Vinay Khosla’s (Hash Chhaya) rude comment to Meghna “Even if you sell yourself you won’t be able to purchase your outfit” signifies the materialistic mentality which values dresses (objects) more than the humans.

The Utopia part of the fashion movie shows a distinctive class, the rich class of Mumbai that spend millions on their luxuries and desires. A desirable lifestyle for many Mumbai citizens. The Dystopia is portrayed via the models that are exploited at the hands of high-end designers. The fashion industry fabricates unachievable goals for many middle class men and women. It’s the speedy life of Mumbai that stops for no one and even after the destruction and the losses the life goes on. The alpha city mercilessly celebrates the new beginnings as it is the future everyone craves.

“Love Story 2050”

This Love Story 2050 movie talks about a dreamland. In this film, Mumbai is shown as a land of robots, buildings with skylines and flying cars that can only be figment of writer’s imagination.

The automatic display of screen while picking up the phone is a scene in Love Story 2050 which portrays the time machine idea itself talks about an imaginary innovation.

A movie like Love Story 2050 provides viewers with a Utopian projection, a perfect scenario that can only exist in movies. A country that is primarily run by machines sounds like a very imperfect idea that provides viewer with a dystopian image of Mumbai.


Mumbai is projected in many Bollywood movies as a city that caters to the need of majority of the immigrants and settlers granting their desires in dreams.

“Cinematic Mumbai is the metaphor for urban reality where all stories are possible and all dreams can be fulfilled” (Mumbai, Helio San Miguel).

The utopian Image is questioned when movies like ‘Fashion’, ‘Page 3’ are showcased by Bollywood cinema.

Few movies revolve around a common theme that the entering the realms of social circles is not for the faint-hearted. People compromise on their principles, accept difficult bargains and endure emotional and psychological pain to achieve fame and monetary gain. Very strong individuals with outstanding commitments level can survive the storm called the Mumbai e.g. model Meghna in ‘Fashion’, Journalist Madhvi Sharma in ‘Page 3’ movie.


  • Helio San Miguel. (2012). “World film locations Mumbai”. Published by: Intellect Books, The University of Chicago.
  • Rachel Dwyer. (2006 – 2007). “ Bollywood Bourgeoise.” Published by India International Centre. Source: India International Centre Quarterly, Vol 33, No. 314.
  • Gyan Prakash. (2006). “The Idea of Bombay: Bollywood epitomized modernity for a boy in a distance province. As n adult, he sees a troubled city.” Published by: The Phi Beta Kappa Society. Source: The American Scholar, Vol.75, No.2, pp.88-99.
  • Gyan Prakash. (2010). “Noir Urbanisms: Dystopic Images of the Modern City”. Published by: Princeton University Press
  • M Keith Booker. (1994). “The Dystopian Impulse in Modern Literature: Fiction as Social Criticism.
  • Gyan Prakash (2010). “Mumbai Fables”. Published by: HarperColllins, India.

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