Movies, books, and songs to capture the essence of Mumbai and get you in the mood for travel

Movies

Salaam Bombay! (1988)
Directed by Mira Nair, this brilliant film depicts the many struggles faced by Mumbai’s street children in their daily quest for survival. Nair admirably captures the dark side of life on the streets while simultaneously reflecting the children’s remarkable tenacity and aspirations.

Chandni Bar (2001)
The harrowing story of Mumtaz, a young woman who reluctantly takes a job as a dancer in a sleazy Mumbai bar. The film gives a realistic glimpse into the lives of women who are driven into prostitution, often under pressure from family members.

Joggers’ Park (2003)
Largely set in Mumbai’s leafy “Joggers’ Park,” a light-hearted and unconventional tale about a recently retired, very highly respected (married) judge who falls in love with a vivacious single woman young enough to be his daughter.

Bluffmaster! (2005)
Roy, an expert con artist in Mumbai, takes immense pride in being a slick-talking, swift-thinking “bluffmaster.” But the cheeky trickster’s life takes a dramatic turn when the woman of his dreams dumps him and he is later diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Traffic Signal (2007)
Inspired by the true lives of those who eke out a living from people in vehicles stopped at Mumbai’s traffic lights, this movie proffers a thought-provoking window into the tumultuous and complex world of the city’s fringe dwellers, from beggars to prostitutes.

Books

A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry (1995)
This outstanding work of fiction is set in an unnamed Indian city by the sea during the tumultuous mid-1970s, at a time when the Indian government has sharply curtailed civil liberties. The book tells the poignant and dramatic story of four strangers who are thrown together by fate during an unusually precarious period.

Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts (2003)
Based on the author’s life, this gripping book is predominantly set in Mumbai, proffering a particularly unique window into the city’s complex underbelly. Roberts, a convicted bank robber, escaped from an Australian prison and fled to India, where he lived for many years as a fugitive.

Maximum City: Bombay Lost & Found, by Suketu Mehta (2004)
Maximum City takes the reader deep beneath the dizzying surface of India’s fastest-paced metropolis, Mumbai. It candidly shares the stories of a riveting jumble of Mumbai’s inhabitants, from desperate slum-dwellers and gangsters to whimsical Bollywood stars and poets.

Sacred Games, by Vikram Chandra (2007)
Set in modern-day Mumbai, Sacred Games reads like a detective thriller, venturing into the city’s deep, dark criminal underworld and beyond. Spies, police, high society figures, beggars, and terrorists all make an appearance in this well-crafted best-seller.

Music

Compilations:

Desert Visions, Prem Joshua
Fusion music—Indian meets Western—that works. Prem Joshua creates fresh repertoires that incorporate the traditional sounds of Indian instruments such as the sitar, tabla, and santoor, with the saxophone, keyboards, and bamboo flute.

Divya Jyoti, Various arists
A beautiful selection of aartis (devotional songs) by respected artists’ including the inimitable Rattan Mohan Sharma. Pieces include “Om Jai Jagdeesh Hare,” “Jai Ganesh,” and “Saraswati Aarti.”

Kandisa, Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean, one of India’s most innovative bands, creates a heady mix of rock-jazz fusion, using assorted musical styles and instruments, from the tabla (twin drums) to the acoustic guitar.

Midival Punditz, Midival Punditz
This fusion-style band enigmatically mixes traditional Indian instruments and songs with cleverly crafted electronica. The edgy interplay of sounds places this band in a league of its own.

Music of the Deserts, Zakir Hussain
Zakir Hussain dramatically mixes the sounds of nature—from eerie sandstorms to crashing thunder—with rhythmic subcontinental music that hauntingly interweaves Indian instruments such as the sarangi, shehnai, and dholak.

Classic Songs:

Mumbai, the hub of song-and-dance-filled Bollywood, is music-mad. Here are some hits, classic and contemporary, which have made an indelible mark:

1. “Aaj Mera Jee Kardaa” by Sukhwinder Singh

2. “Aaj Phir Jeene Ki Tamanna Hai” by Lata Mangeshkar

3. “Chaiyya Chaiyya” by Sukhwinder Singh & Sapna Awasthi

4. “Dil Cheez Kya Hai” by Asha Bhonsle

5. “Jhalak Dikhlaja” by Himesh Reshammiya

6. “Kajra Re” by Alisha Chinai, Shankar Mahadevan & Javed Ali

7. “Rang Barse” by Amitabh Bachchan

8. “Sarakti Jaye Hai Rukh Se Naqab Ahista Ahista” by Jagjit Singh

9. “Tum Pukar Lo” by Hemant Kumar

10. “Chalte Chalte” by Lata Mangeshkar

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