Mumbai Through A Camera Lens: 10 Bollywood Films That Explore The City Of Dreams

Mumbai has been a significant backdrop and inspiration for numerous Bollywood films, whether for its depiction of the crime underbelly, or the glitz and glamour of the entertainment industry.

Published On Apr 21, 2024 | Updated On Apr 21, 2024


Mumbai, often referred to as the 'City of Dreams' and the 'Maya Nagari', has been a recurring and dynamic backdrop in Hindi cinema. The depiction of Mumbai in Hindi films has evolved over the years, reflecting the city's cultural, social, and economic changes. One of the most iconic visuals of Mumbai is the popular Marine Drive, which is a staple when depicting the city.

Mumbai is home to Bollywood, and Hindi cinema often showcases the glamour and glitz of the film industry. Films like Rangeela (1995), Fashion (2008), and Luck by Chance (2009) offer a glimpse into the world of actors, filmmakers, and aspiring artists striving to make it big in the city's entertainment industry.

Mumbai's underworld has been a subject of fascination for filmmakers, leading to iconic films like Deewaar (1975), Satya (1998), and Company (2002). These movies explore the dark underbelly of the city, including crime syndicates, gangsters, and law enforcement.

The depiction of Mumbai in Hindi cinema reflects its multifaceted nature – a city of contrasts, dreams, challenges, and vibrant cultures. Whether as a glamorous metropolis, a gritty urban landscape, or a symbol of resilience, Mumbai's portrayal in Hindi films captures the essence of this dynamic city and its impact on the lives of its residents.

Below, we’ve listed 11 iconic Hindi films that depicted Mumbai in all its glory or used the city as a storyline and theme. These films are listed in chronological order and are available online on different streaming platforms. 

Mira Nair's critically acclaimed Salaam Bombay! provides a gritty and realistic portrayal of the lives of street children in the city. The film captures the raw and unfiltered aspects of Bombay's slums and the struggle for survival.
Where to watch: Amazon Prime

Originally a Tamil film, that was subbed in Hindi, Mani Ratnam's Bombay is a love story set against the backdrop of the 1992-1993 Bombay riots. The film skillfully depicts the city's communal tensions while showcasing the resilience of its people. The story follows an interfaith couple played by Arvind Swamy and Manish Koirala caught in the tensions spread during the Bombay riots. 
Where to watch: Netflix, Amazon Prime

Ram Gopal Varma's Rangeela is a musical drama that provides a glimpse into the world of the entertainment industry in Bombay with Urmila Matondkar's Mili who dreams of being an actor and ends up being caught in a love triangle between her childhood friend and a famous actor. The film's catchy songs and vibrant visuals capture the glitz and glamour of the city.
Where to watch: Jio Cinema

Farhan Akhtar's Dil Chahta Hai is a coming-of-age film that revolves around the lives of three friends, played by Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan, and Akshay Khanna. The movie beautifully captures the contemporary urban lifestyle of Mumbai youth and the deep bond between friends.
Where to watch: Netflix

Ayan Mukerji's Wake Up Sid follows the journey of a young man, Sid, played by Ranbir Kapoor, who discovers his true calling and grows into adulthood. The film showcases various facets of Bombay's youth culture and the opportunities the city offers.
Where to watch: Netflix

Directed by Kiran Rao, Dhobi Ghat is an art-house film that interweaves the lives of four characters from different backgrounds. The movie provides an intimate and reflective portrayal of Mumbai’s people and their interconnected lives.
Where to watch: Netflix

This anthology film, directed by Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D.K., weaves together multiple narratives that revolve around life in Mumbai. The movie delves into the lives of individuals from different backgrounds as they navigate the city's challenges, opportunities, and moral dilemmas. With a backdrop of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival which brings the city alive, key scenes in the film showcase the madness and mayhem of Mumbai.
Where to watch: Jio Cinema

Reema Kagti's psychological thriller Talaash is set against the backdrop of Mumbai's dark and mysterious underbelly. With his personal and professional life intertwined mysteriously due to a murder, Aamir Khan's Inspector Surjan Singh Shekhawat explores supernatural elements and the city's hidden corners to create an atmospheric and suspenseful narrative.
Where to watch: Netflix

Ritesh Batra's The Lunchbox tells the story of a mistaken lunchbox delivery that leads to an unlikely friendship between a young woman, Ila, played by Nirmat Kaur and an older office worker, Saajan Fernandes, played by Irrfan Khan. The film captures the loneliness and longing of urban life in Mumbai, while also showcasing the city's renowned dabbawala system.
Where to watch: Netflix

Hansal Mehta's CityLights depicts the struggles of a rural couple, played by Rajkumar Rao and Patralekhaa, who move to Mumbai in search of a better life. The film, an official remake of the British film Metro Manila, sheds light on the challenges faced by migrants in a bustling metropolis, capturing both the allure and hardships of the city.
Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

Zoya Akhtar's Gully Boy provides a glimpse into the world of Mumbai's underground rap scene. The film follows the journey of an aspiring rapper Murad, played by Ranveer Singh, from the city's slums, showcasing the power of music to transcend socio-economic barriers.
Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

Photo: Instagram/sikhya, zoieakhtar