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Bombay October 13, 2009

Posted by Prof. RR in Uncategorized.
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Since the setting of Bombay is foregrounded in Ghulam, I thought we could begin our discussion with what the city signifies (in this film and/or in our general understanding). What do you know about this city, which is typically thought of as unique because it is the most multicultural and Westernized place in India?

This is Bombay today:
Bombay1

And this is Bombay too:
Bombay2

What kind of city do you think Bombay is? What kinds of conflicts does it give rise to?

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1. Johnathan payne - October 15, 2009

Prior to now, my knowledge of Bombay as a city has almost been nonexistent. From the reading, as well as the pictures above, I get the feeling that Bombay is a lively, bustling city where a variety of different people and cultures converge. The aerial shot of the shore and highway is very reminiscent of the oceanfronts on the West Coast of Southern California. In contrast to the placid nature of that image, the bottom image is very cluttered and congested with people, buildings, lights and cars. One can say these two very different pictures visually depicts possible conflicts amongst people within the city.

I noticed in the film where, during the second song and dance sequence, the characters where taken out of their contextualized environment, Bombay, and placed into others, such as the wooded forests (with accompanying bed and nightstands), hilly plains, and rocky areas. In many ways, the fusion of these different landscapes during this scene connotes to the diversity of Bombay, both within the film and in general. I found it interesting and immediately thought of KKHH, where a similar transplantation of characters occurred.

2. jasdev00 - October 15, 2009

I’ve never personally been to Bombay , but I have seen many Bollywood films set in Bombay. Bombay always looks like it has tons of people but not enough space. Everyone seems to live in very close proximity to each other. It does seem to be the most westernized and industrial city in India, but like all of India it does have its slums which are sometimes right next to large westernized buildings. Bombay seems like the most progressive city in India but it still has to deal with many social issues that other areas in India face.

3. bri66 - October 15, 2009

As with Johnathan, I did not really know much about Bomaby. From the films, however, I too have gathered that it is a very crowded place full of culture. However, I think this element can provide the perfect backdrop for the films by enhancing the mood of the film. For example, the crowded atmosphere in Ghulam when Siddhu and Ronnie had finished fighting in the streets and suddenly the people stepped up and rushed in on Ronnie and his cohorts, adds to the chaos of the moment. Here the mass amount of people help to save the day. The almost smothering element that the crowd induces is in this case not a bad thing. However, the crowd of bikers in the beginning of the film (at the train station) is almost overwhelming.

4. andrewmw11 - October 15, 2009

One of the first things I would like to note is that the city is called Mumbai not Bombay. However, the city is by far one of the most populated in the world (not just India), and most pictures that I have seen reflect this intense population. The other posts above have all noticed that it looks westernized and I agree 100 percent, but I would like to know how other cities look in India because it should be noted that most cities in the world have some aspect of the notion of “westernization.” Thus is Mumbai unique because it is an outlier of most Indian cities, or is it unique because of the pre-conceived stereotypes and notions we place on Indian culture being the opposite of western ideals.

Prof. R - October 15, 2009

Andrew: We touched on your first point at the start of the semester. The city is now known as Mumbai, but many people continue to refer to it as Bombay (as do I). The name change occured in the 1990s as part of a Hindu nationalist move to make the city appear less multicultural and diverse. It’s like renaming Los Angeles as City of Angels to get rid of the Spanish accents in its name; it wouldn’t really work. But you’re free to call it Mumbai, if you like.

5. lillyrice - October 15, 2009

As Jasdev mentions, there is an obvious juxtaposition of the industrialized/westernized elements of the city with that of the slums. Like we saw in Ghulam, you go from the penthouse high-rise to an overcrowded ‘slum’ in a matter of minutes. In addition to noticing this disjunction of the rich/poor and the developed/developing in Bollywood films, I witnessed similar situations in Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt. You can walk from the newly renovated Library of Alexandria costing over 220 million in US$ to squatting neighborhoods, and then once you round the corner you find a KFC and Baskin Robbins teeming with people. Bombay/Mumbai, Tokyo, and even New York City are known for their high population, thriving business districts, and diversity. But for every successful story there appears to be one of struggle, poverty, and misfortune.


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