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Bombay mirror

By Nickunj Malik - Mar 01,2017 - Last updated at Mar 01,2017

There is something very exciting about going to Bombay. Even though it is now called Mumbai, I always refer to it privately, by its former glorious name. The teeming metropolis, which is the commercial capital of India, is a curious mix of contradictions because despite it being called a “city of dreams”, the fact is that “this city never sleeps!”

Other than being the chosen abode of the richest industrialists in the country, it is also home to Bollywood, the largest film industry in India. Once a collection of seven separate islands, Mumbai has grown to become one of the most populous cities in the world. The Marine Drive beach, with its twinkling lights, known as ‘the Queen’s necklace’ (because of its garland-like shape), can be witnessed from the flight itself, when you land in the evening. 

Getting out of the airport and into a cab, while observing the clever manoeuvres of the driver- as he manipulates his vehicle in the swirling traffic- is a challenge in itself. I am often left wondering how I managed to drive in these very streets, almost two decades ago. Must be the recklessness of the young, for I did live life dangerously during those days. 

When I moved to Bombay in 1992, I attracted all kinds of like-minded people who ended up becoming my friends. We were a crazy bunch but the craziest was this friend of mine who loved Indian movies with a passion that bordered on insanity. Not only did she watch the new film on the day of its release, but it had to be the first showing as well. “FDFS” is what it was termed, first day first show! Most of them were matinees where we took our toddlers along, and they learned to walk unaided, in the carpeted aisles of these cinema halls.

The best, by far, was when we discovered that a movie shooting was going on in a nearby area. The thrill of picking up our kids, jumping into a car and racing to the spot, was unexplainable. Though, watching the actual shooting in process was quite a let down, if truth be told, because the sheer number of takes and re-takes that the actors had to go through, was agonising. But, the awe, of viewing creativity in progress, was what sustained us. There was hardly any detail, however trivial, about moviemaking that escaped our razor-sharp vision. We knew everything about everyone. In Bollywood, that is.

Educating my husband on these intricacies was an uphill task. He knew nobody in the Indian film fraternity, and was tragically slow when it came to retaining any information about them. Also, when we came face to face with any of the film stars, he refused to believe that they were, whom they actually were. To be fair to him, most of them in real life had little or no resemblance to their glitzy onscreen reel life personas, but still.

“Look, that is Govinda,” I pointed out, the other day.

“Who is Govinda?” asked my spouse. 

“Shhh! He can hear you. He’s our top actor,” I whispered. 

“Are you sure? But he is only five feet tall,” my husband remarked.

“His nick name is Chi Chi,” I told him. 

“Chee Chee? Chee Chee?” my husband exclaimed incredulously.

The star stopped in his tracks and turned towards us.

“Ahem! Autograph please,” I covered up the embarrassment.

“God bless, Chi Chi,” he scrawled illegibly, on a piece of paper.

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