For her debut film, director Kiran Rao shot in almost every place from slums beside the railway tracks in Mahim to posh apartments on Worli Seaface. Take a tour of the city through her lens.
One of the characters in the film takes a lot of pictures of hawkers and people who ply small trades. They are on the brink of extinction because malls and shops have come up. These are people you’ll see in Mumbai on street corners or beaches.
2. Aerial views
This was taken from a building under construction. You can always see buildings coming up one after another. This spot, in the middle of the debris and dust, gave a breathtaking view of the city’s skyline and also mapped clearly how the level is changing, with chawls (slums) giving way to new buildings. Such is the nature of the beast.
3. Pitched roofs
We took a shot from the house that the character Arun, played by Aamir Khan, lives in. It wasn’t part of the film initially, but when I saw it, I knew it was perfect. This place is called Bhaat Bazaar, located on the old side of Mumbai.
4. Stories on the street
Mohammad Ali Road is two streets away from the street in this picture. On a parallel street, I have seen the biggest Navratri celebrations every year, and the biggest Ganpati pandals. All communities live together in harmony here. It’s one of the last localities where everybody knows everyone else.
5. From road to rail
In my film, the dhobi, Munna, stays in a slum by the tracks in Mahim, a major junction where you can hear lots of banging and crashing. This is a very noisy city and few people have the luxury of quietness. Conversely, another character, the girl from a wealthy family, lives at Worli Sea Face, where you can hear only the sea.
I had never been to this place before I wrote the film. It signifies how you can forge a new identity in Mumbai, leaving your past, caste and poverty behind. It’s a leveller, you can come from anywhere and be treated as an equal.
7. Shooting through terror
The house that we shot in was literally two minutes away from Masjid Bandar station, the stop before VT, which was where the attacks took place. Some of my crewmembers were headed there to catch trains.
I got home and at around 8.30 pm, the news was filled with reports of the terror attack. It was absolutely terrifying. We didn’t go back to shoot for a day or two, on the third day it was a strange feeling coming back to that very same area, where the station was so close by.
As told to Serena Menon