Most long-term residents of the city have memories of sitting in their favourite Irani café and biting into crisp brun maska dipped in chai.
For the past decade, the city has also lamented the loss of many of these cafés.
A filmmaker from Mumbai’s Irani community has now made a 46-minute documentary on the history of iconic Irani cafés and entrepreneurs who founded them.
The film, titled Café Irani Chai, has been directed by Mahim resident Mansoor Showghi Yezdi and explores how, through most of the 1900s, migrant Iranis — both Zoroastrian and Muslim — established nearly 2,000 restaurants, bakeries and cafes in Mumbai, Pune and Hyderabad.
These include Hyderabad’s famous Paradise Biryani café and, in Mumbai, the Kayani, Sassanian and Metro cafés in Marine Lines, Badshah at Crawford Market, Mondegar and Picadilly’s in Colaba and dozens of others.
The film will be launched at a private screening in the city on Saturday and will be available on YouTube in November.
“In 1890, my grandfather, along with 150 other Iranis trying to escape a famine, came to India to build a new life,” says Yezdi, 57.
“Although they were not very educated, they began to sell tea and soon set up their own shops.”
Back then, says Yezdi, most bakeries in Mumbai were owned by Goans, from whom the Iranis learnt how to bake buns.
Lately, however, the number of Irani restaurants in the three cities has dwindled, as the younger generations have sought higher education and other professions.
“Today there are only about 200 Irani cafés left in Mumbai, Pune and Hyderabad, but these have become landmarks in the cities,” says Yezdi.