From Kebabs to Karaoke: The Offbeat Guide to Bollywood in Mumbai

For hardcore Bollywood fans or just travellers looking to explore a fun side of the city.  
Bollywood looms large in Mumbai and everybody—from taxi drivers to bartenders—has an opinion on the silver screen. Photo: Dinodia Photo Library
Bollywood looms large in Mumbai and everybody—from taxi drivers to bartenders—has an opinion on the silver screen. Photo: Dinodia Photo Library

There are many memorable pairings in Indian cinema—Raj Kapoor and Nargis, Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha, Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol, and Mumbai and Bollywood. The city is home to the Hindi film industry: iconic film scenes have been filmed on its seaside promenades, and superstars have made their homes in its upscale neighbourhoods. It isn’t unusual to see shootings take place across the city even today, or to spot a star on a morning run. Our list of experiences will help travellers—whether they’re hardcore Bollywood fans or just folks looking to explore a fun side of the city—navigate Mumbai through the movies.

Sing Your Heart Out at Bollywood Karaoke Nights

No matter how much you roll your eyes at Himesh Reshammiya’s nasal voice,or cringe every time a Honey Singh tune plays on the radio, there’s no denying that Hindi film songs have a special place in the hearts of many. Whether it’s “Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai”, “Pehla Nasha” or the latest Badshah rap, singing along to a Bollywood song has immense cathartic appeal. Bars and clubs across the city host Bollywood karaoke nights. Try The Local in Fort on Tuesdays.  The bar has lively sing-along sessions, good bar snacks (get the peri peri fries) and enthusiastic singers that make for a great night out. Make sure to get there early so you don’t have to wait too long to belt out a song.

The Local, 111 A, Currimjee Building, Opposite Mumbai University, Mahatma Gandhi Road;  9930244326. Entry requires a password, so call ahead before visiting. Bollywood karaoke on Tuesday, 6.30 p.m.-1a.m.

Some restaurants are named after filmstars in Mumbai, still others serve meals just the way they like them. The most famous dish at the Noor Mohammadi Hotel is the Chicken Sanju Baba. The recipe was gifted to the restaurant by its longtime patron, Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt. Photo: Subhojit Saha/Facebook

The most famous dish at Noor Mohammadi Hotel is the Chicken Sanju Baba. The recipe was allegedly gifted to the restaurant by its longtime patron, Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt. Photo: Subhojit Saha/Facebook

Dig in to Chicken Sanju Baba

Noor Mohammadi is an unassuming restaurant that sits on a busy street in Mumbai’s Bhendi Bazaar neighbourhood. The eatery is known for its nalli nihari (a slow-cooked curry made with marrow),  white biryani and soft shammi kebabs. But the star of its menu is the strangely named Chicken Sanju Baba, in honour of Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt, who created the dish. Dutt frequented Noor Mohammadi for many years and was particularly impressed by his meal during a visit in 2010, so much so that he shared his own recipe for a gravy-based chicken dish with the owners of the restaurant. And Chicken Sanju Baba was born. The recipe includes onions, dry fruits, coconut, curd and Kashmiri chilies. The actor’s fans often visit the restaurant; some vegetarians forego their dietary restrictions for a taste of Chicken Sanju Baba.

Noor Mohammadi Hotel, 179, Wazir Building, Abdul Hakim Chowk, Bhendi Bazar; 022-23456008; 6 a.m.-1.30 a.m.

Catch a Movie at G7

In a way, G7 was a precursor to Mumbai’s multiplexes. The complex of seven screens—Gaiety, Galaxy, Gemini, Gossip, Gem, Grace and Glamour—is more popularly known as Gaiety-Galaxy. The theatres are considered to be the ultimate test of a Bollywood movie; actors and directors have been known to slip into a show on opening day just to gauge the audience’s reaction and guess whether their production is a hit or miss. Watching a movie here is an experience. In many theaters audience members hoot, whistle or dance in the aisles; buy balcony or dress circle seats if you prefer to observe the crowd rather than be in the thick of it. If possible, get tickets for the first show on the opening day of a film starring Bollywood superstars like Shah Rukh Khan or Salman Khan, who draw the biggest crowds.

G7 Multiplex, S.V. Road, Bandra; 022-26426963

Buy Old-School Bollywood Posters in Chor Bazaar

Bollywood posters, rare camera equipment and other retro delights make Chor Bazaar a paradise for film buffs and vintage hunters. Photo: Fabiola Monteiro

Bollywood posters, rare camera equipment and other retro delights make Chor Bazaar a paradise for film buffs and vintage hunters. Photo: Fabiola Monteiro

Vintage Bollywood posters make great souvenirs and presents, and the best place to find them is Mumbai’s famous Chor Bazaar on Mutton Street. Navigate crowded pavements and browse through towering stacks of posters of various sizes, well-preserved lobby cards, and ticket stubs before making a selection. Hand-painted originals share space with scanned copies of popular films like Mother India, Don and Sholay. The shopkeepers are well-informed and quite helpful, so let them know if you have a specific film in mind. Don’t forget to bargain.

Chor Bazaar, Mutton Street, Kumbharwada; 11 a.m-7 p.m.; Closed on Fridays.

Watch a Film in a Beautiful Art Deco Theatre

Ditch the cookie-cutter multiplexes and watch a movie at Regal Cinema, located at the start of bustling Colaba Causeway. Going to the movies here feels like an event, thanks to the theatre’s neon-lit signboard, the severe-looking faces carved into the façade of the building that look down on moviegoers as they enter, the cavernous cinema hall, the balcony and stall seating, and the heavy velvet curtains that are raised above the screen before a show. It doesn’t hurt that the tickets and popcorn cost a fraction of what they do in multiplexes.
Regal Cinema, Old Custom House Road, Apollo Bandar, Colaba; 022-22021017

Film Locations

Mumbai’s streets, stations, and seaside promenades have featured in Hindi films for decades, and a walk around the city brings visitors face-to-face with iconic cinematic backdrops, especially those in south Mumbai. Start from the Gateway of India, easily recognizable from cult classics such as Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron (1983), and proceed north. Stop by the Army Restaurant in the art district of Kala Ghoda where scenes from Rock On (2008) were shot. On the weekends, swing by the colonial-era buildings along Flora Fountain, Horniman Circle and Ballard Estate; you might spot filming crews on quiet days. Move on to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, one of the city’s top landmarks and busiest train stations. The structure has appeared in countless films including Mani Ratnam’s Bombay (1995). Carry on to Marine Drive, Mumbai’s most famous seaside promenade where dozens of actors, including those in Wake Up Sid (2009), have stepped out of the city’s rush to contemplate their lives. A half-hour drive away is Dhobi Ghat, whose open-air washing pits and colourful clotheslines provide unforgettable backdrops in films like Munnabhai M.B.B.S. (2003).

Look for Larger-Than-Life Bollywood Murals

Bright murals across the city show some of tinsel town’s biggest stars in their most iconic poses, like this one of Amitabh Bachchan in Deewar. Created in the classic style of hand-painted movie posters, these murals by Ranjit Dahiya’s Bollywood Art Project celebrate the centennial of Indian cinema. Photo courtesy Bollywood Art Project

In the hipster neighbourhood of Bandra, walls are the canvas of street artists like Ranjit Dahiya of Bollywood Art Project. His murals are inspired by the hand-painted movie posters of yesteryear and bring to life movie stars like the inimitable Madhubala. Photo courtesy Bollywood Art Project

Walk down Bandra’s quaint Chapel Road and you will come across a bright mural of the poster of one of Indian cinema’s most famous films, Anarkali. The mural, created by a collective called the Bollywood Art Project, is part of a series of larger-than-life, Bollywood-inspired public art works that adorn Mumbai’s walls and buildings. Similar works are scattered across Bandra: Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna enliven two adjacent walls of an old bungalow near Bandstand, and Dadasaheb Phalke, considered to be the father of Indian cinema, can be found examining a film reel on Bandra’s MTNL building, just off the Bandra-Worli Sea Link. The murals are a shout-out to hand-painted film posters that were popular in the past. They are also your best bet of getting a picture with some of India’s biggest superstars.

Sign Up for a Bollywood Dance Class

Signing up for a Bollywood dance class is a fun way to bring the magic of the movies to your trip. Plus, it’s the City of Dreams—you never know who might be looking for talent. Photo: Jonathan Torgovnik/Contributor/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Signing up for a Bollywood dance class is a fun way to bring the magic of the movies to your trip. Plus, it’s the City of Dreams—you never know who might be looking for talent. Photo: Jonathan Torgovnik/Contributor/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

If the “twist the bulb, pet the dog” is your go-to Bollywood dance move at a party, you’ve got a lot to learn. Mumbai’s many dance schools offer Bollywood dance classes that introduce students to the twists, twirls and hip thrusts that are the mainstay of Hindi films. Indian folk dances were the inspiration for early Bollywood routines, which were then transformed into a unique style with the introduction of contemporary and Western dance forms. Renowned Bollywood choreographers Shiamak Davar and Saroj Khan both have studios that conduct classes for beginners. Get those feet tapping!

Shiamak Davar’s dance academy has numerous studios across the city (www.shiamak.com; 10-15 sessions for ₹5,100; held round the year) while the Saroj Khan Dance Academy offers one-hour sessions (classes held in Oshiwara and Bhayandar; 022-65166616; ₹500).

Explore Film City

Get a glimpse of how imposing forts, lavish ballrooms and colourful fairgrounds make it to the big screen on a tour of the Film City complex in Goregaon. A two-hour bus tour takes visitors through the entire sprawling complex, which hosts Bollywood and television productions. The guides are often actors who have had two-bit roles, and who pepper the tour with their impressions. The complex is full of surprises: one building is a church from the front, a chawl from one side, and a bank from the other. Elsewhere, dilapidated old bungalows stand in for haunted houses in films like Bhoothnath. Look out for the versatile temple that has featured in hundreds of films and television shows; a different colour of paint transforms the structure before each production. Sets are created and torn down in a matter of days.

Dadasaheb Phalke Chitranagri; Goregaon (East); 022-28401533; Tours available daily from 12.20 p.m., 2.20p.m. and 4.30p.m. Visit www.mumbaifilmcitytours.com to book tickets; ₹699; free entry for children below 5 years; foreign nationals are not allowed inside Film City.

Go on a Self-Guided Bollywood Walking Tour

Mehboob Studios, one of Mumbai’s most famous filming locations, is the starting point for AudioCompass’s Bollywood audio guide tour. The studio, which first opened its doors in the mid-1950s, continues to host film and television production crews, as well as music concerts and cultural festivals. Photo: Keegan Crasto/Facebook

Mehboob Studios is one of Mumbai’s most famous filming locations and the starting point for AudioCompass’s Bollywood audio guide tour. The studio, which opened in the mid-1950s, still hosts film production crews, but also doubles as a venue for music concerts and literature festivals. Photo: Keegan Crasto/Facebook

There are many guided Bollywood tours, but for those who want to go at their own pace, there’s the Bollywood Star Homes audio guide for smartphones. Download the guide, and with about three hours in hand, make your way to Bandra, home to several film industry superstars. Begin at Mehboob Studios, one of the city’s best maintained studios,before continuing to some of B-town’s most famous residences. There’s Shah Rukh Khan’s sea-facing mansion Mannat, Rekha’s Sea Springs bungalow shrouded by trees, and Krishna Raj, once home to Raj Kapoor, from one of Bollywood’s most influential families. (Tip: You might spot his grandson Ranbir Kapoor, a star himself.) The guide also includes Amitabh Bachchan’s sprawling home, Jalsa, in Juhu. For a chance to see Bachchan, visit his bungalow on a Sunday evening during his routine public audience.

The audio tour also shares trivia, and tells visitors what they might find inside these famous homes. Download the guide on the AudioCompass mobile app on iOS and Android phones. Allot about three to four hours to enjoy the entire guide, including time for snacks at Elco Market in Bandra, or at Juhu Beach.

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    Kamakshi Ayyar is Features Writer on National Geographic Traveller India's web team. She's partial to places by the sea and desserts in all forms. When she isn't raving about food, she's usually rambling on about the latest cosmic mysteries. She tweets as @kamakshi138.

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