Bombay is a 1995 Indian Tamil film directed by Mani Ratnam, starring Arvind Swamy and Manisha Koirala in the lead, and featuring music composed by A. R. Rahman. The film is centered on events that occurred particularly during the period of December 1992 to January 1993 in India, and the controversy surrounding the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, its subsequent demolition on 6 December 1992 and increased religious tensions in the city of Bombay (now Mumbai) that led to the Bombay Riots. It is the second in Ratnam’s trilogy of films that depict human relationships against a background of Indian politics, including Roja (1992) and Dil Se.. (1998).
Eventually becoming one of the highest grossing films of the Chennai film industry, the film was well-received both critically and commercially, and it was screened at many international film festivals including the Philadelphia Film Festival in 1996 where it was an audience favourite. The film’s soundtrack sold 15 million units, becoming one of the best-selling film soundtracks of all time, and earning composer A. R. Rahman his fourth consecutive Filmfare Best Music Director Award (Tamil). However, the film caused considerable controversy upon release in India and abroad for its depiction of inter-religious relations and religious riots. The film was banned in Singapore and Malaysia upon release.
Shekhar (Arvind Swamy) is the son of an orthodox Hindu Narayana Pillai (Nassar) living in a coastal village in Tamil Nadu. A journalism student studying in Bombay, Shekhar visits home to be with his family. On one of his return trips, he notices Shaila Banu (Manisha Koirala), a Muslim schoolgirl in the village and loses his heart to her. Initially shy, Shaila seeks to distance herself from Shekhar, but after frequent run-ins, and days of pursuit, Shaila begins to like Shekhar. Eventually, they both fall in love.
Shekhar meets Shaila’s father Basheer Ahmed (Kitty) and reveals he wants to marry her. Basheer throws him out, citing difference in religions. Shekhar reveals his interest to his father Pillai, who becomes angry, meets Basheer and gets into an abusive argument with him. Upset with rejection from both families, Shekhar leaves the village and returns to Bombay. Through Shaila’s friend, he sends her a letter and a ticket for her to travel to Bombay. However, she is undecided; Basheer comes to know of her regular letters from Shekhar and plans to get her married immediately to stop this relation growing further. Left with no choice, Shaila leaves the village with the ticket sent by Shekhar and reaches Bombay. They get married and lead a happy life. Shaila conceives and delivers twins who are named Kabir Narayan and Kamal Basheer. The twins are raised in both religions. Shekhar continues to work as a journalist, while Shaila takes care of home and children. After six years, Shekhar and Shaila settle down in their life and begin the process of re-establishing relationship with their respective families.
When the Babri Masjid is demolished by Hindu fundamentalists on 6 December 1992, riots break out in Bombay. Kabir and Kamal, who have gone to buy groceries, get caught in the riots; eventually, Shekhar and Shaila save them and reach home safely. Narayana Pillai, who receives the news of the riots, rushes to Bombay to meet his son and his family. Everyone is happy with his arrival, and he stays with them. Soon, Basheer also comes with his wife and all of them live together happily for a few days. Both Pillai and Basheer are happy with their grandchildren and wish to be with them.
On 5 January 1993, when two murders are interpreted as communal killings, another riot breaks up in Bombay, raising tensions between Hindu and Muslims and they clash in the streets. Hundreds of poor people belonging to both the religions die. The mansion where Shekhar stays with his family also gets burnt. When Shekhar evacuates everyone, Narayana Pillai, Basheer and his wife get caught in the fire accident and die. The children who run to save themselves get separated from their parents. Shekhar and Shaila begin to search for them and they go through several tense moments. Shekhar participates in the movement to stop the riots with other religious leaders (who realise the futility of the riots by then) and succeeds. When the riots stop, the children who were saved by people from different religions, also turn up and join their parents.
Directed by Mani Ratnam
Produced by S. Sriram, Mani Ratnam & Jhamu Sughand
Written by Mani Ratnam
Starring Arvind Swamy, Manisha Koirala, Nazar
Music by A. R. Rahman
Cinematography Rajiv Menon
Edited by Suresh Urs
Production Aalayam Productions
Distributed by Aalayam Productions & Ayngaran International
Release dates 10 March 1995
Running time 138 minutes