It’s Bollywood Calling For Delhi

It’s Bollywood Calling For Delhi
Bollywood's connection with Purani Dilli Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Revisiting Bollywood’s Delhi connection, here are a few cinematic gems that are totally worth a watch

Roshni Subramanian
May 18 , 2020
06 Min Read

What can we say about Delhi that hasn’t already been said a gazillion times? The confluence of the old and new, of culture and modernity, of bustling markets and expansive lawns bordering wide boulevards, of biting winters and prolonged summers, Dilli as we know it, encapsulates all this and a lot more. The city has been the subject of fascination for rulers from around the world who have made it their home, remnants of which are evident till date. The juxtaposition of modern desires and old-world charm is probably what makes the city a treasure trove of stories. 

In the last two decades, Bollywood has jumped onto this bandwagon of basking in the glory of the national capital. With every movie, filmmakers are looking to unravel a new aspect of the cityscape and the city has played its part to the tee in some of our biggest blockbusters. From dramas to comedies and from films backed by big-budget production houses to those stuck with the ‘indie tag’, we are a Bollywood-obsessed nation, and Bollywood's obsession is none other than good ol’ Dilli. Be it the posh neighbourhoods of south Delhi in Rhea Kapoor’s Aisha or the congested bylanes of east Delhi, or what is colloquially known as ‘Jamuna paar’ in Mrighdeep Singh Lamba’s Fukrey, the city is a palette of picturesque locales.


Bollywood's love affair with Delhi goes back a long way. If you jog your memory a little, then maybe the Dev Anand-starrer Tere Ghar Ke Saamne would ring a bell. Humming to the music of 'Dil ka bhanwar kare pukaar', the lead pair can be seen romancing in the backdrop of Qutub Minar. Interestingly, the movie is one of the last films to be shot inside the complex.

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When it comes to depicting the perfect college life, nothing can gleam the screen better than Delhi University. Bollywood sure has its ways of glamorising college life, but they’ve got the fuchcha life spot on. In the 1980s we were introduced to North Campus life, Defence Colony, Talkatora Gardens and Mandi House in the Farooq Sheikh-starrer Chashme Baddoor. The light-hearted comedy is not only a reflection of Sai Paranjpye’s directorial brilliance but also wafts a cool breeze of nostalgia.

Recreating the Hindu vs Stephen's rivalry on the silver screen, the 2010-blockbuster Rockstar was filmed throughout the DU campus. Extensively shot in Hindu College, St Stephen's and SRCC, the musical drama also shows sequences from Nizamuddin Dargah and Hauz Khas.

Capturing the essence of the city, the 2013 comedy Fukrey offers viewers a peek into the unexplored facets of East Delhi. Lamba, the man behind the lens, manages to smartly portray Miranda College, a women’s college, as a co-educational institution. Maneesh Sharma’s Band Baaja Baaraat features Hansraj College while simultaneously taking the audience through the cramped alleys of Pashchim Vihar and Janak Puri. 

A movie that revolutionised Bollywood, the perception of youth and redefined patriotism, Rakyesh Omprakash Mehra’s Rang De Basanti is etched in our memories forever. Revolving around a group of DU graduates aiming to change the corrupt political system, a majority of the film was shot in the Indian Habitat Centre. While Bollywood has tried time and again to recreate the bustle of Chandni Chowk in various films, none of their attempts come close to Delhi-6. Mehra’s Old Delhi is replete with local flavours, soulful melodies and emphasises the idea of how time stands still in Purani Dilli. 

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Low-budget movies like Titli and Dibakar Banerjee’s Khosla ka Ghosla and Oye Lucky Lucky Oye have brought to the forefront the overlooked back alleys of the city.

Bollywood of the 1990s may sound like a pure cringe-fest for many, but for others it’s a trip down memory lane. And one of the gems of the era is Mani Ratnam’s bilingual Dil Se. The final installment of his thematic trilogy, the film starring Shah Rukh Khan and Manisha Koirala was shot in the backdrop of Delhi’s Purana Qila aka Old Fort.

Be it majestic historical structures or the city’s nondescript lanes, or the kaleidoscopic cultural reality of Delhi, Bollywood has perfectly captured it all on celluloid. How about a weekend binge with these movies that celebrate our capital city?


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