The divisions have been rather clear. Delhi is a city of power and politics. Bombay (now Mumbai) has been all about business and Bollywood. So more than the country's capital, it's the centre of the Hindi film industry that has been its own favourite playing field and inspiration. Mumbai's landmarks, from the famous steps of the Asiatic Library to the iconic CST, have been the setting for many a scene and song. From Raj Kapoor's Awaara to Anil Kapoor's Tezaab Bollywood has celebrated the maximum city's street urchins and also uncovered its ugly underbelly and deadly mafia, be it a Satya or Company. Mumbai's slums and chawls, its trains and buses, its cheek by jowl life, its dreams and aspirations have been stuff Bollywood has been made of. Delhi, in contrast, has been almost missing from the frames.
Way back in 1958, we did have Delhi in the title of a film. Dilli Ka Thug was about a trickster from Delhi but one who lands up in Mumbai in the early reels itself. Another early film was the 1963 Vijay Anand's classic, Tere Ghar Ke Saamne. It is till date remembered for its song Dil ka bhanwar kare pukaar, inventively set on the stairs of Qutub Minar. But legend has it that they were created in a Mumbai studio. The Chopra Brothers-Yash and B.R.-set some of their films in Delhi, like Trishul (1978), a tale of feud in a construction baron's family, The Burning Train (1980) about a disaster-struck superfast train running between Delhi and Mumbai and the soft-focus romance, Chandni (1989). The city in all these films remained a fresh backdrop, a new locale.
It was Sai Paranjape's 1981 comedy Chashme Baddoor that managed to capture a slice of middle-class Delhi with finesse and perceptiveness. Be it the barsaati culture, a bachelor's pad, the sprawling green parks, beautiful neighbourhoods like Jor Bagh, the paanwala next door or the languid, laidback life and people, Chashme Baddoor presented Delhi the way it was. Back then. Similarly Ramesh Sharma's New Delhi Times (1986) showed the political-media nexus in Delhi to perfection.
However, these Delhi films remained more exceptions than a rule. It is only in the last few years that India's capital has started featuring prominently in the country’s Hindi commercial films. Delhi's characters, culture, lingo and attitudes have only now found a rightful place on screen. Many a film song too has been written ...
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