Every film has a premise or a setting, a setting which help in narrating a story.
In recent times, filmmakers have used the cities or the places as an integral tool to narrate a story which made these places a part of the narrative and also made the film special.
Following are the list of 10 films where the places were used as a backdrop.
1: Delhi- Delhi 6
One of the most underrated films is Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Delhi 6. It tells the story of an NRI who returns with his ailing grandmother to his homeland and gets caught in some bizarre incidents.
There are many films were Delhi is used as a backdrop like No one killed Jessica, Dev D, Rang de Basanti, Oye Lucky lucky Oye and Do Dooni Chaar. But what makes Delhi 6 so special is the way it effectively captures the real essence of the capital city. It shows the diverse culture of a Hindu and a Muslim and shows the lifestyle of the old Delhi.
It often do stands out in some scenes like the one when Roshan (Played by Abhishek Bachchan) comes to the city and gets stuck in the traffic and how the people welcome them to their place, the scene where Divya Dutta comes to collect the garbage, the difference shown in between the two religions and the climax scene.
These scenes show the culture, nature and the beauty of the city in a true fashion. The beauty of this film lies in its individual and memorable characters, where one of them is shrewd local money lender who is married to a young woman another is the ambitious girl who dreams big whereas her own sister is bounded by only traditions and much more.
The characters do have difference and quarrels which each other but they support each other by becoming one in difficult times. These characteristics make Delhi 6 special and it manages to capture the real essence of the city.
2: Kashmir- Haider
Gone are those days when Kashmir was mainly used to shot romantic sequences. Kashmir was something more than just being a romantic set up. Some films did show the trouble side of this place and how it has become a victim of terrorism.
Where there were films like Kashmir ki Kali, Aap Ki Kasam, Janwar which used Kashmir as a romantic backdrop there were films like Mission Kashmir, Lamhaa which showed the troubled side. But a film which truly used the real essence and where Kashmir played a crucial role as a part of the narrative is Vishal Bharadwaj’s, Haider.
Set in 1995, Haider is an adaptation of Hamlet; it tells a story a man who wants to take revenge against his uncle as he is responsible for his father’s death and is now in the relationship with his mother. Right from the first frame till the last one, Haider tells the condition of the Kashmiris and how their daily life is affected due to the strict rules of AFSPA.
Vishal Bharadwaj does tell the state of Kashmir in some dialogues of Haider like “Pura Kashmir Ek Kedkhana Hai” and even in songs like Jehlum. The actors have also used the Kashmiri accent to bring authenticity in their performance.
3: Punjab- Udta Punjab
What does the first things comes to your mind when you hear Punjab? Sarso Ke Keth, Lassi, people wearing turban and bhangra. Most of the Hindi films have shown Punjab in this way but like they say that there is always two sides of a coin, similarly Udta Punjab have shown the other side of Punjab.
It portrays Punjab as a drug-affected state and how the youth life is destroyed. The makers have smartly captured the reality of the migrants, who are coming to Punjab and becoming the victim of the darker side. The Punjabi accent used is pitched perfectly; the locations go beyond the cliches Sarso Ke Keth. This film uses Punjab as it’s a character and talks about the real side of the state.
4: Rajasthan- Dhanak
The beauty of this film lies in its simplicity, innocence, and the setting. Orphaned siblings Pari and Chotu embark on a journey to restore Chotu’s eyesight.
In their journey how they encounter some wonderful people, get trapped and lost and how Chotu restores his eyesight back forms the rest of the story. It is a beautiful film set in Rajasthan where we get to see the nature of the people living in that state. Apart from the people, the director has also captured the lifestyle of the Rajasthani- their home, their dressing style, the accent, how people gather and watch films in small towns, the singing style and much more.
Nagesh Kukunoor goes beyond and shows the other side of Rajasthan and its people just apart from the forts and the dessert which makes this film a good watch.
5: Jharkhand/Dhanbad- Gangs of Wasseypur
Most of us didn’t know about Dhanbad or Wasseypur until when Gangs of Wasseypur was released. It is centered on the coal mafia of Dhanbad, and the underlying power struggles, politics, and vengeance between three crime families.
The film starts with the history of Wasseypur and Dhanbad, how it was a part of Bengal before then Independence and after the Independence how it becomes the part of Bihar and now Jharkhand. The narrator tells the story of the rival families, from the 1940s to 2000s, and how the city changes as the time progresses.
This film is the best film which has used perfectly the city as a backdrop. Right from their language to the lifestyle, the accent, the effect of cinema, the cultures, the crime and what not, Anurag Kashyap had shown all the aspect of the places to make it look real and iconic.
6: Varanasi- Masaan
There is a dialogue is Masaan where Pankaj Tripathi’s character tells that “Yaha Aana Aasan hai par Yaha Se Jaana Mushkil” That one dialogue is enough as it speaks everything about the place Varanasi.
Debutante director Neeraj Ghaywan has used this city as a metaphor for the liberation of the characters let it be the cremation ghat or the small town mentality or the independent women Devi or the river Ganga which liberates Deepak from grief. Masaan is incomplete without Varanasi.
7: Hyderabad- Well Done Abba
Though it is not exactly set in Hyderabad, Well Done Abba still effectively captures the culture of Hyderabadis. Shyam Benegal is an acclaimed director and it is quite obvious that when this film is set in a particular village he wouldn’t neglect the basic details.
Hyderabadi accent is used as a dialect; a celebration of Ramzan is shown in a very simple manner. Well done Abba is a simple film and the setting silently becomes the backdrop and the character of the film
8: Kolkata- Kahaani
No Hindi film has beautifully captured Kolkata’s true essence apart from Kahaani. This film is incomplete without Kolkata and that is because the whole story happens during the period of Durga Puja.
Ghosh is a smart director who captures all the aspects of the city. Be it the metro train or the yellow taxis, the people who make the sculptures or the people who pronounce ‘V’ as ‘B’, be it the final day of Durga Puja or streets of Kolkata, everything is there in this film. You name it and you will have it. Was it possible for Vidya Balan’s character to escape in the last scene, wearing a red and white sari if the film wouldn’t have been set in Kolkata?
Some might argue that if that is the case then the director could’ve selected Mumbai’s Ganesh Visarjan but at the end, he talks about the women and uses Goddess Durga as a metaphor which answers our questions.
9: Goa- Dear Zindagi
Goa is one of the most popular backdrops used in Hindi cinema. Be it Saagar, Dum Maaro Dum, Go Goa Gone or Finding Fanny. But I feel that Dear Zindagi is a film which shows a new side of Goa. In the film, Alia’s character is reluctant to go to Goa but at the end, she finds an inspiration from that place.
There is a deleted scene in the film, which is uploaded on YouTube, where Shah Rukh Khan takes Alia to a deserted fort and tells the history of it which afterward Alia uses it as a story to make a film. If she wouldn’t have come to Goa then would she have got any inspiration? Probably no and that answers the question that why Dear Zindagi uses Goa effectively as its backdrop.
10: Mumbai- Dhobi Ghat
This list is incomplete without Mumbai, the city where dreams come true. There is no need of any explanation of the connection between Bollywood and Mumbai. Many and I repeat many films are set in Mumbai. Where some films like Satya, Company, and Once Upon A time in Mumbai show the crime side of the city they were also some films like Luck by Chance, Rangeela where people want to enter the film industry.
Films like Page 3 and Fashion shows the glamorous side of the city and even thrillers like A Wednesday and Aamir were set in Mumbai. But what makes Dhobi Ghat special? The answer is simple as it covers ALL the aspects of the city, be it the crime side, a character who wants to get in the film industry, the high-class society as well as the lower class society. How the city changes during the rainy season, the Ganesh Visarjan and everything.
In an interview, Kiran Rao, the director of the film, said that “Dhobi Ghat tells a story of four characters and Mumbai is the fifth character” Now, I understood what she meant.