Delhi in Bollywood: A cinematic journey

- May 22, 2024

Recalling Bollywood’s strong connection with Delhi, where the municipality has decided to reduce shooting fees at locations in the Capital to attract filmmakers

The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) recently announced its decision to reduce shooting fees in the national capital in order to attract filmmakers. 

While this may turn Delhi into a film shooting hub, it is worth recalling that the Capital isn’t new to Bollywood and there have been movies with ‘Delhi’ in their titles. 

Mohan Sehgal directed and produced New Delhi in 1956. Surely, it was the first film with ‘Delhi’ in the title. The film starred Kishore Kumar, Vyjayanthimala, Nazir Hussain and Nana Palshikar. None of them had any connection with Delhi. Some parts were shot at the Boat Club, featuring Kumar and Vyjayanthimala on a boat.

Mihir Pandya, in his outstanding book Shahar Aur Cinema: Via Delhi writes that the story revolves around love between a young Bihari man (Anand) and a Tamil woman (Janki), who separate after marriage. 

The film showcases images of Daryaganj and Connaught Place, which were significant symbols of Delhi in 1956 and remain so even today, although many new symbols have emerged since then.

Thirty-one years later, in 1987, another film titled New Delhi was released, but it was in Malayalam, not Hindi. It had stars like Mammootty, Sumalatha and Suresh Gopi. 

‘Ab Dilli Dur Nahin’ to ‘Dilli Ka Thug’ 

Just a year after New Delhi in 1956, Ab Dilli Dur Nahin was released. It was produced by Raj Kapoor and written by Rajendra Singh Bedi. The only actor in this movie with a Delhi connection was Motilal, a close relative of singer Mukesh. Motilal was from Nai Sarak. 

The film also featured a young Amjad Khan, who later gained fame as Gabbar Singh in Sholay. Ab Dilli Dur Nahin showcases the old iron bridge over the Yamuna, Daryaganj, and Connaught Place.

In 2023, another Ab Dilli Dur Nahin was released. Starring Imran Zahid and Shruti Sodhi, it revolves around a rickshaw puller’s son who becomes an IAS officer. Alas, it failed to fire the box office. The 2023 version of Ab Dilli Dur Nahin was shot in various locations such as Mukherjee Nagar, Delhi University, Kamla Nagar, Rajendra Nagar, Connaught Place, and Govindpuri Police Station. Some portions were also filmed in Noida.

Another film with Delhi in the title, Dilli Ka Thug, was released in 1958. Directed by SD Narang, it featured stars like Kishore Kumar and Nutan. 

‘Tarzan Comes to Delhi’

In 1965, Tarzan Comes to Delhi was released, starring Dara Singh and Mumtaz, and produced by Surendra Kapoor, father of actor Anil Kapoor. 

The film uses the story of Tarzan, the king of the jungle, to highlight the negative aspects of modern urban civilisation, and features scenes of Connaught Place and the Old Delhi Railway Station. 

Shashi Kapoor’s debut film, The Householder (1963), may not have had Delhi in its title, but it was shot in Daryaganj and focussed on Delhi society. Twenty-four years later, in 1986, he starred in New Delhi Times alongside Sharmila Tagore, Om Puri, and Rajouri Garden-born and Kirori Mal College alumnus Kulbhushan Kharbanda. 

Shashi Kapoor played a fearless journalist, driving a Fiat car on Delhi’s streets. He received the National Film Award for Best Actor for his performance. This was director Ramesh Sharma’s first film.

Recalls film buff Ravindra Kumar, “New Delhi Times was a very fine film and watching it now gives a fair idea of those innocent days when Delhi’s roads were not overcrowded and life was carefree here.” 

‘Chalo Dilli’

In 2011, Chalo Dilli was released. It was a Hindi comedy movie about Mihika (Lara Dutta), an executive banker, who misses her flight to Delhi. Manu (Vinay Pathak), an autorickshaw driver tries to help Mihika reach her destination. En route, they discover the semblance and colours of urban and rural areas that make India.

Delhi-6 was a big budget film, directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra. Released in 2009, the film had Abhishek Bachchan as an NRI who arrives in India with his ailing grandmother (Waheeda Rehman) and begins discovering his roots before getting embroiled in a religious dispute involving a mysterious monkey-like attacker. 

The film marked the Hindi film debut of Rao Hydari. 

The number 6 refers to the Postal Index Number (PIN) of the Chandni Chowk area of old Delhi, a shortened form of 110006.

The other ‘Delhi’ films

Delhi Belly was a 2011 crime comedy film written by Akshat Verma and directed by Abhinay Deo. It stars Imran Khan, Kunaal Roy Kapur, Vir Das. 

Delhi Safari (also known as Jungle Safari) was a 2012 Indian computer-animated musical comedy film written and directed by Nikkhil Advani. The film traces the journey of five animals from Mumbai to Delhi as they struggle against an oppressive regime. 

It is India’s first stereoscopic 3D animation feature film. 

Teri Dilli Meri Dilli was a movie based on the story of a woman who overcomes postrape torture. Released in 2014, it was directed by Sandeep Kumar Chandola.

Hopefully, filmmakers would continue to make films with Delhi as title in future.