Bollywood has painted quite a picture of Mumbai in various times through countless films. These films serve as a guide to getting to know the city for those who haven’t lived there. Without a doubt, gangster flicks or period films set in Mumbai are among the most fascinating themes.

Reddit user was intrigued by a video exposing Mumbai’s underbelly and decided to learn more about the city in the ‘90s. On the platform, the user asked if any local can draw a picture of what it was like to live in the city at the time. And the responses have been just as interesting as any Bollywood film.

1. “I was quite young in the 90s, but I remember what I was doing on the day of the bombs. I was not yet 10 years old. My mum had taken my younger sister and me to Mahalaxmi for some official work. I clearly heard the blast while sitting in a Udupi restaurant for lunch. My mum tried to dismiss it saying it must have been a car backfiring. But other people had heard it too. My mum, perhaps intuiting that something was wrong, immediately took us to the bus stop to leave for home. We got the bus, but the traffic was understandably crazy that day. People were talking in hushed voices on the bus. There were only rumors. No one really knew anything. The bus took forever! A two-hour ride took too long so we reached home only at night. For the next few days, we just stayed at home.”



2. “I vaguely remember the early 90s, and I loved it. Even in the mid and late 90s, Bombay had such a cool factor. Even the armed henchmen in a late-night bar added to the cool. You never had much fear that they’d do something to you; it was a game between the mafia and the cops.”


3. “I can only say the mad rush wasn’t there. Marine Drive is peak Mumbai for me. During the 90’s it was magical; few people, few cars, very very romantic. Now even the sight is unbearable with people flocking to it.”


Indian Wanderers

4. “I can tell you about the 90s, living in a chawl in Jogeshwari. The riots started near our place, Radhabai Chawl in Jogeshwari East, and I can say our area was one of the worst affected. I was a kid, but I remember some incidents clearly. The rest I know of the stories. At night, the men in the chawl never slept. They kept all the household weapons handy, in case there was an attack in the middle of the night. Some had choppers, bamboo sticks, and beer bottles. I have even heard of petrol bombs being stored. I’m not sure how true that was. Sometimes, we kids had to stay up late with our fathers.”


Re-thinking the future

5. “My dad was a politician at that time. His friend was taken at gunpoint by police because he ‘looked suspicious’ during Ganpati Visarjan. My father helped him to get out of jail. A month later, his body was found behind my school and it was rumored that he told police about some goons and the goons killed him.”


One India

6. “My grandparents lived in Lalbaug, which was one of the worst affected areas by gang wars and Hindu-Muslim conflicts (since the Byculla area, which has a Muslim majority, was nearby) in Mumbai. When I was a kid, my mama used to tell me stories about gang wars and riots in Lalbaug. He used to tell me how murders and fights used to happen in broad daylight. I’ve always been intrigued when I hear about gang war riots in Mumbai. I still imagine how people used to live in that period.”


7. “I remember the 1992-1993 riots; although I was just 6 years old then. The school was closed due to the mobs, and with things being so socialist then, we used to live in the colony for the company’s senior employees (Sandoz colony in Thane); since there were mobs rampaging, the company sent the factory guards to the colony, and they had guns, so the mobs did not try climbing the walls or breaking the gate. But, as a child, I had no idea what was all the fuss about until many years later.”


The Indian Express

8. “My mom used to travel to her university by train regularly, and once the train stopped because of a bomb scare. Mom kept sitting in the training compartment because bomb scares were so common that she thought it was a false alarm. Someone came and informed Mom that part of the train had been blown off. Mom was at her wits’ end since she didn’t have a travel fare, so she shared auto with 3 other women and got home.”



9. “I certainly can. I graduated in 1993. It was very very different. Life was a lot more bindaas, you had freedom of movement and the city was at its best back then in terms of acceptance of all kinds of people. Politics was dirty back then too, but none of the stupidity and ignorance and chauvinism that ‘this state belongs to us and you should bow to us and speak the local language and give us fealty because we said so’. No there was no fear. That would not creep in till near the end of the 90s, till the Mumbai police finally brought the gangs to heel. I could say more, but without context, there is so much to say, it would become a 10000-word essay on things, that are long gone and difficult to describe to people who were born years after the gang wars and blasts/terrorist activities of the 90s.”


The Week

10. “I was only a kid in the early to mid-1990s, but I remember the preponderance of skilled blue-collar workers among the working class. People like trained plumbers, electricians, mechanics, and factory floor workers were quite common, and I knew many such people. It seems these skilled blue-collar uncles have all disappeared. The average blue-collar guy in Mumbai today runs a gig like a taxi, auto, or Uber driving, laundry, zomato, or swiggy, or works in some sales/cashier role in some small business.”



11. “Much more edgy and so much more fun. Mumbai was still the centre of aspirational India, where you came to make it big! Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune, and Gurgaon weren’t a blip on the Indian map then. Everything outside Mumbai was a “gaon“, as Mumbaikars thought then. Rules and regulations were not followed. As such, the cops were virtually toothless. So your neighbourhood bar could be open all night if they greased the cops with very little money. Dance bars were there in every nook and corner. If your society Ganapati pandal wanted to take all night for Visarjan, they could take two! Give me an 80/90 edgier, more Cosmopolitan (Afghans/Iranis, etc.) Mumbai over today’s dull and drab Mumbai any day. It had the most goonish people, with the most brilliant ones, all thrust into a very small island together. It was something!!!”


Festival 3 Continents

12. “It was difficult for the rich. The gang and hawala systems were at their peak. Anybody who is rich could be held for ransom. People had to give vasooli but for the middle class and Maharashtrians living there, it was a happy time. Buses were the craze. I was born 1 day after the blast. Juhu beach and all the beaches were starting to dirty up with the increase in usage of paper plates and all. I do remember really liberal women, as a young kid, modern and working. Lots of paper plates for birthday parties. Of course, the happy time was for people with jobs and all. India was changing in 91 with globalisation so things were quite happy at that time at least. This is what my parents told me.”


13. “I was very young during the early 90s, so I don’t remember anything other than my dad picking me up from school instead of coming back in the school van when the riots happened. My dad got mugged at knifepoint during the 90s, late at night at Khar West. My entire school life was spent in the ’90s & I hated school. (It’s just a personal thing. I totally get how great it was for so many growing up in the 90s, but it absolutely sucked for me.) Racism, sexism, and a lot of other unpleasant things were normalised. No internet.”


So, the movies we’ve watched over the decades have been fairly accurate.