Bollywood Star Guide to Mumbai
Lights flash as the door to a dark sedan opens in front of a low-lit door. The crowd parts as the door opens, revealing the latest “it” couple shrouded with dark sunglasses and shawls. They hurry past photographers and fans into the safety and super-exclusivity of the lounge. Inside, heads turn as they make their way to the bar, enjoying the deep rumble coming from the DJ booth. It sounds like a scene ripped from the pages of Us Weekly, except rather than Brad and Angelina, their names are Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor, and this isn’t Los Angeles—it’s Mumbai.
Scenes like this are more common than ever in this ever-growing city. Just like Hollywood, Bollywood—the Indian film industry based in Bombay—has produced dozens of big-name stars with a serious following. The influx of multiplex theaters into urban areas combined with a wider international release has allowed the industry to grow exponentially in recent years. The new wealth and globalization that have flooded Indian cinema have also translated to Indian culture. Stars are cult icons with a paparazzi trail, so naturally, they seek and find solace in ultra-exclusive venues that have popped up all over Mumbai.
It hasn’t always been this glamorous. When the Indian film industry was born, in 1913, its mission was to produce socially critical films—and actors in them were hardly big names. But in the 1960’s, the industry shifted gears, producing song-and-dance love-story spectacles. They were something new: gloriously escapist films that allowed the viewer to become immersed in a whirlwind of forbidden love affairs, picturesque landscapes, and unattainable wealth. The public responded—and the performers’ rise to fame began. A decade later, when stars like Amitabh Bachchan were made, a popular tabloid magazine would coin the term “Bollywood,” a name that is now recognizable the world over.
Today Bollywood is bigger than ever, producing more than 1,000 movies in India in 2007 (Hollywood made only 594 that year). It didn’t hurt that in 2000, the government allowed banks to lend to film producers, giving them exorbitant amounts of cash to work with. Now a major Bollywood actor can gross as much as 40 million rupees (almost $1 million) per film—an eye-popping sum in a country where the average salary is less than $15,000, especially since most Bollywood stars make five or more films each year.
And the sheer number of films has made Bollywood an institution throughout urban areas, leading to a stratospheric level of adoration. “Stars are so much bigger there than anything in America,” said Dr. Tejaswini Ganti, associate professor of anthropology of culture and media at New York University. “A film star in India is the equivalent of an American movie star, a TV star, a sports star, and a rock star all rolled into one.”
One star who has hit that level of international superstardom: Shah Rukh Khan, who’s appeared in movies like Devdas and Asoka, the first based on the tragic love story by Sarachandra Chattopadhyay and the second based on a tale from ancient Hindu scriptures. Wherever Shah Rukh goes the paparazzi follow, which is often to Olive Bar & Kitchen, the hottest resto/bar in Mumbai that creates a Mediterranean feel with an Italian menu and a white-and-blue décor. Another target?Karishma Kapoor, who’s been seen shopping for one-of-a-kind jewels at Shobha Asar and trendy duds from the hand-picked designs at Bombay Electric.
It’s been a happy confluence of growth for Bollywood and Bombay. Today, when you want to see a film, the viewing experience is no longer in 2,000-person single-screen theaters with no air-conditioning, but in 300-person luxury multiplexes. And when you want to see the actors off the silver screen, there’s no shortage of hot spots. Here’s where to go when you’re craving a little stardust.
Olive Bar & Kitchen
Star Sightings: Salman Khan (Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya?, Hum Aapke Hain Koun…!); Shah Rukh Khan (Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Devdas); Aamir Khan (Lagaan).
What It’s Like: This Mediterranean escape draws the urban elite with its clean white walls and warm lighting. The menu looks more like something from Italy than India, with starters like a mushroom carpaccio and Sicilian-style salt-baked fish. In addition to its international wine list, Olive’s signature cocktails, like the organic passion fruit martini or jalapeño Bloody Mary, draw stars like the three Khans.
Star Sightings: Upen Patel (Namastey London); John Abraham (Dhoom, Kabul Express).
What It’s Like: In the Bandra district, this restaurant draws stars like Upen Patel and John Abraham for dishes like the wasabi prawns. The resto/bar caters to an international clientele, hosting cultural events like Salsa Sundays and art exhibitions, and refuses to play anything but its own special brand of house and drum and bass.
Vie Deck & Lounge
Star Sightings: Shah Rukh Khan (Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Devdas).
What It’s Like: You may find Bollywood king Shah Rukh Khan lounging underneath Vie’s white canopy on the beach. Located in ritzy Juhu, Mumbai’s Malibu, Vie specializes in light Mediterranean fare with a focus on seafood. Order one of the Italian seafood dishes, like the grilled Spanish lobsters cooked with an olive and wine sauce or a martini made by one of its London Academy of Bartending-trained mixologists. But make sure you dress “smart”—this beachside haven has a dress code.
Henry Tham Chinese Restaurant
Star Sightings: Jackie Shroff (Hero, Mission Kashmir, Refugee); Neha Dhupia (Jab Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya).
What It’s Like: Henry Tham operates under a Zen philosophy: simple décor, authentic food, and great music. The restaurant specializes in modern Chinese cuisine and Asian-inspired cocktails (the national award-winning bartending includes a vodka drink using sugar, basil, and orange juice). Stars like Jackie Shroff have been spotted here sipping sugarcane Cosmos. Go Thursday evenings for the all-new World Music Night, where you can hear everything from Yemenite chants to African techno.
Star Sightings: Preeti Jhangiani (Mohabbatein); Ashutosh Gowarikar (Lagaan); Katrina Kaif (Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya?).
What It’s Like: Super-boutique Samsaara stocks more than 65 designer labels, irresistible to everyone from Preeti Jhangiani to Katrina Kaif. The use of glass and wood in its nine stores creates a soothing atmosphere and highlights the variety of styles (Indian wear and Western-style clothes) and products (anything from belts to bags) available.
Star Sightings: Karishma Kapoor (Dil to Pagal Hai); Lara Dutta (Masti, Kaal); Rani Mukherjee (Hum Tum, Veer-Zaara).
What It’s Like: Everyone from Karishma Kapoor to Lara Dutta has picked up pieces at this trendsetter. Creative director Priya Kishore has highly selective taste, but she stocks a wide range of products, including everything from luxury eyewear to summer dresses. Rocker Talvin Singh even performed a concert here.
Shobha Asar Jewelry
Star Sightings: Priyanka Chopra (Mujhse Shaadi Karogi, Krrish); Neha Dhupia (Jab Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya); Kareena Kapoor (Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham).
What It’s Like: Service and quality are what draw starlets like Priyanka Chopra and Kareena Kapoor to Shobha Asar. Her flagship store in Worli has private consultation rooms for discreetness, and each piece of jewelry is handcrafted and one-of-a-kind. The artisans at Shobha Asar follow the entire process, from jewel sourcing to delivery, to ensure complete satisfaction, and they can work within your budget so almost anyone can own a unique piece.
Star Sightings: Saif Ali Khan (Dil Chahta Hai, Kal Ho Naa Ho); Kareena Kapoor (Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham); Amitabh Bachchan (Abhimaan, Amar Akbar Anthony, Trishul, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, Veer-Zaara); Abhishek Bachchan (Refugee, Dhoom, Guru); Salman Khan (Maine Pyar Kiya, Hum Aapke Hain Koun…!); Urmila Matondkar (Rangeela, Satya, Bhoot); Bipasha Basu (Ajnabee, Jism, Dhoom: 2); John Abraham (Dhoom, Kabul Express).
What It’s Like: Opened in May 2007, China House’s chic, ultramodern décor and multiple levels draw Bollywood’s A-list. Look out for Bipasha Basu or the Bachchans sipping appletinis at the light-up LED bar—or on the mezzanine I-deck, the private area where guests can plug in their own iPod, if the in-house DJ isn’t hitting the right notes.
Star Sightings: Aishwarya Rai (Taal, Devdas).
What It’s Like: Mumbai mainstay Indigo’s lengthy wine list is famed. But the drinks are just the tip of this exclusive iceberg. The Euro-Asian cuisine includes dishes like thandai-marinated chicken with spiced balsamic glaze, and coconut and lime risotto with asparagus and hearts of palm, which are best enjoyed alfresco on the rooftop terrace. Opened in 1999, this upmarket, low-key hideaway has stood the test of time and allows stars like Aishwarya Rai to sip their rosé in peace.
Star Sightings: Saif Ali Khan (Dil Chahta Hai, Kal Ho Naa Ho); Kareena Kapoor (Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham).
What It’s Like: The lobby bar at the plush JW Marriott Hotel Mumbai may not at first glance seem like a celeb hangout, with its laid-back feel and clean marble and wood décor, but it does draw crowds, including the likes of “it” couple Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor. Perhaps it’s the cocktails, or perhaps it’s the view of Juhu Beach and the Arabian Sea.