There are legends of how actors, producers, and musicians used to gather at the film actress Nargis’ house at Marine Drive, then a very elite area, lined with exclusive Art Deco buildings, in South Bombay (Mumbai). Dev Anand and Suraiyya’s love blossomed along this promenade, and one particular story says she threw his ring from her parapet into the sea when the romance didn’t work out. Speaking of Dev Anand, he played a suave police detective in CID (1956), with an understated swagger in his walk, who bribes a pair of street musicians to put his emotions across to Shakila in “Leke pehla pehla pyaar”. The Marine Drive we see in this song is a wide, silent boulevard, with few but opulent cars, cycles, and tongas.
The suave heroes of the 1950s were followed by the angst filled protagonists of the ’70s. However, this was not before an effervescent Rajesh Khanna came down the road, with Hema Malini, yodeling “Zindagi Ek Safar Hai Suhana” from the 1971 film Andaz. And who could better personify the angst of the era than the angry young man, Amitabh Bachchan himself? In Muqaddar Ka Sikandar (1978), he defiantly drove his motorcycle along Marine Drive, almost living lyrics that speak of being the master of his own fate, reflecting his own mercurial rise. Bachhan himself had slept on benches here during a difficult phase in his life.
The lanky young man continued romancing, even with monsoon in full progress, over the seas! The song “Rimjhim Gire Saawan” from Manzil (1979) captures Mumbai downpours like none other.
Some decades later, another obstinate young man stood facing the sea and proclaimed that he will rule the city someday. With Deewana (1992), Shahrukh Khan rode to stardom and into the hearts of many — a journey that started from Marine Drive.
With the new millennium, a breezy Vivek Oberoi rode his bike with his headphones on, listening to “O Humdum” in Saathiya (2002), unknowingly witnessing (spoiler alert!) his own wife’s accident.
Marine Drive on celluloid has also had its share of action. In Baby (2015), evil mastermind Bilal (Kay Kay Menon) is helped to escape from a staged accident on the Marine Drive flyover. The flyover also forms the crux of the cult movie Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron (1983). The corpse driving a coffin, the policeman spotting the two protagonists Vinod (Naseeruddin Shah) and Sudhir (Ravi Baswani) all occur on a deserted night under the flyover. From Nariman Point, the evil Tarneja (Pankaj Kapoor) looks around at the skyscrapers all around him. They show his greed and his position, far displaced from the reach of the system.
In one of these buildings overlooking the sea live the brothers Karan (Anil Kapoor) and Kishen (Jackie Shroff) from Parinda (1989), with a violent destiny waiting to unfold.
Tiranga (1992) showed the legendary Brigadier Suryadev Singh (Raaj Kumar) make a daring escape from a bomb attack through a sewer on the same road.
Dil Chahta Hai (2001) showed the protagonists enjoying the “nice life” in a restaurant high up on Marine Drive, with Saif Ali Khan mouthing prophetic lines in “Cake ke liye hum kahi bhi jaa sakte hai”.
Aamir’s own nephew Imran Khan would ride down the road on a horse in his debut film, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na (2008). The same film also used the fabled “Victoria’s” as an allegory to the film’s fairy tale story. At the southern tip of Marine Drive is Nariman Point, where the unfinished reclamation project (Lloyd’s Folly) extends into the sea as a short, narrow road, surrounded by tetrapods. Here, a certain Murliprasad Sharma, aka Munnabhai, hatched seemingly watertight schemes to dupe people in Munnabhai MBBS (2003).
And who can forget the scene from Wake Up Sid in which Sid (Ranbir Kapoor) heads out to Marine Drive as the first rains lash the city, only to find Ayesha (Konkona Sen Sharma) standing there, accompanied by the sound of one of Bollywood’s finest songs, “Boondon ke Moti“.
Speaking of fine songs, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Mumbai’s own ballad is also shot on this seafront — “Yeh Hai Mumbai Meri Jaan” from CID (1956).
In an era when Mumbai was poised to be the metropolis the world would take notice of, the song and its backdrop would confirm the city as the true “Urbs Prima in Indis”.