There’s a sea of people on Juhu beach accompanying the many Ganesh murtis. As they snake through the crazy traffic, Mumbai, the maximum city, gets one of its most iconic moments on screen. This chaotic visual from the climax of Ram Gopal Varma’s Satya became one of the foundation elements for the quintessential ‘Mumbai film’. Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated in many cities outside of Mumbai too, but one gets the feeling that Ram Gopal Varma’s Satya changed the way Bollywood looked at the larger-than-life quality of Mumbai’s Ganpati celebrations.
It’s not like Hindi films hadn’t seen Ganpati celebrations before Satya, but they were few and far between. Like in Sunil Dutt’s Dard Ka Rishta, where the song Ganpati Bappa Morya is meant as a character’s plea to heal someone from cancer. There was also Mukul Anand’s Agneepath, which was very particular about its setting of Mandwa, a seaside village in Maharashtra. It’s no surprise that when the film was remade in 2012, starring Hrithik Roshan, the director reserved a grand setting for a Ganpati celebration to Ajay-Atul’s excellent Deva Shree Ganesha.
After Satya, Mahesh Manjrekar filmed his tense pre-climax scene for Vaastav by inter-cutting between an aarti and stray police encounters taking place around the city. Trying to rekindle the magic of Satya‘s climax, Ram Gopal Varma filmed a tense shoot-out sequence in his critically-panned Sarkar 3. While he doesn’t come even close to matching Satya‘s tight climax, Varma displays a lot more technique to build tension during the scene. As the paranoia forces the audience to scan the crowds for possible assailants, Varma cuts furiously between visuals that are slow-motion, aerial shots from a drone and Varma’s signature (read: peculiar) angles.
The Ganpati celebrations have also served as a fabulous setting for the Bollywood leading man’s entry. Farhan Akhtar used it in Don for Shah Rukh Khan re-entry as Vijay while dancing to Shankar Mahadevan’s Morya Re.
It also serves right in a star-vehicle like Salman Khan’s Wanted, where we see him earning brownie points by busting moves to Sajid-Wajid’s Tera Hi Jalwa.
Recently in Ayushmann Khurrana’s Dream Girl, Ganpati celebrations also served as the setting for the promotional song – Dhagala Lagli. The song begins with a caveat that most of these videos take place in a Punjabi setting, so why not do this one in a Marathi setting? The Bollywoodisation of the Ganpati celebration continues…