In the 1960s, Mumbai was a very different place.
India gained independence from Britain in 1947 and bloody protests followed over where to draw the borders of Bombay State. In 1960 the State was split along linguistic lines and Mumbai — then called Bombay — embarked on a decade of cultural boom, as India became South Asia's dominant regional power.
The "Golden Age" of Bollywood cinema was well underway by the beginning of the 1960s. Sandwiched between gritty films exploring the life of the urban poor in the 1950s and the gangster films of the '70s, '60s Bollywood dealt predominantly in romance. Heartthrob and "original Bollywood superstar" Rajesh Khanna had 15 hit films between 1969 and 1971. The films featured dramatic soundtracks, innovative uses of color and all shades of romantic emotion — all of which continue to impact Bollywood movies today.
Bollywood was not the only thing ensuring Mumbai was the center of India's entertainment industry and culture in the '60s. Jazz clubs and high-end restaurants popped up across the city. Despite the Indian government's import sanctions on Western pop music, Beatlemania broke through, and college students formed bands to create the beat group scene.
Politically, the '60s was an interesting time to be in Mumbai. In 1966 Indira Gandhi (no relation to Mahatma) became India's fourth prime minister after a landslide victory — and remains the only woman to hold the country's top political position.
India and Pakistan were no longer under Britain's colonial rule, and in 1965 there was a second Indo-Pakistani War over the contested Kashmir region. The war only lasted 17 days but caused thousands of casualties. In the end the U.S. and the Soviet Union had to intervene. Tensions continued to bubble away between the two countries and erupted again into warfare in 1971.
Equally, people believe the gangster movies that became so popular in Bollywood in the 1970s were in part a reflection of the stranglehold the Indian mafia had on the film world in Mumbai. Certainly, the country had a thriving criminal underworld.
In 1961 there were a little over 4 million people in Mumbai. Today, the mega-metropolis' population is pushing 19 million people and this has created incredible disparity in living conditions for the city’s residents.
Mumbai is home to Asia’s largest slum, Dharavi, in the middle of the city. Dharavi operates almost as an autonomous city, and has been described as an "informal economic powerhouse." And of course, Slumdog Millionaire was set in the suburb shantytowns of Juhu.
Image Credit: AP. Tall buildings tower over Dharavi, a slum in Mumbai.
These vintage images capture the city in that moment of its history, transporting the viewer back to the beauty that accompanied the flourishing city in the 1960s:
1. Traffic in Mumbai's streets, 1960.
2. Pope Paul VI greets a crowd, 1964.
3. A clay image of a Hindu god is carried into the Arabian Sea, 1965.