Made in Sonipat, Haryana: Bombay
Bombay, here, is not the city, but the protagonist of the new show Bombay—conceptualised, filmed, and premiered at Ashoka University. Created and directed by Vikram Tapadia (UG ‘24) and starring Mihika Kulkarni (UG ‘25), the drama follows Bombay Mishra navigating her personal and professional life at university as a journalist for a college newspaper, Campus Express. The recent premiere of its first episode, “Relapse and Reset” on 29 April at Takshila drew an enthusiastic crowd of over 180 people.
The story is built on tensions between relationships. Bombay’s complicated dynamics with her sister, her partner, and her peers are foregrounded in this episode. These relationships fuel the complex conflicts within her. She wants to be heard, stand out, while also fitting in. In the first five minutes of the episode, Bombay’s charged conversation with a stranger about her new smoking habit sets the scene for the battle of conflicting desires within her. “I named her Bombay, because to me she's a character full of contradictions, and so is Bombay the city,” said Tapadia, on how the idea for this show came to be. Still reeling from the mysterious conspiracy at the student government elections the previous year, Bombay’s intentions are a mystery to everyone, including those close to her. Her reason for exiting the Campus Express hangs in the air, clouding everything she says or does. Drawing the viewer in with this secret, Bombay’s unpredictable actions and rapidly changing circumstances keep you hooked.
Kulkarni conveys the subtle intricacies of Bombay’s emotions skilfully throughout the episode. “She was a scary character for me to approach, given that it was my first time acting in front of a camera,” Kulkarni said, adding, “I couldn't resist a role such as this one, an exciting character and an equally exciting script.” Complimenting her volatile portrayal of Bombay was Tamanna Dharamsey’s compelling portrayal of Gayatri Mishra. Her character is Bombay’s sister, seemingly cut from the same cloth. Sharing the intense desire to be heard, Gayatri speaks about her life with the same passion with which Bombay speaks about covering the elections. Everything Gayatri does is deliberate, from the comments she makes about Bombay to the specific details of her life she chooses to share with their mom. Calculating and street smart, she seems ready to enter the world of student politics. Although we have seen only the first episode, Gayatri’s character development is the one I’m looking forward to the most: we have already seen hints of the possibility of her being an antagonist, as she undermines Bombay with Karan, breaking important news to him before his girlfriend could. Either way, all forthcoming impassioned monologues, such as the one in which she announces her presidential candidacy outside the cafe, will be interesting additions to the show.
Impactful cinematography remains the most memorable part of Bombay for me. Panoramic shots of the Ashokan campus, taken from multiple angles, were a nostalgic experience for all the viewers at the premiere— this is the place we call home for eight months of the year. Iconic Ashokan emblems, like the jhalli’s make cameo appearances through the shadows on Bombay’s face in the residence hall balconies, and the familiar layout of the Ashokan dorm rooms, drives the homegrown nature of this production home. Furthermore, to the average Ashokan, most of the scenes proved more relatable because of the setting. “I was able to engage with the scenes and the script more because of the setting” said Aadya Sood (UG ‘25), when asked about her opinion on the episode. “The premier was so exciting, because I saw people I know in places I know, and I felt a strange sense of pride.” Moreover, the timing of some shots lent the show an eerie and stressful atmosphere, complementing the theme and general direction of the episode.
Meant to be a drama, conscious effort was made by the director and the cinematographers to lay the dramatisation on thick. The last shot of Bombay, silhouetted and slow, only left the audience on the edge of their seats to know where she would go next. The cinematographers – Bhavya Mohindru (UG ‘25), Ishan Shanavas (UG ‘24), Prashuchi Pandey (UG ‘24) and Ahana Lal (UG ‘25) – commendably brought the show’s setting alive. Although the actual shooting process took around fourteen days collectively, it was spread out over three months. This is a nod to the fastidious attention to maintaining continuity in the show; not a moment felt out of place. The team worked with a rudimentary setup of just one camera and a few mics. The complex and atmospheric lighting of the shots was masterfully done with no professional equipment. This level of professionalism and sophistication from college students running on limited time and makeshift technology was both unexpected and impressive.
During the premiere, Takshila was abuzz with excitement and anticipation. The show began with a trailer and an Instagram-driven marketing campaign of well-designed posters and decontextualized individual character posts, led by Sara Pandey (UG ‘24). Cheers rang out every time a new character was introduced, shared laughter resounding at one-liners and familiar callbacks. Unfortunately, the lacklustre projector screens did not do justice to the filmography and the speakers malfunctioned, clouding the dialogues and Dhruv Aryan’s (UG ‘24) incredible background scores. The upload on YouTube, however, is not plagued by these issues, and is a much better watching experience, sans the crowd’s unreplicable fervour.
Tapadia intends to continue as the showrunner until he graduates, and hopes to have more writers on board soon. “I’m also looking for directors to continue the next few episodes,” he said, mentioning things should move faster with a cast and crew in place. At the moment, the goal is to put out two to three episodes per semester, which he hopes will be written during the summer. “The response to the show has been incredible, and such a huge motivator,” said Kulkarni. “I’m so excited for the future of Bombay, and it’s a pity I have to wait 4 months before I play her again.”