Podcast with Debashree Mukherjee, author of “Bombay Hustle: Making Movies in a Colonial City”

debashree mukherjeee

In 1935, the writer Baburao Patel wrote the following about Bombay’s film industry:


In India, with financing conditions still precarious, the professional film distributor thrives… He comes with a fortune made in share and cotton gambling, advances money to the producer at a killing rate of interest plus a big slice of royalty and recovers his investment by blackmailing the exhibitors into giving heavy and uneconomic minimum guarantees. His only aim in life is to multiply his rupee and in prosecuting this aim he does not worry about the future of the industry or about the existence of the producer or exhibitor.



Bombay Hustle: Making Movies in a Colonial City, Debashree Mukherjee (Columbia University Press, September 2020)
Bombay Hustle: Making Movies in a Colonial City, Debashree Mukherjee (Columbia University Press, September 2020)

It’s a hectic time for India’s film industry, as it is for films everywhere, as the silent era becomes the talking era. Debashree Mukherjee’s Bombay Hustle: Making Movies in a Colonial City examines this key period of India’s film industry, from finance and casting to screenwriting and production, and brings into view the experiences of the marginalized film workers and forgotten film studios that made up this early period of industry.

In this interview, Mukherjee and I talk about the transition from silent to talking movies in Bombay, along with the historical context and working conditions for those in the city’s historical film industry.

To those interested in learning more about the film industry in 1930s Bombay, Mukherjee recommends the Wildcat of Bombay Instagram account at @wildcatofbombay.

Debashree Mukherjee is Assistant Professor of film and media in the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University. Debashree edits the peer-reviewed journal BioScope and has published in journals such as Film History and Feminist Media Histories. In a previous life Debashree worked in Mumbai’s film and TV industries as an assistant director, writer, and cameraperson. More information can be found on her website, and she can be followed on Twitter at @Debashree2017.

Nicholas Gordon has an MPhil from Oxford in International Relations and a BA from Harvard. He works at a think tank in Hong Kong. His writing has also appeared in The South China Morning Post, The Diplomat, China Daily and Caixin.