Bandra’s street art: Bollywood on the walls

Mumbai and Bollywood are synonymous with one another for many people. I have lost track of the number of times people have only wanted to talk about films and Bollywood with me, once they found out I was from Mumbai.

Yes, Mumbai is the birthplace of Indian cinema, all Hindi film production houses and studios are located here, all Hindi film stars live in Mumbai, etc…  And yet, there is a remarkable lack of initiatives to document its journey. Sure, there are books, some half-hearted attempts at tours of the Film City, product designs with Bollywood as the theme, and so on… but these are only individual, isolated efforts.

One such effort is the Bollywood Art Project (B.A.P), “an urban art initiative that aims to transform the walls in Mumbai into a living memorial to Bollywood”. Founded in 2012 by artist Ranjit Dahiya, B.A.P aims to “pay tribute to Indian cinema through street art”.

I saw my first B.A.P artwork about a year back late one evening on an organised walk around Bandra. All the light in the dimly lit Chapel Road area came from this smile. I know, I sound clichéd like many of the paeans sung about her. But it is true. Madhubala is gorgeous and there can be no one like her.

Bollywood Art Project, Bandra, Mumbai

For some reason or the other, I never wrote about that excellent walk I went on, though I kept meaning to. And when I saw more Bollywood-based murals recently during one of my visits to Bandra last month, I knew I couldn’t delay writing about them any longer.

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Bandra’s street art: Nagrana Lane’s secrets

Discovering this set of street art was sheer luck. Serendipity indeed .

It was around 10 am on a Saturday morning last month. I had just finished seeing and photographing the set of artwork on the theme of child sex ratio and sex selection on the compound wall of St. Peter’s Church on Hill Road in Bandra. I still had the images on my  mind when I stopped near a roadside tea stall to put away my camera gear.

On noticing my camera, one of the men standing there said in Hindi, “Don’t put your camera away. There is a lane full of ‘paintings’ like this a little further down the road.”

“Do you mean the ‘paintings’ on Chapel Road?”, I asked.

“No, no. There is another chhota road here which has paintings. Very beautiful paintings.”

“Thanks. I’ll have a look.” I didn’t tell him, but I was a little dubious about this piece of information. I had walked down the road many times and never come across any lane like the one he had mentioned. Also, my good friend Google had never mentioned it, in the sense that all image searches would lead one to wall art on Chapel Road (blog post on that coming up soon!)

Still… as I walked down the road, I kept an eye out. And then I saw it — if I had not noticed a flash of turquoise blue and red and then looked again. I would have missed it. What I had always assumed was the entrance to a housing society was actually a lane so narrow that if I had stood with my arms akimbo, I could have touched the walls on either side.

Nagrana Lane, Street Art, Graffiti  Art, Bandra, Mumbai Ink Brush N Me

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Bandra’s street art: The writing on the wall

Bandra has suddenly become the place to go to for me. Thanks to a combination of work and a friend moving to this area, I have made more trips to Bandra in the last month than in all the 21 years I have lived in Mumbai !

The visits to Bandra have also been more relaxed and I’ve had a great time walking and discovering interesting facets of this beautiful and charming suburb of my city. Take Bandra’s graffiti or street art for instance. I’ve been aware of them, read about them in newspapers, seen a few in passing, but never really stopped to have a look at them.

Till a couple of weeks back when I came across a series of them painted on the compound wall of St. Peter’s Church on Hill Road. This time I stopped. I looked. I read. I photographed. And now I’m sharing the best of them with you.

Laadli Girl Child Campaign, Bandra, Street Art, Hill Road, MumbaiAll the images I saw were on the theme of falling sex ratio and gender selection in India and part of a campaign initiated by Population First on the girl child called “Laadli”. According to information given on the campaign’s website, this is “a means of creating mass awareness and raising public conscience against the reprehensible practice of sex selection.” One might wonder, why such a campaign is being run in posh Bandra, in Mumbai even. Till you read what the campaign website has this to say:

The commercial capital of the country – Mumbai, has a sex ratio of 898.

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Mumbai Lens: Bomonjee’s steps

It was the golden hour before sunset a couple of weeks back and I was on a walk with my friend Rama on Mount Mary Road. We were generally chatting about that and this and as we approached the steps that leads one down to Hill Road, I noticed a half-buried stone plaque/marker on one side of the steps. A closer look revealed this:

Bomanjee's Steps, Bandra, Hill Road, Mount Mary Road

The half-buried stone plaque/marker which reads: “Presented by H. Bomonjee Jeejeebhoy to Bandora Municipality ~ 1879″

Wow ! A 135-year old marker? And Bandra as Bandora? I was immediately intrigued and once I reached home turned to my good friend Google for helping me find out more about this slice of history.

And here is what I discovered :)

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Mumbai Lens: The garlanded cross

This blog post was featured in the “Around the Blog” section of the DNA newspaper published on August 27, 2012 (pg.7).

That rainy day, I was at Hill Road in Bandra on a gastronomical expedition busy stuffing my face and bags with cakes, quiche, and other baked goodies. My eyes or rather nose was trailing the various aromas coming out of the many bakeries that line the road. And that’s when a flash of yellow-orange momentarily distracted me, the yellow-orange of a string of marigolds garlanding a cross.

The garlanded cross

This large cross is somewhere on Hill Road (I can’t remember the exact location). Together with the beautiful veil like green and leafy canopy, the garland really lit up the cross.

I love the way people take something and adapt it to fit their uniquely local culture, be it food, clothes, music…. The sambhaar powder added to the tamarind paste used to make bhelpuri in Chennai, kurtis teamed up with jeans, Carnatic classical music on Western instruments like the mandolin and violin…, And the way we have “Indianised” Chinese cuisine is legendary !

But what I love the most is the way this adaptation plays out in religion. Recently, on a visit to Chennai, I saw a statue of Jesus standing on a lotus with peacocks at his feet. I have heard of aartis in churches, I have seen non-Hindus at the Sringeri and Brihadeeshwara Temples. But this was the first time I saw a cross “decorated” with a garland.

Academics call such expressions of adaptation syncretism; I call it making it our own. :-D

Mumbai Lens is a photographic series which, as the name suggests, is Mumbai-centric and is an attempt to capture the various moods of the city through my camera lens. You can read more posts from this series here..

A walk in the sky – 1: Bandra Skywalk

Over the last 2 years or so, elevated pedestrian walkways connecting suburban railway stations to nearby commercial areas have been sprouting all over Mumbai. Known as skywalks, the first one was inaugurated at the Kalanagar junction of the Western Express Highway in 2008. Today, many more are functional all over Mumbai. Somehow, I never got a chance to take a walk in one of these till last Saturday. I was on my way from Vashi to Borivali via Bandra.

It was 9.30 in the morning when my bus from Vashi deposited me near the Hill Road exit of the Bandra Skywalk. I had to walk up to Bandra Station to take a train to Borivali. From where I stood on the road, the skywalk was lit up by the mellow January morning sun making it irresistibly welcoming. Not to mention the fact I would encounter no traffic at all on the skywalk!

Walking on a skywalk is actually quite surreal. It is quite unlike travelling on a flyover or an elevated road in a fast-moving vehicle, while the world around you appears to be stationary. The skywalk’s experience is quite the opposite with you being stationary with the world rushing by. I could get a bird’s-eye view of the Bandra Talao as well as a peek into the BEST Bus depot—places that one would not get to see with such a perspective. I felt like I was suspended somewhere up in the sky, not altogether an unpleasant feeling. Thankfully, the skywalk did not pass near residences or I would have felt like a voyeur, the way I do whenever I travel on the JJ flyover or the Sion flyover in Mumbai!

So, what are you waiting for? Come, take a walk with me in the sky at Bandra :-)

Bandra Skywalk from Hill Road to Bandra Station

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