Mumbai Lens: The Junction Box Family

There we were — a friend and I — walking along the Central Avenue in Chembur last Sunday animatedly discussing forthcoming travel plans when we met this family.

Street Art, MumbaiNaturally, we stopped to say hello. The Junction Box Family, that was their name, had taken up residence in Chembur earlier this year during the Chembur Festival.

“We like this place,” said Mr. Junction Box.

“Oh yes, we do,” repeated Mrs. Junction Box looking adoringly at her husband.

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Street art @ Reay Road

There I was travelling in a Harbour Line local train that hot April afternoon.

I had just woken up from a short nap when the train halted at Cotton Green station. I was still drowsy when the train crossed the beautiful drinking water fountain (that I always look out for whenever I travel by train on this route) just before Reay Road station. I noted that the water fountain was there, a little more decrepit than ever before, a little more lonelier and a… wait a minute… what was the flash of colour on the wall behind the fountain? It looked like graffiti, but I couldn’t be sure.The train had already crossed that patch and was slowing down for its Reay Road station halt.

A week later, I was back on the train travelling the same route at round the same time. This time I did not sleep. And this time I saw that my guess was right. There was not just one wall with graffiti, but what looked like a lot of them. My first impulse was to get off the train and explore the area immediately. But the deserted area, run-down buildings and a general sense of unease at going alone made me postpone the visit to another day and with company.

So a month later, I was back on the train and this time alighted at Reay Road station to wait for Rushikesh Kulkarni, a fellow blogger, the guy who runs Breakfree Journeys, and the guy who very readily agreed to be my bodyguard and explore the area with me. :) A short walk from the station and I was looking at the first of the many works of art I saw that afternoon at Reay Road.

Peek-a-Boo !Graffiti, street art, Reay Road, Mumbai, abandoned warehouse Continue reading

Bandra’s street art: A fantasy world at Chapel Road

The dragon was wearing a red fez and carrying a flower almost as big as himself.

“Where are you off to?” I asked him.

“To meet my lady love, who lives across the road,” the dragon replied.

“Have a great date,” I smiled.

“And you have a great time here at Chapel Road. I’m sorry I can’t take you around myself and introduce you to the others,” said the dragon as he hurried off with a backward glance and a ‘fangy’ smile.

Street Art, Chapel Road, Bandra, Mumbai

Yes, I did meet a dragon in a red fez and with a flower.

No, dear reader. I’m perfectly alright. No, I’m not lying.

Yes, the dragon in a red fez and with a flower was quite real. As real as art can be. :)

Welcome to Bandra’s Chapel Road. It is a road that connects Mount Carmel Church to Hill Road. It is narrow, winding road that runs through what was once the independent Runwar Village, but is now part of Bandra. It is a road that is used as a short-cut by many residents of Bandra travelling to or from the Bandra-Worli Sealink. But most importantly, and in the context of this post, it is also a road that is world-famous, thanks to the graffiti and street  art there.

Street Art, Chapel Road, Bandra, MumbaiUnlike the street art that I have written about in my previous posts (the links are given at the end of this post) where only one artist’s work was in focus, the street art on Chapel Road is by multiple artists from all over the world. Some of them are pretty famous artists too ! This has resulted in a pot pourri of styles and art that is quirky, whimsical, comical, serious, nostalgic, fantastical… but always designed to engage with the viewer.

Come with me as I take you to meet some of my favourites and overhear the (entirely imaginary) conversations I had with some of them. :)

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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 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, 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 in Bandra last month. I had just finished seeing and photographing the set of artwork on the compound wall of St. Peter’s Church on Hill Road. I still had those images of on the theme of child sex ratio and sex selection 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 the wall art on Chapel Road.

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 spread out, I would 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.

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. So, 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, 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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