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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The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2014

The 2014 edition of the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (KGAF) ended today or rather would have by the time I publish this blog post.

A 9-day festival of all things art, the KGAF 2014 offered various programmes in the area of children, cinema, dance, food, heritage walks, literature, music, street, theatre, visual art, workshops, and urban design and architecture. This was the 16th edition of the KGAF and like previous years, every event and programme on offer was free.

Like every year, I made a beeline for the visual / installation art. And unlike previous years, I also made an effort to register and participate in some of the heritage walks as well as a workshop on offer. This meant that I was able to discover something more about this beautiful city of mine and fall in love with Mumbai all over again. :)

KGAF 14, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2014, Mumbai

This ghoda or horse incorporates many of the symbols that Mumbai is associated with

Let me take you through the highlights of what I saw and experienced at the KGAF 2014. First up are the visual art /installations and stalls, followed by some captures from the Heritage Walks / Tours.

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The unique wall art of Jaisalmer

All guidebooks and people who have visited Jaisalmer rave about its beautiful golden fort, the grand havelis, camel rides, sunset among the dunes, its Jain temples, cenotaphs, etc. But none (at least I haven’t come across any) talk about the unique wall art of Jaisalmer. When I saw the first one (see photo below), my reaction was one of horror: how could something like this be painted on the walls of an old haveli?

1-P1030192 Then I saw more of these and then some more. In fact, almost every house in Jaisalmer has such announcements painted near the entrance. The announcements are of weddings, upanayan ceremonies, housewarming ceremonies… And realised that this is a custom, a tradition in Jaisalmer and one that is unique to this city, as its residents kept telling me. Almost all these “announcements” have auspicious symbols accompanying it like the kalash, the swastika, and Ganpati.

A small selection of Jaisalmer’s wall art in Jaisalmer is presented below:

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The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2013

Today was the last day for 2013 edition of the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (KGAF). Even as I get ready to publish this post, the handicrafts stalls must be getting dismantled as the area has to be clear for regular traffic by tomorrow morning. The installation and street art too would be dismantled to go where?, I wonder. Most Mumbai-based bloggers have already published posts and photographs on the KGAF 2013. And now, it’s my turn to share my thoughts and perspective on this one-of-a-kind art and cultural festival in Mumbai.

I have been visiting KGAF since its inception and have seen it grow to the extremely popular and iconic event that it has become today. While I enjoy all the events on offer at the KGAF, it is the installation and street art that I look forward to every year. To be honest, I didn’t start as a fan of installation art, but the creativity that is showcased is something that I find it hard to ignore. And this year, the installation art at the 2013 version was a sensory delight.

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2013 3Bangles, metal wires, insulated wires, plastic bottles, paper, papier-mache, clay, cloth, CDs, assorted hardware from computers, plastic mugs, corrugated cardboard sheets, metal pipes, spectacle frames, coins, photo frames, metal chains, cardboard cartons, plywood, PoP, jute sacks, cane, bamboo, marble, glass bottles, plastic tuns, cars, rickshaws, a bicycle, petrol tanks, dolls, living plants, driftwood … just about every material imaginable was used for the installation art at KGAF 2013. I had a hard time stopping myself from reaching out and touching or climbing onto many of the artworks clearly signposted with “Do not Touch” or Do not Climb”.

And though most of the installation art fit into themes similar to previous years — Mumbai city, social issues (corruption, violence against women, child sexual abuse), broader environmental issues, cinema — there were also those that did not fit into any of the themes and managed to hold their own.

A selection of some of the installations that appealed to me from the KGAF 2013 are given below.

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