BAP – Bollywood Art Project
BAP – Bollywood Art Project
by Zeba Akhtar
The queen of Mumbai’s suburbs, Bandra, always exudes a different culture and life. Home to most of the celebrities of Bollywood, the charm of Bandra never fades. Mumbaikars proudly proclaim their residence in Bandra, and over the years it has evolved into one of the coolest localities to reside in.
But there is someone who felt that even though Bandra is as charming as charming could be, it was slowly and gradually losing out on its association and flavor of Bollywood. Meet Ranjit Dahiya, the man behind the ‘Bollywood Art Project’ or popularly known as ‘BAP’, an urban art project dedicated towards the revival of the cult and aroma of Bollywood in the various suburbs of Mumbai in general, and Bandra in particular.
So, on the 100th anniversary of Indian cinema, Bandra got a new lease of filmy living. Ranjit decided to mark this milestone with a massive wall art on Chapel Road in Bandra West, depicting the famous still from Mughal-E-Azam.
Why Bandra, we asked him?
Quick came the reply:
“Bandra has seen the evolution of Bollywood. There is no other hood in Mumbai that espouses Bollywood as much as Bandra does, and hence it was a necessity to fill it up with the same flavor and essence that it stands for.”
Over the years, the Bollywood Art Project grew up into something bigger and better, and from one wall art on Chapel Road it extended itself to 12 of them all over Mumbai, most of them focused specifically in the Bandra-Khar neighbourhood.
“I believe, that as a city, Mumbai is extremely busy, fast paced and impersonal, but all of that slowly changes the moment you enter the suburb of Bandra. People still are ambitious, but there is more to life that just the pace when it comes to Bandra. The reason why I love the suburb is because people here know how to make the most of life, and by making the most of life I do not necessarily mean money. They know how to enjoy the small things around, and how to have a great time with each other, which is what generally a city like Mumbai does not necessarily have.” These very sentences reveal his affection towards the suburb of Bandra.
While on my way to interview Ranjit, I myself explored the locality of Chapel Road for the first time. The quaint alleys, the cobbled streets, the colorful houses, and most importantly, the people; all of them got me rapt. Time seemed to have a different meaning in those narrow by lanes, and it was almost like each person knew the other, and cared to smile back, which is generally not a Mumbai ‘thing to do’.
“People here are very helpful and encouraging. Whenever I paint a wall, a lot of people come out and help, some have questions, while others have suggestions, and many are just happy enough to see that their hood is getting an artistic makeover. Be it the Anarkali wall art, or the Amitabh Bachchan mural, each painting is equally close to my heart, because for me they add the touch of visual representation of Bollywood into the suburb of Bandra. When I started off, I had no clue how the people would respond, but over time, the responses and the accolades have kept me going.”
Lamenting over the loss of beautiful architecture in place of sprawling buildings as we walk by, Ranjit speaks of how the houses and buildings in Bandra have a story of their own, and every building has some piece of heritage and a long lost tale attached to it. What was fascinating was what the place was less of an area and more of a community. People walked past each other exchanging greetings and phrases, and most of them knew Ranjit as the guy who paints all over Bandra.
Bandra, seemed to be the most apt frame for Ranjit, and his tribute to Bollywood would never have been complete had it not been for the old houses of Bandra.
“Permissions here are mostly not an issue because Bandra knows how to cherish a cult. In fact, the locality and attitude of Bandra is a cult in itself, and I am pretty sure that no other place would have been as receptive towards my art, as the people of Bandra. The highest point of BAP was when a reporter said that she chose to live on Chapel Road solely because of the paintings and art that it helped thrive. Such statements are always more than just encouraging.”
The conversation with Ranjit and the walk through Chapel Road left me with a realisation. If you want to see colonial architecture and business, go to Colaba. If the corporate set up drives you, then visit Worli. But if you want a place with a heart, go to Bandra!
Bandra is a different kind of Bombay, for sure!
- Living Local