Bombay is a city known for its love affair with the cinema and art. This culture spills onto the chaotic streets, with old film posters glued across the walls of every corner. One quick walk past a traffic signal and you’ll find yourself fending off vendors, chatting with a eunuch, listening to a boy singing a Bollywood tune, all while maneuvering past a cow. As you dodge past taxis and a truck that reads, “Horn OK Please”, you become numb to the symphony of car horns around you. One artist shares her tranquil vision:
Lately, a handful of people have taken to the streets armed with paintbrushes and spray cans, injecting colour into the city. Street art really came on the map here back in 2009 with a project known as the Wall Project. The initiative was aimed at rejuvenating the streets and cleaning up a 2km stretch of Tulsi Pipe Rd. This hub has connected North and South Mumbai long before the Sea Link was built. The wall was a perfect canvas. It needed the lift and artists involved would be able to showcase their work to millions.
Local and global talents came together to mask these banged up walls with rich murals. The wall, often dubbed ‘The Great Wall of Mumbai’ now shares messages from the hearts of the people. From visions of a greener city, to outcries against corruption, to caricatures of Amitabh Bachan; it’s a feast for the eyes. The project continues to spread across the city and other parts of India. Check out their page for more info.
Artists come together at the Mumbai Wall Project
Since then, artists have really gone to work. If you take a journey up the Tulsi Pipes and head to Bandra West, be sure to explore the maze of backstreets off Chapel Rd. Here’s a neighbourhood that has been turned into a live canvas. Ranjit Dahiya, a local resident, came up with the concept of showcasing forgotten classics of Indian cinema. His larger than life depictions of Bollywood heroes and villains are a big hit with Chapel Rd dwellers. The positive reception has attracted both veterans and newcomers to the scen
As I explored the works, I came across a piece that I recognized. When I took my camera out to snap a shot, a voice shouted at me from behind a curtain. It was as if I was hearing from an angry Wizard of Oz. The voice shouted, “No pictures! Can’t you see the sign!?” I snapped a shot anyways and then lowered my lens. Looking closely, I noticed that someone had watermarked the entire piece with tags like, “No Photos,” or “U R Watched!” I got in touch with Jas Charanjiva, the hand behind this work, and she took a moment to chat with me about it.
The Longest Journey is the Journey Inwards by Jas Charanjiva
“I can’t believe they did that!,” she started, “I wasn’t sure if it was someone doing that to be an ass or maybe people were actually taking too many pictures.” She went on to explain how she didn’t have a problem with anyone adding to the art, but this had all the symptoms of vandalism.
I asked her if she had asked the neighbours for permission before starting and she admitted she hadn’t. Still, it brightened the otherwise dingy spot and keeps the place healthier! “People don’t piss on the walls when there is art there,” she added, “well maybe they piss less!” We agreed that it’s hard to have any expectations when your canvas is public.
Everything evolves, for better or for worse. The question of what is art and what is vandalism is still up for debate? Some shopkeepers and residents are anxiously waiting for their turn on artist waitlists to have their walls painted up. Others are busy chasing these same ‘culprits’ away. The current legal stance for unauthorised graffiti is a 1000Rs fine and/or six months in jail.
There are those who are keeping it legit, and those who don’t give a “fuck.” If you’re ever out in Andheri, or Matunga you might stumble on “fuck” written in the devanagari script. A rogue artist, who goes by the alias Daku, stencils his sentiments on walls across the city. This one has people talking. Its not just about whether its offensive, or why its there, but people are wondering what the fuck it means! Fuck what?
Fuck it, wherever the inspiration comes from, there are people out there putting up more for us to enjoy than just fairness cream ads!
Fuck written in the Devanagari script by the Artist known as Daku
written by Prasheen Lodhia