The half-serious joke among movie producers and music composers in the 1960s and ’70s, when Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle reigned supreme, was that the movie industry should be shifted to Peddar Road because that’s where the Sing Sena Supremos lived. Even as the hub of cinematic activity shifted to Juhu, Andheri and Goregaon, Lata and her sister refused to move out of their cosy adjacent apartments in the legendary Prabhu Kunj building on Peddar Road.
Peddar Road, which connects Haji Ali to Marine Drive, has been home to the Mangeshkars for more than five decades and Lata said she can’t imagine moving to any other place in Mumbai. “The thought of living anywhere else never entered my mind,” says Lata.
“Not that there weren’t opportunities to move into much larger places away from South Mumbai as the family expanded. Fifty two years is a very long time. For several years, I have refused to move into a larger home in other localities. We Mangeshkars have always been happy staying in this small, cosy home. It may be small, but this is where we belong. This is where we’ve watched my brother’s children grow up.”
Lata once almost gave in to the temptation of moving into another place. A plot of land was purchased in another part of Mumbai so that the expanding Mangeshkar parivar could live in spatial harmony. However, the attachment to the original family home finally triumphed and the entire first-family of the music industry lives in the 3-bedroom flat. Asha now divides her time between Prabhu Kunj and her son’s home in Khar. But she too admits to a special indelible attachment to her home in SoBo.
There is something about SoBo that binds showbiz icons who grew up in that vicinity even if it means giving up the freedom of being a more integral part of the film industry. Neil Nitin Mukesh has lived with his father singer Nitin Mukesh and his mother in SoBo all his life, and there is no question of moving out of the comfort of the ‘familial’. Says Neil emotionally, “I was born and brought up in SoBo.
My grandparents (legendary singer Mukesh and wife), my parents and my siblings have all lived here. My entire childhood was spent in South Mumbai. Why would I want to move away from my support system?” Neil says a home far away from the studios helps him stay grounded. “The minute I finish I work, I quickly drive back home – or as quickly as the traffic permits. The moment I hit Sea Link, I feel I am home. I like to disconnect from the simulated reality of the studios and head straight into the real world of my home and family. All my non-working hours are invested in the family.”
And family means Neil’s entire neighbourhood in SoBo. “Everyone in the locality has known me since the time I was born. They treat me like a child from their own family.” Neil feels South Mumbai is the most beautiful part of the city. “The essence of Mumbai’s beauty is in SoBo. It’s gorgeous and relatively disconnected from the chaos of the rest of the city.”
Yes, Neil does have property at the other end of Mumbai. And he did shift there temporarily a few years ago when he was shooting for a Yash Raj Films’ project that required him to be present on location at unearthly hours. But the minute shooting was over, Neil scurried back home. “I hope I don’t have to shift out of SoBo to my place near the studios,” he says.
Close to Neil is actor Sammir Dattani, who looks after the family business from his residence and office in SoBo and travels to the studios to act. “The thought of shifting to Andheri or Juhu never occurred to me. I’d rather drive down to the studios than give up my home,” says Dattani.
Suniel Shetty, his lovely wife Mana and their two children have lived in the same beautiful home on Altamount Road where Sunil’s parents too lived. The actor doesn’t see himself moving out of his beloved abode. “It’s where I grew up and where my children grew up. It is home. Commuting is not the issue. In Mumbai, getting to any place is a problem,” says Suniel.
Boman Irani, who until recently lived with his family in SoBo, agrees. “Getting anywhere within Andheri is a problem. So why should the traffic be the reason to shift from the South of Mumbai?” Boman who is one of the busiest actors in Bollywood sees SoBo as home. “I did not choose to live in South Mumbai. I was born there. I’ve now shifted to Dadar Parsi Colony and it’s the perfect location to travel either way to my work in Bandra, Juhu and Goregaon or home in South Mumbai.”
Vinod Khanna and his two sons Rahul and Akshaye Khanna have stayed in South Mumbai’s Malabar Hill all their lives. The thought of shifting base just to be closer to Bollywood never occurred to any of them. Says Rahul Khanna, “This is home. I was born and raised in South Mumbai. Most of my friends and family stay here. Throughout his long career as an actor my dad too has always lived on this side of town.” The thought of shifting northwards does cross Rahul’s mind when he’s stuck in traffic. “It’s definitely a thought I entertain. But I am not too sure I’d ever actually migrate North.”
Aftab Shivdasani has reluctantly shifted out of his parental home in SoBo but keeps returning as frequently as possible. “I moved to Bandra a decade ago to be closer to the studios. But my folks still live in South Mumbai. I have to confess I still love South Mumbai the most and I run back there as frequently as possible. All my friends and memories are in SoBo.”
Ashmit Patel too moved closer to work but his heart is in SoBo. “I shifted to Bandra ten years ago. My parents still live in town, though. I run back home to get pampered by Mom and to eat ghar ka khana as much as possible. But in the past one year, I haven’t gone frequently as I’ve been travelling out of the city for shooting. But now that you mention it, I am going to make it a point to spend more time in SoBo.”
Choreographer Shiamak Davar regretfully moved out of SoBo after his career in film choreography took off. But his heart is still back home. “I love South Mumbai. It holds the most beautiful memories of my family and friends.” Reminiscing about his wonderful days in SoBo, Shiamak enthuses, “Weekends were spent with my grandparents Nadia (the legendary hunterwali actress Fearless Nadia) and (her filmmaker-husband) Homi Wadia in Chembur. Gimme SoBo any day!”
Pooja Bhatt, a South Mumbai girl, if ever there was, banishes the thought of abandoning SoBo. “Quite simply I choose to spend life on the ‘edge’. As for the delays caused by the traffic, it’s more a psychological distance than anything else. I prefer a longer more scenic route to my destination than shorter but visually uninspiring routes.” There is something about South Mumbai that brings out the poet in its showbiz
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