Declared out! It's Harsh Goenka vs Sachin Tendulkar's 'neighbours'

Sculpture loses third home in 2 yrs; Bandra locals put up stiff fight for fear of losing space on Carter Road promenade

Big Bandra fight: It's Harsh Goenka vs Sachin Tendulkar's 'neighbours'Jaideep Mehrotra and former cricketer Dilip Vengsarkar during the artwork’s unveiling at Sasmira junction, Worli, in June 2014. Pic/Suresh Karkera

Sachin Tendulkar has no home. A public artwork on the cricket icon by Worli artist Jaideep Mehrotra, commissioned by industrialist and art patron Harsh Goenka’s RPG Art Foundation, has lost its display spot for the third time in two years. After resistance from Bandraiites to its installation, RPG is looking for another ‘home’.

Big Bandra fight: It's Harsh Goenka vs Sachin Tendulkar's 'neighbours'
Jaideep Mehrotra (left) and Dilip Vengsarkar unveil the artwork at Sasmira junction, Worli

The art installation, titled Between the Lines — an ode to Mumbai’s 'unique ethos and culture' and not just the Master Blaster — was earlier shunted out of Worli and the Marine Drive promenade.

Big Bandra fight: It's Harsh Goenka vs Sachin Tendulkar's 'neighbours'
The artwork is removed from Marine Drive. PIC/Suresh Karkera

Unveiled at a traffic island in 2014 near Sasmira Institute in Worli, Tendulkar had a short stay at the crease there owing to lease issues. He was moved to the Marine Drive promenade last year. That venue, too, turned out to be temporary. Some citizens’ groups, led by the Nariman Point Churchgate Residents Association, objected to the installation on the grounds that it blocked the promenade. The sculpture again changed address in June this year, with RPG settling for the Carter Road promenade — a stone's throw from Tendulkar’s Perry Cross Road residence — subject to the BMC and the Maharashtra Maritime Board’s permissions.

Big Bandra fight: It's Harsh Goenka vs Sachin Tendulkar's 'neighbours'
The spot on the Carter Road promenade where the artwork was proposed to be installed. PIC/Shadab Khan

A la Carter
Even as the go-ahead came through, another resistance began brewing. The Bandra West Residents Association (BWRA) opposed the installation, again on the grounds of the public walkway being eaten up.  

In a letter, signed by Darryl D’Monte, president of BWRA, to Sharad Ughade, assistant municipal commissioner of H/West ward, dated October 22, the association made its displeasure in stark, clear-cut terms. “…BWRA does not agree to this proposal and informed you in so many words in the presence of RPG Foundation representatives. Kindly ask them to identify some other area and treat this matter as closed,” stated the letter.

D'Monte told mid-day that the objection is based solely on the lack of space. "Where will people walk? This (the promenade) is a place for people to walk.” He dismissed the rumour that BWRA had asked RPG to pay for maintenance of a part of the promenade where the artwork would be installed. "That is untrue. There is no place."

Big Bandra fight: It's Harsh Goenka vs Sachin Tendulkar's 'neighbours'

Relegated to warehouse
Sumeet Chatterjee, senior vice president of RPG Brand & Communications, refrained from commenting on the controversy.  He did, however, acknowledge that the installation is lying in RPG’s Worli warehouse, and that the foundation is looking for an alternative site.

Pointing out that the initiative has the BMC's support, he said, "As a patron of the arts, Harsh Goenka wanted his city to be at the forefront of public art in the next decade. The public art corridor is his dream of appreciation for public art and stirring up conversations among locals and visitors. The art foundation invited leading and upcoming artists to design installations that capture Mumbai’s unique ethos and culture."

Keeping the faith
Mehrotra is pained at the treatment meted out to his work. "It has been damaged a little from being uprooted from different locations, but there is nothing that can’t be fixed. When I was commissioned to do it, I wanted it to have suitable exposure to the public and believed that it would add to the aesthetic of the place where was installed."

Although hopeful that his labour of love would find a suitable home, he said such disputes could prove a "dampener for others willing to pursue a public art initiative."

Create conducive environment
Artist-muralist Rouble Nagi, who is behind the pop garden at Worli seaface, with murals on the traffic island, said, “When this traffic island became a place for art, public art was still nascent. Today, it’s growing."
Adil Gandhy, owner of the Chemould Art Gallery, feels that installation of artworks in public spaces is seen as a way to keep the areas clean. I think it will take us a few years to have truly sterling pieces on our roads.”

Harsh Goenka
Waiting in line
RPG Art Foundation has more public artworks lined up. The city will next see V Shinde’s ‘dabbawala’ sculpture set to be unveiled at a traffic island at Haji Ali. A movie centric work is expected to come up near Mehboob Studio in Bandra West.

BMC has the final say
A senior BMC official said the authority to allow a work of art in a public space rests largely with the civic body. "Permissions can be granted, provided the artwork does not cause a problem or inconvenience to people using the particular location."

Another official said that if a resident wants to set up an installation in an area, then s/he has to approach the local corporator with the proposal, mentioning the location and size of piece of art.
This proposal is placed before the ward committee for a unanimous decision. "As per my knowledge, there is no charge on setting up such installations, but the agency or person installing it will have to maintain it."

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