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This will come as a breath of fresh air to mind-numbed city souls in search of creative refuge for their craft. On October 15, Shut up at Calmshet, an artist residency, 120 kms from Mumbai, will opens its doors to artists for as little as Rs 300 per day for a slice of quiet. The non-creative kinds can also check in

In his book Kafka on the Shore, author Haruki Murakami describes how the main protagonist -- Kafka Tamura -- stays for a few days at a bare cabin in the haunted woods, spending his days sunbathing, reading and listening to music. The process was aimed at helping Kafka deal with the issues in his life and get mentally stronger.


The residency overlooks a lake and sal and teak forests. There are mango
and litchi trees in the property, which measures just short of an acre long.


There are two bedrooms and a dormitory at the residency.

Residencies or retreats for creative professionals make for great spaces to focus on their craft. Mumbai might not boast of too many such spaces so when we heard about a new residency that is set to open its doors just outside the city, at Kamshet, we decided to check out Shut up at Calmshet. The area is famous as a paragliding hub and for its clear, blue skies, serene lake et al.


Shut up at Calmshet is an hour away from Lonavala.


The residency overlooks the Vadivali Lake and is surrounded by flora
and fauna.


Art for all
Mumbai-based commercial designer and artist Karthikeyan Ramachandran, who runs an ad agency and is set to lauch his own art gallery, False Ceilings, this week, started this residency. Karthikeyan's father, artist KN Ramachandran, was the main inspiration behind the residency.

"I would observe him take off to Kerala to escape the chaos of the city. He would return, revitalised and bursting with ideas. His creative output would also increase during such breaks. Every artist needs an undisturbed creative spot to create art. Plus, with no phone calls to bother you, you tend to get more work done," he says.

The choice of location was also based on the history of the place. Earlier known as PG / Paragliding Ashram / Melissa's Place, it was a guesthouse that Karthikeyan had been visiting for nine years. So, when the owner was looking to move, he bought the guesthouse and set up the residency. The serenity impressed him the most; so he zeroed in on the quirky name.

Lost in time
The residency is equipped with two bedrooms and a dormitory. It is surrounded by mango, litchi, sal and teak trees and overlooks the Sahyadris. Unlike the usual frenzied mornings in the city, here your early morning wake-up call comes from the chirping of the birds in the outdoors. The residency is surrounded by the Vadivali Lake where you can go and take a dip whenever you want or laze on the lawns watching the clouds pass you by.

The nearest town is Lonavala (an hour away) and as the residency is at the foot of the Western Ghats, there is no network connection. The only company you can expect is from the cook who will whip up your meals (veg / non-veg) and the gardener. There are no TVs in the rooms though one is free to bring along their own entertainment devices. 

The best part are the low rates -- it's just Rs 300 per night. But Karthikeyan admits that it isn't an easy job. "I conduct a background art check on each applicant and I need to see a spark that is mind-blowing for me to agree to host them. The maximum residency period is a month and at the end of it, I expect to see a body of impressive work worth the experience.

So far, I haven't come across great work hence my father and I are the only artists at the residence," he observes. "Such a place lends itself to creating larger artworks as we have plenty of space. It's also an opportunity to meet other creative minds and interact with them, akin to as at an artist village. At the end of the day, you return with invaluable experiential lessons," he concludes.

Cost: Rs 300 per night for artists, Rs 1,500 per night onwards for other visitors (meals are cooked from home-grown produce). Larger groups need to book a month in advance;
Call: 8698008053;
Email: amar@xtrathin.in
Log on to: http://www.facebook/. com/pages/Shut-up-at-Calmshet/224813447547722

How to get there
* Kamshet is located 120 km from Mumbai in Pune District along the Mumbai-Pune Highway. Take the exit lane at Lonavala and once you reach Kamshet, you need to get off the road.
* The nearest station is Lonavala. Kamshet is 16 km from the station and you can go by taxi as well (Rs 300).

What to carry
* Electricity is erratic, carry a torch.
* Carry along a pair swimming trunks or a swimsuit for a dip in the lake. 
* Bring you favourite soothing tunes if it inspires you while painting; with a pair of headphones, of course.

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