I have a new passion called Street Photography — a truly subtle art. Requires the understanding of a city, to click that button at a decisive moment, gigabytes of patience, and the skill to make ordinary events/ people seem extraordinary. All in 1/100ths of a second. But ‘street’, as it’s called gives you smaller insights, outside of a viewfinder. The Bombay streets are a cauldron of possibilities. For all our civic callousness, and corporate blinkerdness we are still one of the most decisive cities — tech and tradition co-exist in an easy alliance.
I take to the streets, shooting Mumbai as I see it, Bombay as I remember it. And this is really where my tale begins. I’ve always found life in and around centres of entertainment the most symptomatic of change. Strand Cinema, home of the 1970s Hollywood Western. Now housing halter necks and high heel shoes. Movie house to mall.
Art deco-ed Eros — me, a hormone raging 13-year-old, trying to sneak in with much machismo to watch Summer of 42, every schoolboy’s fantasy. Ram Paswan the stern usher, flings me out. I return, sporting a miniscule moustache, courtesy Maganlal Dresswalla, and the aforementioned machismo. Paswan smiles and allows me in, charmed at my persistence. Now Eros, home for Golmaal 7. And a few goons. You saunter down the road, towards the sea. Talk of the Town. Once the home of live music. You ate your steak but swung to the music.
This morphs into Jazz By The Bay. Still cool. Still encouraging live music. Then the decline begins — Karaoke makes it way into the joint. Everyone’s an Elton John. “Besame Mucho” sung totally besoor by wannabe desi idols. Mercy killing, all the other customers are begging. And now singing has given way to seven-inch thin and crispy pizzas with mushrooms and capsicum. Yeah, call me old-fashioned. Call me a nostalgia junkie. Cynics will proclaim that change is necessary. And I’m good with that. As long as creative endeavour isn’t sacrificed at the altar of crass commercialisation.
My point isn’t the Bandra problem. Where simple Catholic homes are being displaced by shark builders. Cottages giving way to condos. The evil there is evident. Transparent. Size matters in our suburbs. South Bombay has seen a more subtle, subterranean, insidious shift. Sugar replaced by sugar free, so to speak.The landmark remains the same, but the landscape has changed.Beware my Bombay brethren.
Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at rahuldacunha62 @gmail.com
The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.