The highway to a hell called Ghatkopar

19 May,2024 07:23 AM IST |  Mumbai  |  Paromita Vohra

The gigantic billboard had been constructed by a man called Bhavesh Bhinde, a name out of some film by koi ‘‘edgy” gents filmmaker

Illustration/Uday Mohite

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When the dust-storm last week cast a dystopian light, an ominous shrouding over Bombay, who knew nature was providing art-direction for tragedy? As the wind gathered a speed of 90 km/hr a gigantic billboard in the eastern suburb of Ghatkopar keeled over onto a petrol pump, killing 16 people and injuring over 75.

The gigantic billboard had been constructed by a man called Bhavesh Bhinde, a name out of some film by koi ‘‘edgy" gents filmmaker. Soon Bhinde was where he had always wanted to be - the front page of every newspaper. In his photo, with its cut-price Ali Sethi vibe, he signalled machismo and braggadocio. It emerged that he is a rape accused and has once contested elections- a woefully familiar CV. He has also been fined 21 times in the past for putting up hoardings without permission. A man who does not take no for an answer.

Bhinde's killer hoarding was 120x120 square feet, teetering with an ambition to be in the Limca Book of Records as the largest (and hence most expensive) hoarding in India. Affording that shows who has the biggest... pockets, right?

The name of Bhinde's company says it all: Ego Media. The imagination of success we have today promotes a relentless quest for size, fake grandeur, domination above all. It is Individualistic and obsessed with hierarchy and appearances. We can matter only by dwarfing others, so we must loom large in people's vision, taller than the tallest billboard, wider than the widest chest. As long as it looks grand who cares how flimsy the enterprise is, who it is going to crush underfoot, what its other downsides are. Duniya mein danka bajega yaar. Naysayers and anti-nationals, side please.

Or as Rashmika Mandana, in her next role after Animal, aka a recent "candid" interview while driving over Bombay's new coastal road explained, "India is the smartest country. India is not willing to take no for an answer. We are not stopping for anyone. Look at our country grow… at such a fast speed, it's fricking brilliant. It's something like…" she petered out in search of a suitable metaphor. Perhaps inconvenient memories of a tunnel collapse in Uttarakhand came to mind so she skipped ahead speedily(after all she was on the amazingly fast coastal road na) "The young bharatiya has to vote. People are seeing. I'm speechless." she said, while continuing to speak. Perhaps she meant she has a few words only. "From this majestic architecture… this majestic infrastructure… Vikas aur development rukna nahin chahiye. Vote for vikas and development." Oh Rashmika, I think you dropped your dog whistle, babes.

She gushed on "All the journeys made so easily and with such amazing infrastructure, makes me proud." I guess she was not on a train to Ghatkopar station, which was built in 1877. It is used by about five lakh commuters everyday, the kind whose daily hardship is used to illustrate "Resilient Mumbai" articles in the rains. Ghatkopar should not complain, it also has majestic infrastructure bole toh metro. Just the week Rashmika's video dropped, not only did a majestic billboard kill people, but the metro was abruptly shut down, stranding tens of thousands in a desperate rush hour crush, for the Prime Minister's road show. No complaints. The ability to loom above people as they bear the difficulty we cause is a measure of our power. Nahin toh duniya mein danka kaise bajega?

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at

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