Most of us look for words to express our love for Mumbai. Nilofer Suleman does it through her miniature-style paintings. What makes the city special for her is that “it is an amalgamation of many varied cultures, which retain their idiosyncrasies,” she says.
Nilofer has used her specialisation in miniatures (she studied fine arts privately for three years) to create Bombay Bioscope, which is currently on display. “I started working on this show 18 months ago. My daughter Shilo and I spent several weeks taking photographs of the wadis and gallis of Mumbai. We enjoyed visiting Parsi cafes, soaking in the cotton smell at Dhobi Ghat and the fish smell at Sasoon Dock, chatting with the flower ladies in Dadar, running to catch a train at VT station, watching the morning rituals at Mahalaxmi and Banganga temples, visiting Crawford Market, Kanda Wadi and so other places that lingered in my memory of growing up here.”Nilofer shares the stories behind some of her favourite works from the show.
He represents the quack with the roadside tent who promises to cure everything from “hairy moles, menses problems, gas trick trouble, nightfall[!] to genits and ledis problems”. The couple waiting to be attended to are awkward while the beedi smoking Kaamdev grinds fake jadi-butis and chats away with seductress Lingeshwari! His signboard reads, ‘Is your body in Hits? Do you have disinterest?’
Sorabjee, The Parsi Cafe, serves brun maska pav in old rusty trays, among other typical delicacies. There’s a contrast is between the whimsical, gossiping old Parsi ladies in Gara saris and Zeenat Aman in her Dum Maaro Dum get up. A young man holding an Elvis record waits at the counter. The happy countenance of the cafe owner, Sorabjee, the quirky very Parsi ladies, the omnipresent cats, the young man and Zeenat Aman create a politics of emotions that underlies this painting.
The Bombay Talkies Ltd.
This is the coming together of two worlds — my characters meeting people from the real world (Dilip Kumar and Madhubala) in a surreal situation. The banner on top displays stills from the silent film, The Light Of Asia (1925) — an Indo-European production based on the life of Buddha. It was the first movie made by The Bombay Talkies Movie Co. I have always been a fan of extras in Bollywood movies. They flaunt flowers in their hair; their gestures and postures are more magnified and exaggerated as they aspire to be stars one day.
Bombay Bioscope by Nilofer Suleman is on display till November 25 at Art Musings Gallery, Colaba.