Mumbai’s cultural centrepiece Kala Ghoda will soon mirror the magic of New York’s landmark Times Square with street acts, vibrant lights, film and cartoon characters and giant electronic billboards, the government said on Friday.
The tourism ministry is likely to kick off the project with an initial investment of Rs 5 crore while the Maharashtra government will also pitch in to create the essential infrastructure and draw private funds.
South Mumbai’s Kala Ghoda is the financial capital’s arts district, ringed by museums, galleries, Gothic buildings and some of the city’s oldest cafes. It is named after a black stone statue of King Edward VII on horseback that was removed in 1965 and subsequently placed inside the Byculla zoo a few kilometres away. An arts festival held there every February is a smorgasbord of events.
“Kala Ghoda in Mumbai is best suited for the purpose of creating a hub of heritage and culture, mostly open air, as the equivalent of Times Square. The fundamental framework should be ready in a year,” said Shripad Naik, Union minister of state (independent charge) for tourism and culture.
Naik said the government is planning similar ventures in other cities, aimed at boosting tourism, with Varanasi likely to be next in line.
A 15-foot transparent flagpole – on which the Tricolour will be hoisted –lit from within, drinking water fountains, wide steps for people to sit on and high-resolution web or CCTV cameras to project tourists on giant screens and internet sites are some of the proposed features.
“For a city like Mumbai, umpteen ventures like this need to be developed. Once the hub is built, some calendar events should be created,” said Abhijeet Patil, president of the Association of Domestic Tour Operators of India (Maharashtra chapter).
Nicknamed Crossroads of the World, Times Square is a focal point of the global entertainment industry and hosts over 39 million visitors annually.