Bengalis in the city like to splurge when it comes to Durga Puja, their most revered festival. Keeping with the trend, the Sarjanik Vashi Durga Puja (SVDP) in Vashi is roping in some of the best male Bharatnatyam dancers of the country to pair with actor Hema Malini when she plays Durga in one of its programmes.
“The biggest annual fest deserves the best treatment,” said Asit Ghosh, president of the mandal, which has allocated Rs 40 lakh for entertainment from its Rs 3-crore budget. The mandal is putting up a 70-foot replica of Puri’s Jagannath Temple.
Similarly, Lokhandwala would get a glimpse of the real Bengal when 20 dhakis (traditional drummers) and dhunochi dancers, flown in especially from Kolkata, cut loose. Actor Abhijeet Bhattacharya, founder of the puja here, also promises the usual Bollywood fanfare, fashion shows, concerts, stand-up acts and performances by top playback singers from the film industry.
Newer mandals, with small budgets, do not lag behind when it comes to exhibiting their love for the festival. Kalyan Cultural Association, a three-year-old mandal, started with a puja budget of Rs 3 lakh. This year the budget is more than three times. “The festival is an integral part of our life. It will get bigger every year,” said SK Nandi, the general secretary.
Pragati, a mandal in Vasai, has used the recent oil spill as a theme for the puja decoration -- a style followed in Kolkata.
“We want to give a social message on how important the environment is for Mumbai, and it will be shown through the oil spill issue because it was a burning topic this year,” says DK Biswas, president, Pragati.
Idol makers and pandal decorators admit that budgets have jumped by at least 25 to 30 per cent. “Most mandals have scaled up budgets for decoration and idols,” said Bishwanath Pal, who has been making Durga idols in Bhayander for the past 15 years.
Rashoraj Pal, another idol maker from Panvel, said, “The number of mandals is steadily increasing. According to a rough estimate, at least 100 mandals observe the festival in Mumbai.”
The festival is also a feast time for foodies. In addition to the regular khichdi-bhog that is served free, every mandal hosts a variety of stalls selling authentic Kolkata street food.