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Eat, dream, shop

Twenty years ago, a struggler’s paradise, Andheri’s Lokhandwala is now a star hub and shopper’s heaven, reports Lalita Iyer.

mumbai Updated: Dec 06, 2009 00:50 IST
Lalita Iyer

The high point of Lokhandwala when it was still struggling to be an address autorickshaw drivers would take seriously was a fast-food restaurant called High Point. It is still a major landmark for any directions or co-ordinates. “Second building from High Point,” or “First left after High Point,” is common phraseology in this neighbourhood.

That was two decades ago. Today, Lokhandwala’s chief claim to fame is that it is the habitat of stars and strugglers alike. So, while on the one hand, it has Belscot, Saif Ali Khan’s bungalow (where his ex-wife Amrita Singh and their children now live), it also has strugglers sharing a pad (sometimes as many as seven in one flat). These young hopefuls, work out on their four- or six- or eight-packs at cheap local gyms or alternatively, scout for work at the Shreeji restaurant close by in Oshiwara.

Their dream is to hit the big-time just as so many Lokhandwala residents have. The list is long: film stars like Tabu, Asin, Manoj Bajpayee and Akshay Kumar (the last-mentioned still retains his flat here though he shifted recently to Juhu). Plus, there are TV stars like Shweta Tiwari, Hiten Tejwani, Atul Agnihotri.

There was a time when professionals from the film and TV industries who couldn’t afford Bandra or Juhu chose Lokhandwala for its cheap housing.

From Rs 30 to Rs 40 per sq foot in the early eighties, the price of real estate has shot up to Rs 11,000. The rate can go even higher in the posh ‘Back Road’ as it is locally called, which houses properties like Green Acres and Oberoi gardens.

As you inhabit, so shall you shop. So, after Breach Candy and Linking Road, Lokhandwala grew to assume the ‘shoppers’ paradise’ tag pretty quickly to cater to its budding artiste populace. Now it has people coming from Bandra, and further south, looking for great buys.

Broker Chetan Narvekar sums it up. “Lokhandwala is driven by shopping, which is why shops are at a premium here. An average shop in Lokhandwala is worth around four crore rupees and fetches rent up to Rs 1.25 lakh per month. Most shop transactions are cash-driven,” he says.

When just half a kilometre houses all the brands that matter, no one’s complaining.

So there are the usual suspects like Arrow, Reebok, Nike, Woodlands, Levi’s, Kiah, Brands 4 less, Cottons, plus a long clutch of export surplus shops, shoe, accessory and jewellery stores.

As far as food goes, pick from Sasural, Rhythm, Food Inn, Mc Donalds, Domino’s, High Point, Guru da Dhaba, ice creams from Naturals and gelato from Amore, and kabab and paratha rolls from Hanglas.

Ajay Bhatia, a resident of Andheri Lokhandwala, for the last 20 years reminisces, “When I moved here, it was more or less a jungle, with even buses refusing to ply till the market road. The only bus that came close was route No 266, which only came up to the circle (where HDFC bank is now).”

Autorickshaws stayed away longer, he adds. “Until 1993, there was only a share-a-rickshaw for Rs 2 per head from Four Bungalows till Lokhandwala circle. From there on, you were on your own in the wilderness.”

Wonder what the Toyota Corollas and BMWs plying in the area now would have to say to that.

A weekly column that looks at how a pioneering or iconic structure has changed the face of a locality