On the 51st anniversary of Maharashtra becoming a state, a look at five areas in the city that are rich in Marathi culture. Prachi Pinglay highlight aspects of their cultural life, from music to theatre, food to shopping
Major publishing houses, such as Mauj Prakashan, Keshaw Bhikaji Dhawle, Jyotsna Prakashan and Majestic Publications, have their headquarters here. Majestic also has its retail outlet here. Popular Prakashan, another major publishing house, is located at Breach Candy nearby.
These publishers say sales of books translated from English, self-help books and biographies have picked up in the past few years because these themes resonate with the new Marathi-speaking middle-class, whose purchasing power has also risen as a result of which they now want to collect books instead of merely borrowing them from libraries.
n The hottest-selling books at Majestic (2388-2244) are now Uttam Kamble’s Aai Samjun Ghetana (Understanding my mother) and the Marathi translation of Rujuta Diwekar’s Don’t Lose Your Mind, Lose Your Weight.
Girgaum still has many eateries that serve authentic Maharashtrian fare, such as thalipeeth, kothimbir vadi, sabudana khichdi and piyush, such as Panshikar, Kolhapuri Chivda, Vinay Health Home and B Tambe Upahargruh.
The headquarters of VP Bedekar and Sons, a food company known for its pickles and spices, is also located here. The eponymous Bedekar founded a corner grocery store a century ago, which started selling pickles and spices in 1925 to workers who lived without their families and needed something to eat with their rotis.
n Most eateries offer snacks, but Tambe Upahargruh (2386-4223) has a full thali on its menu for just Rs 80.
As the Marathi-speaking population has shifted from this area to suburbs such as Vile Parle, Thane and Dombivli, the Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh, located in the heart of Girgaum, began losing its position as one of the city’s most vibrant centres for Marathi theatre. But it continues to host Marathi language classes, music classes and provide a space for play rehearsals. Girgaum also has several groups of people, including school children, who get together to chant shlokas and perform skits in Sansrkit.
n Call the Sangh (2385-6303) for details about its classes for non-native speakers who wish to learn Marathi.
While high-rises and malls continue to replace the area’s century-old mills and chawls, some of its working-class traditions endure: its Lalbaugcha Raja is one of Mumbai’s popular Ganeshas.
The area’s once thriving wholesale cotton textile market, Hindmata, still attracts customers from all over the city looking for affordable dress material.
n The market also has shops, such as Sweet Line (2414-9646), which stock cotton and synthetic sarees and material from Surat in Gujarat, where some of the textile industry shifted after the watershed mill workers’ strike in 1982, led by Datta Samant.
Last year, reports that Bharatmata — a theatre that screens only Marathi films — would be shut down elicited a wave of protests. The area features in Hindi films such as Vaastav, which told the story of how unemployed youngsters from this area turned to organised crime. Mahesh Manjrekar’s Lalbaug Parel tells the story of mill workers and how their lives changed after the 1982 strike.
n Bharatmata (2470-0673) is currently screening three Marathi films — Masta Challay Amcha (We are doing great), Taryancha Bait (Island of stars) and Hari Majhya Ghari (Hari in my home).
The majority of mill workers came from the Konkan region, which gave rise to eateries, such as Jai Hind, which served authentic food from that region.
In the evenings, many carts selling fresh, piping hot vada-pao line the area’s roads. Also known is Chivda galli, which has many shops specialising in different kinds of chivda.
n Jai Hind now has several branches in the city, and the one in Lower Parel (3295-1481) attracts yuppie executives working in the offices that have sprouted in the mill compounds. The place’s stuffed bombil and hirva masala are hot favourites with them.
There’s more to Dadar than Shivaji Park, where Sachin Tendulkar started playing cricket and Bal Thackeray holds his Dusehra rallies The area’s thriving literary, theatre and music scenes keep its residents busy all year round.
Home to stalwarts such as Yashwant Deo, poet and music composer, Dadar hosted the annual Marathi Sahitya Sammelan in 1999. Dadar residents continue to patronise libraries such as the Dadar Sarvajanik Vachanalaya and the Mumbai Marathi Granth Sangrahalay, which were known for their English and Marathi collections until the 1980s and are struggling to survive now. Between them, the Ideal bookstore, near Dadar station, and the Majestic exhibition and shop in Shivaji Mandir theatre stock an impressive range of Marathi books.
n Dadar Sarvajanik Vachanalay (2430-4087) charges a one-time deposit of Rs 200, an admission charge of Rs 20 and a quarterly fee of Rs 135.
Music and theatre
Venues such as the Dadar-Matunga Cultural Centre, Ravindra Natya Mandir, the Karnataka Sangh, Shivaji Mandir, and Yashwant Natya Mandir, host classical music concerts, plays, discussions, etc. These are often free or have very reasonably prices tickets.
n The Dadar-Matunga Cultural Centre (2430-4150) will stage the musical Chaity on May 2 at 6 pm. Tickets cost Rs 100.
For years Marathi families from all over the city unfailingly made trips to Ranade Road to shop for weddings. Shops like Shahade Athawle and Girgaum Panche sell cotton sarees and kurtas, while shops like Suvidha and Roopsangam offer a range of nine- and six-yard sarees, especially paithanis.
n Suvidha (2436-7080) has a collection of paithani sarees.
Mama Kane’s is one of Dadar’s oldest eateries, but Panshikar, Prakash, Aswad, and Sachin, which has sea-food and non-vegetarian fare, also offer authentic fare. Also popular, especially with students, are vada pao stalls opposite Kirti College and near Chhabildas high school.
n Panshikar and company (24229526 ) near Dadar station, apart from sweets also has modest seating and offers delicacies like Kothimbir wadi, Sabudana khichdi and piyush, popular beverage made with sweetened yogurt.
Music and theatre
Apart from classes for music, plays and traditional exercises, Lokmanya Seva Sangh or Tilak Mandir also organises debates and lectures for Parlekars. The Vyas music school, the Parle Music Circle and Hridesh Society also hold classes for aspiring musicians and hold concerts for discerning audiences. The Dinanath Mangeshkar Natyagruh is at the moment busy with children’s plays, or bal natya, another typical Marathi activity in summers. It stages prominent plays as well as holds one-act play competitions. The Prabodhankar Thackeray sports complex is a favourite with residents interested in outdoor activities.
n Lokmanya Seva Sangh or Tilak Mandir (26141276, 26142123) is organising a workshop for graduates on June 5 called ‘Start a business, sustain a business, expand a business’.
When prolific writers like the late Vijay Tendulkar and late Pu La Deshpande made Vile Parle their home, the status of Parle as a literary hub became hard to contest. The Jawahar Book Depot in Parle market not only stocks almost Marathi all books that readers would be interested in today, it also organises an annual Sahitya Jatra in the winter. Traditions such as the Majestic Gappa, Sathye Katta and Parle Katta attract accomplished personalities, who speak about their expertise and interact with the audience.
n At Jawahar Book Depot (26143902) some of the best-sellers include Prakashwata (Paths of light) by Prakash Amte and Marathi translations of Sudha Murthy’s books and a Marathi translation of Women and the Weight Loss Tamasha by Rujuta Diwekar.
With a sizeable upper middle-class population, every other family has a member in Australia, UK or the US. Like every Indian, youngsters from Parle who have immigrated miss the area’s food. When they come home, they make a beeline to Vijay Stores, which sells a special goodie bag full of spices, fruit concentrates, and snacks. What they cannot carry back with them is the Babucha vada outside Parle Tilak Vidyalay and sea-food delicacies from Gajalee.
n Gajalee (26114093) on Hanuman Road is popular with Marathi celebrities as well as residents. You can pick from the collection of live crabs and enjoy the chef's special delicacy.
Music and theatre
For several years, the Gadkari Rangaytan, named after Ram Ganesh Gadkari, a poet and playwright, was the only theatre for Marathi audiences from Mulund to Kalyan. Other theatres have come up, but it remains very popular.
A slew of associations, such as Marathi Infotech, Hindu Jagruti Nyas, and Swatantrya Veer Samiti organise classical music concerts at Sahayog Mandir and other venues.
They also organise Diwali pahat, a cultural practice originally popular in Pune, where veteran musicians like Hariprasad Chaurasia, Zakir Hussein and Rashid Khan, perform for an enthusiastic audience at dawn on Diwali day.
n A new play titled Adhi Basu, Mag Bolu (Let’s sit first and talk later) is opening on May 6 at 430 pm at Gadkari Rangaytan.
Last year, thousands attended the Marathi Sahitya Sammelan held in Thane, the second time it took place there. It is the “jhakpak”, or swank, Thane reader who consistently buys books, says Ashok Kothawale, co-owner of Majestic Bookstore and Publications, which has its headquarters in Girgaum.
n At Majestic Book depot (25376865, 25430652) recently published Careerchya weglya wata (Different career paths) by Kiran Jog, while Aksharanshi Gappa (Conversations with letters) by Nikhil Awchat is drawing readers.
Apart from hot, spicy, mouth-watering misal at Mamledar’s misal, Gokhale Upahargruh — or “ubha gokhale” as it is popularly called because you have to stand and eat there — is well known for its snacks. Hotels like Malvan at Panch Pakhadi are known for their seafood delicacies.
Walk into Gokhale (25421921) to enjoy farali misal, usually meant for people fasting.