Milind Soman dances a table at Fire & Ice, High Street Phoenix, Lower Parel
Milind Soman dances a table at Fire & Ice, High Street Phoenix, Lower Parel

Mumbai’s ultimate party man on the evolution of the city’s party scene

By Marcellus Baptista, Mumbai
UPDATED ON DEC 18, 2015 03:09 PM IST

Those were the days my friend, we thought they’d never end... go the words of a popular song by singer Mary Hopkins. Well, the good old days have ended and so, too, have the good old nights. But it’s still party time, and it’s all good, though with a difference.

How the party scene has changed over the years. In the pre-mobile phone and pre-internet age, you received a call on your landline, or an invitation via the dependable Indian postal service, informing you of a party. It was personal — a gathering of friends and family — perhaps held on a house terrace, especially during Christmas. It was an intimate affair where everyone knew everyone, unlike today’s party scenario where guests barely know other guests. Sometimes, they don’t even know the host. Now, parties are an exercise in public relations — with celebrities thrown in for good measure to make for a good photo-op. Things have changed remarkably over the last 30 years. It went from bar-hopping to pub-crawling: and before pubs sprang up here, there, everywhere, it was the star hotel bars that ruled the night.

My friend, the late Ramesh Sattawalla, popularly known as ‘Happy Birthday’ (the man famously, and curiously, wished everyone “Happy birthday” every night), introduced me to the bar-hopping scene. We went from Lancers’ Bar, Malabar Bar (beat that name) and Supper Club at The Oberoi, Marine Drive, to the revolving restaurant inside the Ambassador at Marine Drive, and Harbour Bar, Apollo Bar and Rendezvous at The Taj Mahal Palace. Sometimes, there would be stopovers at Talk of the Town (erstwhile Jazz by the Bay, and now Pizza By The Bay), and Studio 29 (named after its location at 29, Marine Drive) at Hotel Bombay International, now known as Marine Plaza (all on Marine Drive).

Baptista gets in the groove at a Latino night at the Lobby, Bandra
Baptista gets in the groove at a Latino night at the Lobby, Bandra

The disco dazzle was on with dancing at Xanadu, Horizon Hotel, Juhu, RG’s (named after its owner Ravi Ghai) at Hotel Natraj (now Intercontinental) Marine Drive, Rock Around the Clock at Hotel Metro Plaza, Hill Road, Bandra, J49 named after its postal pin-code (Mumbai 400049), Juhu, Cellar at The Oberoi, Nariman Point, Cyclone at The Leela, Andheri, Cavern at the Sea Rock, Bandra, 1900s at the Taj, and Fire & Ice, that iconic nightclub at High Street Phoenix, Lower Parel.

Then, one fine night, disco died. Bollywood took over, much to the chagrin of hardcore English DJs who swore by their mixes, and hated playing Hindi film tracks. But then you could not get away from Bollywood, for everyone seemed to be humming these songs and dancing to them at sangeets and weddings.

However, there is nothing like live music. Back then, live music was alive and kicking at standalone places like Just Desserts and with all that jazz at Jazz by the Bay. Soul Fry at Pali Naka, Bandra and Razzberry Rhinoceros at Juhu Hotel, were our answers to Hard Rock Café. Live acts livened up the nights then. Thankfully, some five-star hotels today still have the live music offering — Soul Fry hosts karaoke nights every Monday.

Actor Dino Morea and model Reshma Bombaywala at Fire & Ice, High Street Phoenix
Actor Dino Morea and model Reshma Bombaywala at Fire & Ice, High Street Phoenix

The 1.30am deadline did not exist or, perhaps, nobody took it seriously. Often, by the time you were ready to leave Avalon at Hotel Bawa International (Vile Parle), you’d be blinded by the sudden, bright sun. You did not realise you had been dancing all night. Also, in the old days, party photos came in hard copies, with photographers carrying bulky cameras around. Now, in the smartphone era, everyone is a photographer, and you see selfies on Facebook.

While I do miss those days, there is a crackle in the air these days (nights, actually)… What with the art previews, the music and film parties, boutique openings, restaurant and bar launches, wine and whisky tastings, and fashion weeks filled with passion. I liked it then. And I like it now.

Baptista is a lifestyle writer who’s on permanent night duty. Follow his blog on marcellusbaptista.wordpress.com

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