Home run: Old villas in Mumbai are hosting art, culture, comedy events
Stroll in for an evening of laughs, a bit of yoga, or just to see what life was like before the high-rise.Updated: Nov 18, 2017 11:10 IST
In Mumbai, bungalows are getting rarer and rarer - being pulled down to make room for more high-rises. But a handful of them are holding out, making room for something even more precious: arts and performance spaces in the metropolis. They’re hosting music concerts, open mics, exhibitions, workshops, yoga sessions with your dog or just a game of housie.
As an artist, all you need is a stage, so whether it’s in one of the city’s well-known venues or a bungalow, it no longer matters to audiences.
“If you’re looking for a bigger venue, most of the time, the dates don’t match; other times, it’s unaffordable,” says Sheetal Tiwari, co-founder of OverAct, an alternative theatre space in Versova’s Aram Nagar. The 2,700 sq ft bungalow has held plays, dance and music shows, workshops and hosted flea markets, and food pop-ups in the garden. “For the audience, this means access to art and culture in a home away from home.”
At The House in Versova, drop in for a game of tambola or jam with other musicians. At Yoga101, close by, there are workshops and slow-cooked food. The Little House and Travel of Art, both Aram Nagar-based, have stages set for performing artists and meet-ups.
One community meet-up was hosted by Romel Dias who conducts The Listening Sessions, aimed at sharing music videos. “We get to learn about new music in an intimate space rather than a commercial location,” he says. Take a closer look...
Goa in your backyard
- WHAT: Seska Fruit Salad, a comic magic show
- WHEN: Saturday, Nov 18, 1 pm & 3 pm. Tickets available online.
- WHAT: Bare Bones, a series of English short plays
- WHEN: Sunday, Nov 19, 7 pm & 9 pm . Tickets available online
In the middle of Aram Nagar stands OverAct, conceptualised by Rohit Tiwari of theatre group, Theatrewalas, and his wife Sheetal. Once home to a 1971 India-Pakistan prisoner of war, it opened as a stage for artists in August.
“The minute we walked in, we could visualise this as the place we’d always wanted,” says Sheetal. High ceilings, skylight, undone walls and lots of greenery. “It almost felt like Goa in our backyard. And a couple of times, you have a coconut or two fall on the roof too,” she says, laughing.
The Tiwaris haven’t refurbished the structure much. “We’ve just brought in levelled benches to seat about 70 people, done the lights and added sound consoles,” she says.
While the high ceiling takes care of the acoustics, members of Theatrewalas have hand-painted the walls and created a soundproof wall using papier-mache egg trays and recycled water bottles. They’ve also added washrooms, changing and green rooms for artistes and opened the backyard for other activities.
So far, they’ve hosted talk shows, plays, offered space for rehearsals, flea markets and exhibitions and meet-ups. “If not for these alternative spaces, how could budding artistes showcase their talent?” asks Sheetal. “It’s like having access to art and culture in your backyard.”
Culture at home
“It’ll give you a very Mediterranean feel,” says Pritam Vaid, owner of The House in Versova, his one-time family residence. He opened the doors to everyone in March 2015.
The 2,200 sq ft is a restaurant and performance space with a terrace, a balcony, a bar and seats all over the place. Otherwise all white, little pockets of colour show up in the furniture and over 300 plants.
The House is open to open-mics, stand-ups, food pop-ups, flea markets, and workshops. “You can do what you desire, it’s your home,” says Vaid.
On Tuesdays, they host a Maa Ke Haath Ka Khana session, at which one dish from a home chef is made into a main course for their thaali and all earnings from it are contributed to the chef. Actor Naseeruddin Shah has held an acting workshop here, so has his daughter Heeba. Actor Roshan Abbas has also held a storytelling session here.
“Thanks to spaces like these, people can now walk up in front of an audience and open up,” says Arbaaz Khan, who hosts the open-mic here every Thursday. “It’s a great way for people to connect in an informal setting, collaborate and form new relationships.”
A villa that stretches
- WHAT Ceramic Painting Workshop
- WHEN: Saturday, Nov 18, 3 pm to 6pm. Tickets available online
Rinku Suri’s family home in Versova’s Aram Nagar is now a yoga studio. In addition to that, Yoga101 hosts cultural and music nights, flea markets, storytelling and acting sessions and also doubles up as co-working space.
Founded in 2013, the only change Suri has made to her home is breaking walls to make the space larger. “The furniture is old, so is the flooring,” she says.
An in-house café serves healthy and slow-cooked food and is open to home chefs. “There’s a house, trees and cuckoos nestling, what else do you want?” she asks.
A US-based dancer and local resident, Rodney Simpson, loves the place. “I have never been really inclined to do yoga, back home in the States it’s usually full of bells and whistles,’ he says. “I would honestly leave class more stressed then when I came because I couldn’t get a pose or had strained my body. But my experience at Yoga101 was let me get to know my body as a dancer in ways I had never done before.”
Suri loves dogs and doesn’t mind them joining yoga sessions. Don’t be surprised if you have a few wagging tails sleeping right next to you or doing an asan or two.
For artists, by artists
Think of Travel of Art as a co-working space for creative entrepreneurs and painters. “There wasn’t much space for artists to create and showcase their art, so we started one this August,” says Meghana Biwalkar, founder. “I wanted to keep the feel homely, so there are no changes in the flooring, windows or doors,” she says.
There are watercolours, easels, design scrolls and other basic art material on hand and about 10 to 12 artists can work together at a time. “It also helps them meet other artists and collaborate. For instance, a calligraphy artist can get to know a Kalamkari artist,” she adds.
Artists can also host flea markets and conduct workshops. “As a budding artist you’re not producing in bulk, so you need space to exhibit without any competition, we provide you with that and take care of the overheads.”
Just like home
- WHAT: Authentic vegetarian Malvani breakfast meet up and Farmer’s Market
- WHEN: Sunday, Nov 19. 10 am onwards.
- CALL: 99303-60546 to register.
The Little House once belonged to playwright Mahendra Save. When Priyanka Desai, the sister of his daughter-in-law, decided to turn it into a cultural space in April, she found trunks full of his writings, old furniture and crockery from across the country.
Desai and her sister were sure they didn’t want to turn the bungalow into a commercial, formal space. “We retained the old teak furniture—cupboards, chairs and the dining table—created a bamboo canopy and added a few lamps,” says Desai. “We didn’t want to create a stage because we wanted an intimate zone to promote a feeling of community.”
Visitors say it reminds them of their homes in the village. “There’s an old papaya tree, a curry-leaf plant, it’s like reconnecting to your roots,” says Nisha Kaura, a homemaker. She loves the Sunday breakfast sessions. “It’s like all of India coming together. I once cooked a Punjabi breakfast with Amritsari chhole, aloo ki sabzi and puris and it was sold out.”
The place is also open to stand-up nights, open-mics, dance and music workshops.