In Mumbai, art, dance, music and stand-up is just around the corner
Mumbai city news: Small-format venues, which have cropped up in the western suburbs over the past two years, are a world removed from south Mumbai’s traditional cultural spacesmumbai Updated: Jul 07, 2017 15:24 IST
The room isn’t much bigger than a living room. Your seating options are the floor or bean bags. The stage hosts everything from stand-up comedy, open-mic nights, music gigs, dance performances and sometimes, a play. And don’t be surprised if the next person going up on stage is someone who was sitting next to you all this while.
Small-format venues, which have cropped up in the western suburbs over the past two years, are a world removed from South Mumbai’s traditional cultural spaces. From Jeff Goldberg Studio and Bandra Base in Bandra, Cat Café Studio, Andheri Base and Harkat Studio in Andheri to Studio Mojo in Malad, they’re changing the city’s arts scene. They’re making the arts more accessible to new audiences, helping artists, photographers, dancers, musicians and poets experiment, and creating performance settings that’s so cozy, it almost feels like it’s a house party.
“I think spaces like ours work because people have started realising that there’s more to art than just Bollywood,” says Karan Talwar, co-curator at Andheri-based Harkat Studios, which opened part of its office space to performances in 2016. “Mumbai didn’t have many options for culture, so we decided to curate art for the neighbourhood and the response is overwhelming.” Harkat’s space accommodates 70 people, 50 seats are always full, says Talwar.
One of their most well-received work was held in November last year. Harkat curated a three-hour long event titled In the Mood for Melancholia. It featured performances by artistes who merged poetry with music; kalaripayuttu with thumri; and sand painting with singing. Experimental short films were screened, there was a ghazal session too. “Gigs like these wouldn’t find the place to be showcased and that’s our aim, to help those who don’t get a platform,” says Talwar.
At two-year-old Cat Café Studio you can exhibit artworks or perform dance, music, or try stand-up comedy. For musician, Tania Dhobale, 25, it marked her third show in front of an audience. “Cat Café helped me with a studio-like setting in a small space,” she says. “There’s intimacy and it’s informal so it helps artists like us gain more confidence and build a network. Every time I perform in a setting like this, I feel I am better prepared for any big show that might come my way.”
Sejal Purohit, official photographer at Cat Café Studio says that they like giving upcoming talent a platform. “We give just a week’s notice and most seats are sold out, so we are never worried about experimenting,” she adds. They work on a profit sharing basis, dividing the ticket revenue between the performers and the space. Entry is priced between Rs 200 and Rs 500 and it can accommodate up to 40 people.
Falon Netto, founder of Malad-based Studio Mojo, has hosted open-mics, seminars, workshops for new mothers and dance and music events. “We get the money for our space and the new performers get to earn as well as hone their skills,” she adds.
But the bigger winner here is the audience, believes Komal Gandhi, 38, an arts consultant who frequents Harkat at least once every two weeks. “These spaces have the warmth, curators are always trying to bring something new to you and lastly, all of this is available so close to home now.”