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Mumbaiwale: Goma, Amma and our photoshop superstars

Exotic holiday destinations, red-carpet shots and family portraits in a fancy haveli – Dharavi’s photo studios need only a few clicks to make your dreams come true

mumbai Updated: Apr 12, 2018 19:18 IST
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Mumbaiwale,Mumbai news
Dilip Solanki (above) manages Goma in Dharavi, where studio portraits are digitally morphed into sublime and outrageous backgrounds. (Rachel Lopez/HT photo)

Why go to Langkawi when you can go to Dharavi?

The neighbourhoods of Kumbharwada, 90-Feet Road and Transit Camp are dotted with tiny photo studios, more than an area probably needs for urgent passport-size prints and blown-up frames of one’s first-born.

Studio owners will tell you that part of the job is expectation-management. Boys come in with posters of Katrina Kaif saying “Iskey saath chahiye”, expecting CGI to do what life can’t.

But Dharavi’s little studios do brisk trade in other kinds of dreams. They’ll photoshop backgrounds into studio shots so you, your friends, family and perhaps even Katrina Kaif look perfect on paper.

At Goma, the 35-year-old studio, Dilip Solanki says there’s no accounting for customers’ tastes. Young boys come in for photos with their friends and ask to add a colourful cosmos, making them float in space. Women, styled up, want red carpets and paparazzi morphed in. Couples have asked for pristine beaches, or Indian fields to forge a vision of domesticity. “We have a CD full of backgrounds. But people also bring pictures on their phone,” Solanki says. “We make sure the light is natural – not even a hair looks out of place.”

At Amma, near Transit Camp, baby photos dominate the display. Toddlers in costumes are set against temple ruins or the Alleppey lighthouse. But across Dharavi, one trend rules: the family photo – everyone in brocade best – against a haveli. It’s the aspiration straight out of a TV soap and, at Rs 150 for shoot, imaging and printing, it is cheaper than renting a haveli and faking aristocracy.


The towering iron lamp-post and fountain, popularly called the Fitzgerald Fountain, is 150 years old, and once looked over the Metro Cinema junction in Marine Lines. ( Anshuman Poyrekar/HT Photo )

For many, a walk through Byculla’s sumptuous Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum – High Victorian design, wrought iron railings, original Minton tiles and gilded decoration – is enough of a sensory overload. But to find a real hidden gem, exit through the back and head to the courtyard on the right.

The towering iron lamp-post and fountain, popularly called the Fitzgerald Fountain, is 150 years old, and once looked over the Metro Cinema junction in Marine Lines. Created to honour Sir Seymour Fitzgerald, a governor of Bombay, it stood in front of the Jer Mahal buildings until the Samyukta Maharashtra movement in the 1960s, when several colonial markers were removed from public locations.

Take your fill of the structure – four spigots flank the lamp, iron garlands festoon the sides, cherubs, chains and floral motifs at the base balance the orb at the top. The Fitzgerald Fountain won’t be here for long. There are plans to restore it and place it at its original location.

There are a few roads to cross before that happens. The exact spot has been taken over by part of the pedestrian subway and at the adjacent spot, a watchtower now stands. The traffic police isn’t keen on installing the structure there either. So right now, in Byculla, this is probably the most peaceful view you’ll have.

First Published: Apr 12, 2018 19:18 IST