The dragon was wearing a red fez and carrying a flower almost as big as himself.
“Where are you off to?” I asked him.
“To meet my lady love, who lives across the road,” the dragon replied.
“Have a great date,” I smiled.
“And you have a great time here at Chapel Road. I’m sorry I can’t take you around myself and introduce you to the others,” said the dragon as he hurried off with a backward glance and a ‘fangy’ smile.
Yes, I did meet a dragon in a red fez and with a flower.
No, dear reader. I’m perfectly alright. No, I’m not lying.
Yes, the dragon in a red fez and with a flower was quite real. As real as art can be. 🙂
Welcome to Bandra’s Chapel Road. It is a road that connects Mount Carmel Church to Hill Road. It is narrow, winding road that runs through what was once the independent Runwar Village, but is now part of Bandra. It is a road that is used as a short-cut by many residents of Bandra travelling to or from the Bandra-Worli Sealink. But most importantly, and in the context of this post, it is also a road that is world-famous, thanks to the graffiti and street art there.
Unlike the street art that I have written about in my previous posts (the links are given at the end of this post) where only one artist’s work was in focus, the street art on Chapel Road is by multiple artists from all over the world. Some of them are pretty famous artists too ! This has resulted in a pot pourri of styles and art that is quirky, whimsical, comical, serious, nostalgic, fantastical… but always designed to engage with the viewer.
Come with me as I take you to meet some of my favourites and overhear the (entirely imaginary) conversations I had with some of them. 🙂
“You have 3 eyes?”
“Yes. That one on my forehead is a manifestation of my inner eye.”
“I see. But why is your inner eye wearing spectacles?”
“That’s because it is myopic as well.”
“Hello, is that motorcycle yours?”
“Yes, it is.”
“You don’t seem to have ridden it in quite a while.”
“What to do, man ! The guy painting me just doesn’t seem to finish at all.”
“Stay right where you are ! Any closer and you’ll get sprayed on your face. It’s pepper-flavoured.”
“Okay, okay. I just wanted a photo of you.”
“Away with you !”
“Umm… sorry to disturb you. I didn’t mean to disturb to. Please don’t use that pepper spray on me.”
“Ha ! That’s not a pepper spray. That’s filled with paint. The shop shutters are down and I’m leaving do some graffiti work.”
“Cool. Can I come with you?”
“Nope. It’s top-secret for now. Come back in a month or so and you’ll be able to see the new stuff.”
“Do you mind? Can’t a man shave in peace without having people gawk at him?”
“Helloooooo ! Who do we have here now? Do you like Calculus?”
“No problem. I’ll teach you Calculus and demystify it for you.”
“I have an appointment right now. Maybe some other time.”
“That’s what everyone says. Everyone.”
“Hey ! Watch it. You almost knocked me down.”
“”I’m a cool rider. I’m a cool rider…”
“You are no cool rider. You are a jungli.”
“Madam, I’m a paidaishi jungli.”
“Yo! You going to write about us?”
“Yo ! Yes, I am.”
“Cool. Do include my picture and that painted blue mailbox. He looks a little grossed out, but is actually a real sweetheart.”
“Sure I will.”
“What’s the occasion for the celebration?”
“Do we need an occasion to celebrate?” We’re happy, we’re alive so that is a cause for celebration. Come, join us.”
I just couldn’t get enough of the street art on Chapel Road and can go on and on about it and never let this blog post complete. The numbers and variety there is mind-boggling and they are everywhere. On the walls, on windows, doors, shutters, junction boxes, shop shutters, pipes… While some of the art are clearly visible, many others are in locations that are hidden from plain view due to cars and bikes parked in front of them. Still others are simply not at eye level and I stumbled upon them by pure chance. Many more have simply faded away due to the pollution and the weather. Then there are huge artworks like the one of Madhubala and teeny-tiny ones as well.
I also realised how dynamic street art was. I had first visited Chapel Road over a year back and some of the wall art I saw then was either no longer there, having been replaced by others or had simply faded away. It is this aspect of street art that is so exciting and makes me want to visit this place periodically.
However, I do wonder what the residents of Chapel Road feel about the hordes of people trooping in and out of their road and lanes every single day, gawking and photographing their street art. The last time I was there, there was a photo shoot with a scantily-clad model and what looked like 10-inch heels. The looks of disapproval on the faces of the residents was quite palpable. And then there was this photography group who banged on the door of a house to ask them to move the motorcycle so that they could get a better view of the artwork behind it !
I am very careful about not photographing people in places like this. Unless they are okay with it, I take care to keep them out of the frame, no matter how tempting it is. That is one reason, you will not see many “people”photographs from me.
But the ‘other’ people from the fantasy world of art at Chapel Road had no problem. It was “Cheers!” all the way 😀
More Street Art from Mumbai: The writing on the wall | Nagrana Lane’s secrets | Bollywood on the walls | A fantasy world at Chapel Road | The St+art invasion of Bandra and a curated walk | Street art @ Reay Road