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Kala Ghoda's Talent Street adds to Mumbai's charm

Mrityunjay Bose in Mumbai, Nov 26 2017, 0:02 IST
Artistes in different costume at Talent Street event in Mumbai. Mrityunjay Bose

Artistes in different costume at Talent Street event in Mumbai. Mrityunjay Bose

Kala Ghoda is one of the prominent squares of Mumbai. The place, which is about half a km from landmark Gateway of India, has a lot to offer--from the Raj era to the present day Mumbai.

Half-km radius around Kala Ghoda-black horse-- has several places with a broad canvas of history and the place is often referred to as the "heritage and art district" of Mumbai.

The square has important heritage buildings, including Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (earlier Prince of Wales Museum), Jehangir Art Gallery, Max Mueller Bhavan, University of Mumbai, National Gallery of Modern Art, Institute of Science, Bombay Natural History Society, Elphinstone College, David Sassoon Library and the Esplanade Mansion. All these places are associated with prominent people. The Mumbai Darshan Bus would also stop here on Sundays for people to take a look at the Talent Street.

Before 1965, a black stone statue of King Edward VII (as the then Prince of Wales) mounted on a horse built by Jewish businessman and philanthropist Albert Abdullah David Sassoon existed there. After removing it, the statue was installed inside the Victoria Gardens or Byculla Zoo, now renamed as the Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan.

In that place, "Spirit of Kala Ghoda" statue that was designed by architect Alfaz Miller and sculpted by Shreehari Bhosle was installed. The Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) and the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) have plans to develop Kala Ghoda on the lines of Times Square and allow budding artistes to showcase their talents.

The MTDC and the MCGM aim to make use of public places as platforms for people's participation. Celebrities from Hindi and Marathi film fraternity have been invited to support the cause. The upcoming artists will get a chance to display their art on the street of Mumbai.

The weekly event will be held on the 250-m-long Kaikashru Dubash Marg and 21 have registered to set up stalls that would display robotic acts, spray paintings, caricatures and cartoons, sculptures, pottery, Warli paintings, jewellery, puppet making and magic street. More stalls are expected to come up in the coming weeks.

In the recent event, artistes like Sunil Gogia, who is a spray-paint artist, tried to capture the spirit of the place through his work. Artistes dressed up as Charlie Chaplin, Gabbar Singh, Shahenshah and Bajirao Mastani too drew crowds as people rushed for selfies. Lookalikes of artistes like Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan too were spotted there. "We want to make things interesting," says Rajan Kumar, who was dressed as Charlie Chaplin. The actor-performer, whose name figures in different record books, too meets people, shakes hand and entertains audience.

"Artists would be able to rent 15—15 sq ft boxes at a nominal fee which will be open to people across the state to boost tourism," said Nitin Gadre, Principal Secretary (Tourism & Culture). The Talent Street will run every Sunday. As of now the plan is to run till May next year and take a call ahead of the monsoon.

"It is a platform and remarkable occasion for visitors to discover Maharashtra and know its hidden treasures in forms of arts," Tourism Minister Jaykumar Rawal said. The annual Kala Ghoda Arts Festival hosted by the Kala Ghoda Association has gained national prominence and the Talent Street would only be make the place more popular. The annual Kala Ghoda festival, which is held during January or February every year, will continue to run as per schedule.

The Kala Ghoda has been in news for various reasons over the last couple of years and two iconic landmarks €“ the Café Samovar and Rhythm House-shut the shop. Volumes can be written about Kala Ghoda, Rafique Baghdadi, a veteran Mumbai-heritage expert, said.

Santosh Mijgar, Director, Star Craft Manoranjan Pvt Ltd, has put up some interesting stalls that relate to the Indian film industry. "We have created a facility where people can come and have auditions done. If they are okay, they go the next level," said Mijgar, who has created a facility to shoot. "There is a vanity van and also high tech cameras that are used for shooting," he said. People can have a glimpse of what the film industry is all about and how auditions are held, casting and how films are made.

Way back on July 7,1896, the Lumiere Brothers had screened six films at the Watson's Hotel (now known as Esplanade Mansion) €“ marking the beginning of the Indian film industry. Legendary American author and humourist Mark Twain stayed here and wrote about the city's crows he saw outside his balcony in "Following the Equator." Muhammad Ali Jinnah used to play pool in the hotel to make a little extra money for himself.

According to a popular myth, Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata decided to build the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower after he was refused entry to this "whites only" place. Sir Richard Francis Burton, the British explorer and geographer and writer, who wrote The Kamasutra of Vatsyayana, too had stayed here in 1876. It also finds mention in writings of Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling, who wrote The Jungle Book, Kim and several other novels.

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