Home Arts Enthusiastic artists paint Mumbai with colourful, intense murals. Mumbai News – Times of India

Enthusiastic artists paint Mumbai with colourful, intense murals. Mumbai News – Times of India

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Enthusiastic artists paint Mumbai with colourful, intense murals.  Mumbai News – Times of India

When Akhlaq Ahmed or Shabbu fought with his family because he wanted to pursue art as a profession, they hardly knew that he would end up brightening Mumbai’s color palette.
The mural artist from Uttar Pradesh, and many others like him have become part of a city-wide creative army that is painting the town red – along with other colours.
While gray concrete increasingly overwhelms the city, a profusion of bright street art is breaking the monotony. The murals, which are popping up under flyovers, along highways, and even covering the external walls of buildings, are part of Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s beautification drive, initiated soon after he came into office in August last year. Each of the city’s 24 civic wards have been allotted a budget of Rs 30 crore to give their public areas a makeover, which includes wall murals, illumination, as well as enhancing road dividers and traffic islands.
Each ward appoints a contractor who then brings in the artists and the themes, based on the personality of the neighborhood. “In A ward, we have selected over a dozen walls in different localities wherein the local area’s significance has been brought out through the artwork,” says assistant municipal commissioner of A ward Shivdas Gurav. For instance, the walls around Colaba’s oldest fishing harbour, Sassoon Dock, features paintings of colorfully attired Koli women selling fish or carrying baskets on their heads.
“It is not necessary that every wall is used to depict the local culture of the area, in some areas we have also painted art works like a cat playing with a ball or sea waves rendered in an unusual manner,” says Rohan Koli who, along with his studio artists, has worked on several walls along Pedder Road and Worli. The work is far more exhausting than any other kind of painting. “It isn’t an easy job to stand in Mumbai’s hot and humid weather and we would get exhausted in barely a few hours,” says Koli, a JJ School of Art alumnus. “Therefore we start our work after 4 pm and, if required, work through the night.”
Artists get paid on a per square foot basis, rather than daily wages – around Rs 120 per square foot for a wall of 1,000 square feet, says Koli. The contractor has to look for wall artists. Or, if the BMC finds a good artist, the registered contractor is asked to consider giving the particular artist the execution works.
D ward has gone a step ahead and attempted tile painting on the walls around Tardeo bus depot, to show the transformation of BEST buses over the years, says Sharad Ughade, assistant municipal commissioner of D ward, which has splayed wall art across the length of To install Pedder Road. He has also got construction sites in the ward to paint their barricades to counter the bleakness, while Malad’s P North ward officer Kiran Dighavkar is proposing to paint exit and entry ramps of flyovers. “For motorists who may be stuck in traffic looking at this art work might be a pleasant experience,” he says. A vast wall of 16,000 square feet in Malad’s Pathanwadi has just been designed and completed by the House of Creativity.
Those who have been working on contemporary urban artscapes are, however, concerned that the creativity is not consistent across the city, nor has it been properly thought through. Hanif Kureshi, one of the co-founders of St+Art India Foundation, says that street art should also make you think and reflect. “While its good, right now it’s more about quantity than quality,” says Kureshi.
“We should be bringing something new which makes our city more interesting, not just colourful. That is how cities all over the world have evolved, whether it is Berlin or New York.”
But for artists like Shabbu, the opportunity to paint urban murals has taken him to London’s South Bank and, more recently, Qatar, to dress up the city before the World Cup.

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