photo essay: ftii, stories of indian cinema told and untold

What is Pune without the FTII? Okay, one may say “lots” as my previous post 36 hours in Pune blatantly states. But one cannot deny FTII is integral to the city, and historically, even to the country.

Its contribution to Indian cinema through its alumni is legendary. Whether it be the histrionics of Jaya Bachchan, Shabana Azmi, and Naseeruddin Shah or the directorial vision of Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, and Prakash Jha, each has added a gem or two in India’s prized entertainment business—Bollywood.

FTII, the Film and Television Institute of India’s history is no less captivating. Christened Film Institute of India in 1960, the autonomous body under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and a member of CILECT, was given its current name in 1971.

Though I am no movie buff, to be Indian translates to a love for cinema. But alas, one cannot just walk into FTII’s famed campus in the north-west outskirts of Pune. Closed to the public, the Institute opens its doors to common-folk on rare occasions. One such was for a heritage walk during the heritage week organised jointly by Janwani and Intach Pune. Continue reading

36 hours in pune


Pune youth at the 8th Century Pataleshwar Cave Temple celebrating Pune Heritage Week
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It took me three years to make the journey to Pune, a city nestled in the Sahyadri hills four hours by road and 149 kilometres away from Mumbai.

Every second person I have met in Mumbai has been somehow connected to Pune. It is either through their family or studies [when they were younger] or if nothing else a place they go to chill out. I figured this in itself warranted I see it with a local, and here I mean a Mumbaikar with one foot in Pune. And so I waited. And waited. Till my desire to explore the city out-weighed the comfort of a well-versed, impossible to pin down, human guide.

Clueless about the geography of the city, but armed with a smattering of facts, figures, and stories from poring over books and articles, I found myself one fine morning seated on a bus aptly named Shivneri. For the uninitiated, Chhattrapati Shivaji Maharaj was born in Shivneri Fort on the outskirts of Pune.

But more of that later on in the post. I was headed to Mumbai’s lesser known and lesser glamorous, yet historically and culturally [as I was soon to discover] richer neighbour. It also happened to be heritage week in Pune which turned out to be in my favour. Continue reading

pune heritage walk: lal mahal and shaniwar wada

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Aah, those wondrous figures who live on in the dusty worn out pages of time—the larger than life legends who changed the course of history! I am talking about Chhattrapati [Sovereign] Shivaji Maharaj [top left image] and Peshwa Bajirao I [top right image] of the Maratha Empire.

Though India’s Mughal-centric history has pushed the Maratha Empire to its periphery, it lives on, passionately and firmly embedded in Maharashtra, its founder’s state, and in Pune, the empire’s political seat. Continue reading

secrets of south bombay’s parel queensway

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The stories and secrets Bombay holds in its folds behind its crumbling Victorian edifices and chaotic traffic spans centuries. Of all the streets which cover the city in a tangled web, Queensway, a road that leads through Parel in South Bombay, is perhaps the richest in terms of history and also the least to have divulged its mysteries.

A two and a half kilometre stretch, the wide boulevard lined with towering trees contains 19th Century temple courtyards, odes to the Indian Independence Movement, stories of magnanimous philanthropy, and an open air museum of Indian sculpture traversing 1,600 years. And if you did not know, you would not even come close to guessing they exist. Continue reading

global travel shot: the unknown 5th century shiva saptamurti in parel

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You may well say, Aah, I have seen this sculpture before. That is, if you are a museum buff. Wrong.

Allow me to make a confession. I often find myself torn between awe at the cultural treasures with which India bursts at its seams with, and angry at the apathy, neglect and state of degradation in which many lie. I know I am not alone in this conflict.

Exactly a year ago I visited the sculpture gallery at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai, formerly known as the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India. Like very many others, I fell in love with one piece. Continue reading

bhuleshwar bhulbhulaiya: lord shiva’s neighbourhood in mumbai

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Last Sunday I was invited to attend a test walk through Bhuleshwar curated by Khaki Tours. I had just returned to Bombay from a hectic trip to Delhi, and would have given anything to just sleep in. The only thing more tempting was the idea of this walk.

So come 6 am, I found myself wake up to the persistent alarm on my phone, and drag myself, accompanied with my camera to CP Tank, our meeting place. CP Tank, by the way, stands for Cowasjee Patel Tank. It used to be a water tank, built by Parsee philanthropist Cowasjee Patel in 1776, for supplying drinking water in Girgaon. Today, it is an island on VP Road. Dhirubhai Ambani and his family had a home in Bhuleshwar till the 1960s.

For the uninitiated, Bhuleshwar is a predominantly Gujarati neighbourhood just north of the Fort District. Try googling and there is very little you can, if truth be told, lay your hands on about it. Apart from a long list of shops, “Alice in Bhuleshwar” by Kaiwan Mehta and the claim that there are a hundred temples in the vicinity alone, try finding out more, and there is nothing.

Which makes sense, for the 100 temples mentioned are not tourist sites but places of worship for the locals over the past 150-odd years. They are part of their everyday life. Continue reading