Mumbai: Young artists are making their mark

India's most populous city is experiencing a new wave of creativity

Anita Rani
Monday 01 December 2014 12:54
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Mumbai is a city I love, and I've been visiting it for more than 25 years. Every time I'm there I experience something different. I've worked and partied there, gone with family, done it as a backpacker, and attended weddings. I've interviewed Bollywood demi-gods, slum dwellers and nearly every stratum in between. One thing they share is a desire to make the most of any opportunity.

Since the economy liberalised around 20 years ago, the middle class has ballooned, and rampant consumerism has taken hold. But just beneath the surface is an incredibly exciting group of talented young creatives who don't feel represented by the mind-numbing Bollywood films, snooty old art crowd, or inane pop music. Many of my friends are part of this community of talented young Indians who have descended on Mumbai from all over the country, to shape and ride the creative wave.

The Kulture Shop in Bandra is a shining example of their artistic expression. It's run by a brilliant new design collective whose ethos is about making art more widely accessible. Unique designs by Indian graphic artists from around the world are available as poster prints, notebooks, and T-shirts.

One of my favourites is Tiffin Towers by Kunal Anand, who was born in Zimbabwe and spent time in London and now in Mumbai – the print costs R1,000 (£10). Then there's Don't Mess with Me by Californian graffiti artist Jas Charanjiva – the T-shirt costs R1,400 (£14).

I first experienced Mumbai's nightlife while filming there for the BBC in 2003. Having been the only brown face in clubs back home I was suddenly surrounded by cool, confident young Indians all having the time of their lives. I met the first generation of financially independent young people, living and working away from their parents, who'd grown up on the same cultural diet as me. I couldn't get enough of it and I still can't. The best venue to see live bands is Blue Frog, in Lower Parel. During the Raj this was an area full of cotton mills, but now it's a commercial hub of air-conditioned office blocks and amazing new apartments.

I don't get to wear saris often but I think they are the most elegant and graceful outfit a woman can wear. I feel at my most feminine when I'm draped in nine yards of gorgeous fabric. For the best saris, you have to make the pilgrimage (for this man is a god) to the Sabyasachi shop in Khala Ghoda to marvel at the creations of this haute couture master. His outfits cost thousands of pounds, but are worth every penny.

On the way back to the airport I always take a local black and yellow cab. It's hot and sweaty (as well as cheap) but if you wind the windows down for the hour-long trip, you'll see most aspects of Mumbai life played out in front of you – the beauty and chaos that combine perfectly, not just here but across India. The energy and creativity are unforgettable and inspirational.

Anita Rani presents 'The Great Culture Quiz', weeknights at 7pm on Sky Arts from 1 Dec

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