As the construction of the metro eats away at the beauty of our residential areas, our only solace is in the walls on the side of the road that are covered in paintings done by various artists.
The stretch of paintings on the “Back road” in Andheri was an art project initiated by Bhitti Chitra. From social issues to random doodles and famous artist recreations, a lot of Mumbai’s walls are covered with colourful paintings.
NGO’s such as Making a Difference and Mumbai First have even brought in volunteers to paint such murals.
While trying to understand how street art became so popular over the last decade or so, I found many articles that attributed its popularity to a group called the St+art India Foundation, which was the pioneers of the movement in India. Turning Mumbai’s Sassoon Docks and Delhi’s Lodhi Colony into public art districts.
The beautification of railways and metros around India also began around the same time, with conservationist Valmik Thapar who thought it made sense that the metro station near the Ranthambore national park (known as the home of the tiger) had a mural of tigers. Same with bird sanctuaries and the crocodiles of Bhubaneswar. After getting aid from the WWF and contacting railway officials, stations started lighting up with colourful murals that highlighted endangered animals, dying traditional art forms and parts of our forgotten heritage.
Street art has not been spared by the obsession of Bollywood either. You’ll see Amitabh Bachchan in a Sholay poster recreation or Madhubala with a wide smile on the side of a house. This is of course because of the Bollywood Art Project led by Ranjit Dahiya.
Just like anything else in Mumbai, street art isn’t technically illegal but it depends. If you do not have the consent of the wall owner, but it’s easier to find the wall owners who are willing to give consent to a muralist here than places in the world.
This has been a welcomed change change throughout India, with train goers and residents of mural filled houses alike accepting the beautification. The movement has resulted in travellers’ moods becoming a little happier and the decrease of littering and spitting because they don’t want to ruin these works of art.