Cityscape: One Sunday Afternoon in Bombay
Cinematographer: Avijit Mukul Kishore
Duration: 00:36:44; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 25.468; Saturation: 0.037; Lightness: 0.409; Volume: 0.196; Cuts per Minute: 9.744; Words per Minute: 0.245
Summary: Shot by Avijit Mukul Kishore.
As part of exploring the plurality in the street cultures of India, we decided to drive down from North Bombay to Nariman Point and shoot the various narratives scattered along the way. It was a Sunday in the month of December. So the sun was bright yet not bleaching out. The Sunday also provided a respite from the maddening crowd on the road which would have made it impossible to follow any thread or cue. We started on the Western Express Highway and stopped at first signal at Andheri. The Andheri flyover was then under construction and the signal was hugely populated by both vehicles and people. Then we passed the airport signal and followed the comparatively light and lazy traffic of the Sunday afternoon, to Kherwadi junction at Bandra east, followed the right hand traffic to Mahim creek and the Cadell road, crossed Haji Ali and took a detour to Bombay central station. After that we took Queens Road and then finally reached Gateway of India. At Gateway of India we hired a horse cart, favoured by the tourists, to Marine Drive. This trip had made us re-visit our own city – as if this was another Bombay, which only vaguely resembles the one we knew of.
Andheri-Kurla signal on the highway, below the under-construction flyover. In the middle of dust, fume and noise of the traffic the vendor boys spread out their wares - flex prints with images of mysterious women and an imaginary dream land. They are selling car visors.
Western express highway
western express highway
The south bound traffic at Airport signal. Relaxed traffic along the highway on a Sunday afternoon, Hanumanji (the monkey god) protects the rear of a car and its spare tyre. In recent history there were quite a few occasions when this serene looking motif of the god was invoked to mobilize people under call of violence against some category of 'outsiders' and the others.
Drive upto Kherwadi signal at Bandra east. At the signal camera tries to get a stay on a smooching couple, again serving as a protection to the spare tyre.
Cadell road: passing through Muslim Mahim and Brahmin Dadar, crossing the old passport office we reach at urbane Worli naka - legendary City Bakery, café city and the round building. A right turn under the new and meaningless flyover opposite Nehru centre.
City Bakery, Worli
old passport office, Prabhadevi
Near Haji Ali one hoarding painter has just started spreading out his work station. We take left towards the Bombay central station
Bombay central station
Just after crossing the bridge adjacent to Bombay central station we visit the roadside juice vendor. No, the vendor visits us in the car.
While on Queen's road near Charni road station we meet another hoarding painter and we got off the car. It was a Sunday and so such luxuries were allowed.
Charni Road Station
charni road station
Low angle shot of the hoarding and the painter. Camera pans and tilts up from the station platform with train to the hoarding at the level of the foot over bridge.
Top angle, skewed shot from the bridge down to the painter. The shadow of the bridge and its banister falls on the road. A bizarre image of patterns, lights, perspectives and colours.
Another take. Camera zooms on the paper the painter is referring to. Camera zooms in and again zooms out - playing with height, scale and perspective.
Wide shot sharp top angle. The hoarding, the painter on a rickety scaffold in the middle of the frame and below that city traffic flows. The shadow of the railing on the road. Frame changes to the foot overbridge, people pass by, - camera pans to a woman vending her modest wares.
Wide shot from the opposite side of the road. The hoarding and the traffic, the station is in the background.
Top angle shot of the hoarding, camera pans to the foot overbridge and the top part of a train passing below.
Gateway of India
We have reached Gateway of India - the so called head of the city. This was part of the old European city and now the hallowed heritage Mumbai. A horse cart ride from Gateway of India to Marine Drive and back is a popular activity among tourists, for both Indians and foreigners. We hire one cart too. Unlike other parts of the city, Gateway is busy on a Sunday, most probably more than on any week days. Out cart passes through the entire stretch with Arabian sea on one side and the Tajmahal hotel and other smaller establishment on the other side. The road is full of tourists, vendors, cabs and horse carts - an impromptu fair everyday or atleast on every holiday.
gateway of india
The horse runs through the commercial hub of Bombay. On a Sunday the roads are deserted, shutters are down. The well trained horse stops at a signal, waits like an obedient citizen while the fellow motorists get impatient.
commercial hub. bombay
light & shadow
The light from the late afternoon sun, the shadow of the dense buildings on both sides, signals, Zebra crossings on wide and almost deserted roads and the rhythmic sound of horse's bells -together create a surreal perception of the city. Colaba causeway, Mantralaya, Regal signal - same landmarks, another visual.
The lonely horse in the city of people and automobiles. The horse's shadow on the road and the vehicles run over it to their own destinations. Briefly touching Nariman Point we head towards Marine Drive.
Crossing the NCPA skyscraper and Oberoi hotel towering each other on both side of the road, we reach Marine Drive - also known as Queen's necklace, in memory of the British rule. The sun is dying by now. Soft, orange light glows on the horse's back and on the road.
The Marine drive boulevard was known for its vendors and street antics till recently. But one of the recent cleansing drives have made it much sanitized and gentrified. A few stray vendors are only a pale representation of its earlier vibrant image. In the weak light of late afternoon in winter the hallowed buildings of Malabar hill opposite look like pencil drawings. But we have also found something else. A familiar sound of roll camera, action etc…. a shooting crew, taking advantage of the absence of crowd on the street on a Sunday.
A red colour open car, a big black horse, HMI lights. Could be an ad, could be a soap opera or a film - we decided to shoot the shooting!
The HMI flickers dangerously. But that does not save the hero from riding the huge horse and prepare for the action. He is to rescue somebody, most probably a damsel, but who would save him from the horse? Low angle wide shot of the shooting field. The hero on the horse back with the NCPA skyscraper in the background, he moves to the car, some toughies are beating another man sitting in the driver's seat, our hero reaches to the other window and sure enough rises up the damsel in need of help.
Roll… ready… roll… rolling… action…
Retake of the same shot.
Close shot of the villain with red injury marks on the face. Retake…. But the horse played mischief this time and separated the lovers at the last moment… NG. (not good in the lingo of filmmaking) HMI is still flickering with alarming regularity, but the crew is cool about it. Another take and the lovers' hands are held properly and tightly.
Roll… roll.. ready… rolling… action
Meanwhile the white horse of our cart catching up breath. Lonely beast yoked to the cart in the background of the skyscrapers of NCPA apartments and Oberoi hotel. The monkey game chap beats his little drum off the frame.
Meanwhile the hero and his damsel are safely planted on the back of the black horse. They are helped to off field. The red car driver is still getting beaten up while two folk drummers appear beating their drums loudly. This will definitely be a hit film/ad/soap opera.
Our horse and its owner/manager wait for customers. They are at the land's end with the Colaba cityscape framing them while the fading sunlight creating a melancholic mood.
The horse cart goes away from the camera, takes U turn at land's end.
The cart passes the camera with the setting sun at its back. We make them give a retake to get the effect right.
The horse with her cart goes back to work. It is peak of business hour. Our Sunday afternoon comes to an end.