In Conversation with Hena Kapadia of TARQ



Built by architects Gregson, Batley & King in 1938, Dhanraj Mahal in Colaba is an art deco marvel. After you are sufficiently enchanted by its phenomenal architecture, tranquil courtyard, and charming bougainvilleas, you should find your way inside to TARQ, a contemporary art gallery launched by Hena Kapadia in 2014. Over the last four years, TARQ has not only focused on showcasing works by young, emerging artists but has also made itself a highly interactive space by hosting events, workshops, and talks. We spoke to Hena about her experiences at TARQ.

TARQ, F35/36 Dhanraj Mahal, C.S.M. Marg, Apollo Bunder, Colaba, Mumbai 400 001. Tel: 022 6615 0424


The City Story: In terms of the location of the gallery, was Colaba your first choice?

Hena Kapadia: When we opened in 2014, a lot of galleries were already in Colaba. I did investigate the possibility of opening in Lower Parel or Bandra, but commercially it was more affordable to open a gallery in Colaba, especially for the type of property we have. Also, logistically it becomes easier to do a lot of things in Colaba, because there are a lot of galleries in the neighbourhood. So we can be a part of things like ‘Art Night Thursday’, for example.

Getting the space in Dhanraj Mahal was by chance, as I was entirely at the mercy of my realtor. But I did love the building, and everything that came with the space – including my one parking spot.

TCS: TARQ is spread over two floors – is there a particular show where you were able to use the aspect interestingly?

HK: Yes, there was a show earlier this year where the space worked really well. This was ‘Wasteland’ curated by Birgid Uccia, in collaboration with the Swiss Consulate. The curator wanted to explore the gallery space spread over two floors, so we had an installation that combined both the floors.

To be honest, when I chose the place, I was a bit worried because of it being on two floors. We are used to galleries that are single floor, wider, industrial spaces. But somehow, it has worked quite well for the shows we do.


TCS: What were some of the challenges when you were starting out?

HK: Initially, logistical stuff like packing and shipping were a major headache, but we have figured this out over the years. Another thing we have hammered out is our catalogues. We always wanted to do catalogues for each exhibition, especially because we work with young artists and feel that we need to develop that writing for them. So what we do is commission these catalogues. Initially, with the catalogues, each artist wanted a different kind of catalogue which was very difficult, but now every year we do a series, and each catalogue fits into that.

TCS: It’s interesting that you are developing an identity for the gallery instead of for each artist, so at the end of the year, you have this cohesive set of catalogues. Was this a conscious decision?

HK: This was a conscious decision because every time we had to design this, I would pull my hair out. It wasn’t about gallery identity versus artist identity. We privilege our artists in many ways. Having a unique design for each catalogue was just impossible logistically, especially because these are small-scale publications. Now it has become a much more streamlined process. However, we make sure that artist is comfortable with what we are doing, with who’s writing the essay, how the catalogue is designed, which images are included, etc. It is still very much a dialogue, just better formatted.

tarq gallery colaba

TCS: You have been doing a lot of interactive events like workshops, talks, etc. Was that always integrated into the gallery program?

HK: Yes. I wanted new people to come into the place and was looking for ways to engage them. One of the earliest events we did was a poetry club called ‘Canvas Kavita’. We would send images of the current show to amateur poets so they could respond to it in verse. The whole impetus behind doing the programming can be find in the name of the gallery – TARQ, which means dialogue or discussion. I always wanted it to be a space where conversations can happen, and I think we have managed to do that.

TCS: What’s the most fun and the most tedious part about running a gallery?

HK: I love working with my artists. I enjoy the fact that I am constantly in conversation with them, the back and forth that goes on. I enjoy that closeness. I also like the fact that I get to talk to strangers who visit the gallery.

I don’t dislike anything about being a gallerist. I just really, really love my job.

TCS: A lot of people in the industry say that you are quite a workaholic. How true is that?

HK: Yes, it is true (laughs). Though I have now been consciously trying not to go crazy. Last year, we did seven shows, but the year before that we had done 10 shows. That’s when I killed myself a little bit. We are now in groove with the space and the artists, so it’s very comfortable. But I feel that anyone in this business has to be a bit of a workaholic, at least for the first five years, because there is a lot to figure out.

tarq gallery colaba

TCS: What’s been your most challenging show – conceptually or logistically?

HK: We did a show in 2016 called ‘In Letter and Spirit’ which had works from three artists – from India, Pakistan and the USA. Just getting everything together was a bit of challenge for that show, but we have now figured this out. We are doing solo shows with those artists. Conceptually, there has been no difficult show so far. I also feel that when a show is tough, intellectually or logistically, it’s a challenge to learn and grow from.

TCS: Apart from your regular programming, do you have anything particular planned for 2019?

HK: We are participating in two art festivals – Art Basel in Hong Kong and India Art Fair. Since 2017, we have been holding workshops for our artists to celebrate our anniversary. It’s like a weekend or a three-day get-together in the gallery. We are trying to make this meaningful for everyone. So last year, we did a writing workshop with Skye Arundhati Thomas where the artists got to workshop their Artist Statements, which has been a bit of a struggle for us as we are constantly editing the statements. Also, most artists are reluctant to write these. I understand that, and that’s exactly why we needed to have this conversation. It became a very productive dialogue. The artists also got to interact amongst themselves, which led to exchange of ideas and stuff.

Photographs courtesy TARQ



42 Questions with Jerry Pinto



In this series, we ask people the hard questions about things that matter – like unlikely romantic trips and fading, melancholic divas.

This week we talk to Jerry Pinto, award winning poet, journalist, and author. He talks about #377, #metoo, Helen vs Leela, the Chinese takeaway guy in Em and the Big Hoom, and reminds us of that heady, heavy word “thalassa”.


1. Are you a bad boy, Jerry Pinto?

I wish.

2. What is a Mahim boy trope?

His is the lament of the belly. Pao from Police Bakery. Chicken puffs from Crown. Plum cake from Bonita’s. Vadas from the cart outside Navjivan Society, Mori Road. All gone, all gone.

3. How many languages are you fluent in?

Zero. I claim English as the language of dream, Marathi as the language of pilgrimage, Konkani as the language of gilt and guilt, Hindi as the language of aspiration, and Urdu as the language in which it is possible to believe in words like panache, even if it is a word we borrowed from Latin where it meant a tuft of feathers.

And I am not saying this with false modesty. I was just reading Conversations with Borges (Seagull Books; Volume 1), and he was talking about how blanco-blanche (white) is the root word for black in English. How can one know any language? It fair drives me to despair when I consider how my day is near spent, and I still don’t know so much about English, the language my mother spoke to me in, the language in which my fantasies are born, the language in which I am most comfortable. So what chance have I with any other languages?

4. You’ve published translations of four books so far… Cobalt Blue, Baluta, I, the Salt Doll, and I want to destroy myself – which was the hardest?

Hello? I’ve published translations of Eknath Awad’s Strike a Blow to Change the World and Baburao Bagul’s The day I hid my caste and other stories since.

Cobalt Blue was the toughest because it was the first. Baluta was the toughest because it had poetry in it and words that don’t appear in Marathi dictionaries because they tend to be Brahminical. I, the Salt Doll was tough because it was a woman’s voice…you get the picture? It’s all just hard work but it is rewarding labour.

5. What was it like translating ‘Cobalt Blue’ under the shadow of Article 377?

Article 377 was the kind of law that does exactly the opposite of what a law should do. It turns people into criminals and tempts the police to venality. But when I was working on Cobalt Blue, I was simply wrestling with the language. The law and its animadversions were far from my mind.

6. What’s one of the hardest things (emotion, idiom etc) to translate?

Little grace notes. There’s ‘re’ in Marathi. What do you do with a ‘re’? We have a ‘reh’ in Konkani but it’s not the same. ‘Re’ has some measure of affection but a tiny hint of exasperation as well, at least in the way it is used to me. Consider ‘Vhaaychay’, the word in Mallika Amar Sheikh’s title. I want to destroy myself would have been a good translation of ‘vhaaycha’. ‘Vhaaychay’ is ‘I absolutely insist on destroying myself’, but then there goes the rhythm of the title.

7. Different places mean different things to different people but is there a part of Mumbai that reminds you of Goa?

Thalassa, thalassa.

8. Which was your favourite part of Mahim while growing up?

Thalassa, thalassa.

9. What’s changed irrevocably?


10. What hasn’t changed that you still love?

Thalassa, thalassa.

11. “People, even those who are in love with each other, can bore each other.” – Surviving Women (2000). Do you have a plan/advice for when this happens?

Remind yourself that the other person is also probably bored of you but the option of finding someone new, getting used to their quirks, working out a new equation, is infinitely more tedious.

12. You also said that going to the post office can be romantic. Give us three other unlikely (for most) romantic trips you can take in Mumbai.

  • Take a double-decker bus ride from Cuffe Parade to CST.
  • Take the ferry to Alibag and then come right back. Be silent and let the sea work.
  • Walk from Borivali National Park to Kanheri Caves. Walk slowly. Talk.

13. Do you get mail from fans about Em and the Big Hoom?

Yes. It humbles me.

14. How long did it take you to write it?

I say 25 years, but it took me all my life, all 45 years of living and learning my craft.

15. At the end of the book, there’s a man from whom you/the protagonist buys Chinese takeaway. Is he real? And does the place still exist?

Yes. He has warned me not to reveal his name because he says, “Now everyone will say, give us free, my Nana died, my Chacha died”.

16. We left our copy with a love note to a stranger in Florence. What’s the farthest the story has travelled?

A young man I met said he bought one of the early copies and tucked it into his backpack and read it on the way home and has never taken it out of his backpack, but he reads a little every day. I said, “Let me know when you finish?” He said he would. He hasn’t. So that copy may still be in motion. Or the young man may have forgotten that he said he would tell me, and it is now in a cupboard somewhere.

17. On a scale of 1 to 10, how interested are you in fading, melancholic divas?

Naughty, naughty. But on a scale of 1 to 10? About 23?

18. How does Mumbai treat folks who are getting older?

Like you treat shit on your shoe.

19. If you had to pick one – Helen vs Leela?

Must I? Well then, Leela, because we became friends, and when she died, I took her ashes to the sea with Selvam, the major domo who was with her at the end.

20. What’s one thing that surprised you while researching your book The Life and Times of an H-Bomb?

That Tamil film viewers thought she was a Tamil film star.

21. Could you recommend a book that talks about the people who walked back to India from Burma during WWII?

Yvonne Ezdani’s New Songs of the Survivors: The Exodus of Indians from Burma (Speaking Tiger), and not just because I have an essay in it.

22. Who is your favourite Indian film actress of all time?

I don’t believe in favourites. Or actresses. Aren’t they all actors now? But a good actor in a good role which fits her right is a delight. I’m thinking Meena Kumari in Pakeezah, Nargis in Mother India, Waheeda Rehman in Guide, Kareena Kapoor in Jab We Met, Kangna Ranaut in Queen, Shabana Azmi in Ankur, Smita Patil in Umbartha, Suchitra Sen in Aandhi, Rekha in Umrao Jaan, Jennifer Kendal in 36, Chowringhee Lane, Konkona Sensharma in Mr. and Mrs. Iyer, Sharmila Tagore in Aradhana…my list is endless.

23. Three words to describe Bollywood in 2018.
Going, going, gone.

24. Are you familiar at all with internet poetry? Is that what inspired Some Ways Not To Write A Poem?

What inspired Some Ways Not To Write A Poem was the hubris of believing that I can write a poem. I apologise for it.

25. What’s the most common mistake people make when writing a poem?

See answer 24.

26. Who is your favourite modern poet?

I have no favourites. I am several multiple thirsty selves whose thirsts can sometimes only be assuaged by Emily Dickinson, or by Ted Hughes, or by Nissim Ezekiel, or by Sylvia Plath, or by Ikkuyu (who was very, very modern) or by Basho or by Adil Jussawalla or by Muktabai (ditto).

27. What sort of music do you listen to?

Bollywood from 1950 to 1980, though I am beginning to have a sneaky appreciation for classical music, but I will not talk about that because that is to open yourself to the contumely of everyone who knows their ragas from their sagas.

28. What’s the cheesiest song you know all the words or dance moves to?

The cheesiest song: Happy birday to Pinkie, Pinkie.

29. Can you do the birdie-dance?

Only birdies can’t do the birdie dance because they have too much brain.

30. What about the Macarena?

Do I look that retro?

31. Which is your favourite bookstore in Mumbai?

Kitab Khana and Wayword & Wise

32. And your favourite cinema?

I don’t go to the cinema because other people go to the cinema and they behave as Indians behave everywhere.

33. What’s the best way to people watch in the city?

I don’t like people watching in the city because it confirms me in my worst nightmares.

34. What’s your favourite city in the world?

The one whose name is poison on the tongue.

35. Do little children like you?

Little children have great good sense.

36. As a teacher and professor, what’s the best thing you’ve learned from your students?

I have learned that if I tell them to do it, I should do it and as a result, I am, I think much more disciplined and much more rigorous than I used to be before I started teaching.

37. With writing, what’s your ratio of inspiration to perspiration?

I only perspire. One per cent of it dries into hieroglyphs. One per cent of the hieroglyphs can be saved. One per cent of those are saved.

38. Any tips on how to beat writer’s block?

Ask yourself: if your cook came to you and said, “I can’t cook today, I have cook’s block”, how would you respond? And if your work is not as important as cooking, why are you doing it?

Get thee to thy table and write badly, write through the ice floes, write even when you collide with the iceberg, keep writing even as you drown, and suddenly, you will be out into the clear water.

But you won’t come out into the clear if you don’t keep putting the bad stuff down on paper. Once you’re in the clear, ignore the bad stuff.

39. It’s in the news – so tell us what percentage of men you know are freaked out by #metoo because they don’t understand it.

One hundred per cent.

40. Would yesteryear women from Bollywood have been spared some trauma if the movement had come earlier?

Is that a question? Of course, they would.

Read Manto about walking into a producer’s room and seeing him pumping the breast of an actress.

The women from the Bollywood tomorrow will be spared some trauma if the movement continues.

41. What’s one thing you know about women?

Men can’t do without women; women can do very well without men.

42. What’s one thing you wish you didn’t know about men?

Men can’t do without women; women can do very well without men.



42 Questions With Smriti Kiran




In this series, we ask people the hard questions about things that matter – like girl power movies, role models, and #metoo.

This week we talk to Smriti Kiran, author, producer, and Creative Director of MAMI Film Festival.


1. MAMI is 20 years old. What were you doing in 1998?

Trying to grapple with brutal working hours in the television industry and get sense of a new relationship.

2. Which was the first MAMI you attended and what was that like?

Technically, I have never attended MAMI. The first time I heard about MAMI was when I was being brought on board as a creative consultant in 2014.

3. Did you ever imagine one day you’d be Creative Director of an amazing movement like this?


4. What is the best part of what you do?

The people, the challenges, the scope, the madness. If it is not frantic and wildly satisfying, then it is not worth it, and this applies to all aspects of my life.

5. What ratio of instinct: experience when watching a film helps you decide what goes into the festival?

It is 75 per cent instinct and 25 per cent experience.

6. What does a city’s taste in film tell you about the city?

I would like to assess supply before judging consumption patterns.

7. What’s special about Mumbai moviegoers?

They know their cinema and they are willing to kill to get to it!

8. MAMI is now in Delhi. Are they more likely to be star struck?

Delhi is a beast. We are still wrapping our head around it, but it is a city I grew up in, so I know that it is a beast worth investing in! Dilli ka pyaar dilli ki sardi se bhi haseen hai!

9. Have you ever been star struck?

Always, but I have learnt to keep my shit together when faced with industrial strength charm!

10. Which is your favourite single screen cinema in Mumbai?

Le Reve

11. Which has been your favourite around the world?

Out of the ones I have been to, the massive theatre in Madinat Jumeriah in Dubai.

12. No budget concerns – your dream place to holiday for 3 days, a week, permanently move…

New Zealand and Scotland

13. How do you unwind? (Or do you ever?)

Japanese Katsu Curry, boxers, and a great web series. Or vodka soda, board games, and people I can chat all night with about random stuff!!

14. Best place for a long, lazy brunch?

Pali Village Café or The Bombay Canteen

15. Where do you get the best mimosas in Mumbai?

My House.

16. Where do you go for a quick meeting and coffee in the city?

Sequel in Bandra.

17. Where do you recommend going on a girls’ night out?


18. What kind of fitness routine does your schedule allow?

No kind, as you can see! Crossfit will always be a favourite. I would love to go back to it.

19. What is your favourite style of clothing?

Nicely fitted jeans, a low cut kurti, sexiest pair of keds with bling, and lots of bangles.

20. What is a random act of kindness you recently received?

A hand-written note from a person I was least expecting it from!

21. Who is your favourite Hollywood film actor?

Admire their work – Daniel Day Lewis, Nicole Kidman. To date ­­– Chris Evans.

22. Most overrated film this year?

Avengers: Infinity War

23. Most underrated film this year?


24. What representation of women on screen recently has thrilled you?

Tabu in Haider, Bhumi Pednekar in Dum Laga Ke Haisha.

25. What’s a classic girl power movie?

Thelma and Louise and Kill Bill

26. What are you reading right now?

If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin

27. You wrote The Original Screenplay about the making of the 3 Idiots (Hindi cinema’s most successful film) – have you ever read a Chetan Bhagat book?

Yes! Two of them, actually!

28. What are you learning about Indian writers telling Indian stories via Word To Screen?

I am discovering a lot…The learning has to still kick in!

29. Do you have a story you’ll one day make into a film?

Anil’s Ghost by Michael Ontaatje

30. Are you immune to hype about a film or TV show before you watch it?

Not immune, but I watch regardless of reviews and form my own opinion.

31. Recommend something we should watch…

The Girlfriend Experience on Amazon prime and Easy on Netflix.

32. Have you been told you’re a role model for women yet?

Shockingly, yes, but I am very far from a “traditional role model”. I feel like the naughtiest kid in the class who has been made the class monitor.

33. Who’s been your role model and why?

There are so many people. Young and old, famous and obscure. If I can learn from someone, they are a role model. It is as simple as that. Just like soulmates, I feel it is not possible to have a single role model.

34. Three ambitions you have for the rest of your lifetime…

Fitness, helping people and making a difference, and learning to not friendzone men I am interested in.

35. Fill in the blanks: Teach a man to be charming and you’ll ensure receiving thank you cards for the rest of your life.

36. What a girl wants is…

To eat all the time and not get fat!

37. What’s surprised you about the #metoo movement?

The fact that it took so long to happen across the world; the fact that, despite the feeling that it took so long it feels it has come earlier than expected to India; and the fact that it has not gone as wild as it should have. We need to keep the momentum, or this will disappear, and things will become worse for women than before. Too many years of putting up with shit and adhering to age old norms and narratives.

38. Women are well represented at MAMI – how tough has this been to effect?

This has happened organically. Not a conscious decision! Regardless of gender, MAMI needs solid workhorses and mostly the women have been the ones who have stepped up to this challenge.

39. You’ve had to navigate some grey areas regarding axing certain films at MAMI. What’s been the toughest thing to deal with? 

Causing pain to people I care about.

40. What’s been the dumbest reaction you’ve seen to the entire situation? 

That #metoo is a fad!

41. What’s it like working as a troika of boss babes?

This is the singular reason why what we do is possible!

42. You’ve worked across media… what’s the hardest industry to work in today?


Photograph by Tejinder Singh (courtesy Smriti Kiran)



Makers of Mumbai: Nazneen Dharamsey of Artique



Nazneen Dharamsey is on a mission to bring art into our every day. Her brand, Artique, sells products ranging from mugs and business card holders to bags and umbrellas, and she’s making sure we’re surrounded by art and beauty wherever we go. To order Artique products, you can visit the Facebook page or message on 084548 07122.


The City Story: Tell us about Artique’s journey.

Nazneen Dharamsey: Artique turned three in November this year. My mum is an artist. She studied it in college and then lost touch when life got in the way. She took up art again seven years ago. While art is very interesting, it is a small space and so unexplored. It is perceived as something that has a snob appeal and a niche and intimidating space. Art is such a holistic, expressive field and has so much untapped potential. That’s where the idea came up from for making art part of your daily consumption. It started in the home scape; soon we realised offices are another space where people spend a lot of time. So we started with daily products like coasters and trays. Now we’re also in the space of fashion and actually taking things out.

TCS: Did you study art/design? And do you do all the work yourself or do you have a team?

ND: No, I have zero experience in Art. I’m from advertising world. I started in client servicing, moved to account management and then into planning. I saw this space, which is completely new to me. I just took it up to see where it goes. I do have a sense of aesthetics. So I do know what looks nice visually. Also, essentially coming from a research background, I’ve got a deeper understanding of what consumers like and put that into play when and where I can with Artique.


Artique is just me. And I’ve consciously kept it that way. The minute you bring in other people, it’s different minds that get in the way. I do that enough in my other job everyday where I consult in AD projects. This is something that’s just mine, so I don’t have any timelines or restrictions.

Of course I don’t think anything is really done in isolation. I have my mum, my fiancé, and my friends who are extremely supportive of this idea and who consider themselves part of the journey.

TCS: How do you choose your designs? How do you decide which pieces make the cut?

ND: There are two kinds of paintings my mum does. Stuff that she does for exhibits and sales, and the ones she does purely for pleasure. Which is why those are very in flow, unadulterated and colourful, not made to perfection. It comes straight from the heart. It’s a constant fight picking on the ones to use. She loves her floral collection, her style is nature and abstract. I love her abstracts. Abstracts, as an art form on merchandise and home décor, is something you don’t see too often. The best thing about abstract art is that you can never recreate it. Even the artist can never really recreate it exactly the same. I love the story behind each piece of art. I try and inculcate that story when I’m trying to sell a product or talking to a prospective buyer: what’s the story behind this piece of art.


TCS: What do you think makes Artique stand out?

ND: I think the fact that we’re just not playing the game.

I’m not looking at what could be called competitors, and I’m not looking at their pricing and trying to figure if can I do better. I’m just doing the things that I think will work from my interaction with people. Things I think they will utilise every day. So for Artique, it’s not about pegging yourself against anyone We are just creating our own thing and taking each day as it comes. So one days it’s about products, the next day it’s about the blog, and the third day it’s something else.

TCS: Where do you see Artique going?

ND: It’s been a very conscious decision to keep the map fluid at the moment. The crux of Artique remains the same: we will always be about the everyday person, the everyday life and the role that art plays in that. There’s no other restriction. One leg of the business model is products, because that’s where the revenue is generated. The other leg we’ve worked on and we’re building right now its experience. Chatting Chai, for example, is things like the blog where we have everyday conversations over a cup of chai and try to bring art into the conversation. So at times my friend and I visit galleries around Mumbai and the blog about the experience. The blog is shared on our social media platforms. The idea is to get people to speak about art and contribute their writings. That’s something we’re building right now. At the same time, on the side I’ve started conducting these little groups, like a book club, but where people get together to discuss art and artists. It’s about getting in new age ideas about how people perceive art. Even a nine-year-old would have a clear view on how she perceives a particular piece of art. The idea is more about changing a mindset, as opposed to just selling a product.

Photographs courtesy Artique




In Conversation with Mortimer Chatterjee of Chatterjee & Lal

SPACE EXPERIENCE PEOPLE FOOD + DRINK VIDEO chatterjee and lal art gallery colaba


A few steps from The Gateway of India, tucked behind the commotion of Colaba Causeway, and dotted with a number of Arabic perfumes shops is Arthur Bunder Road, home to one of the most experimental galleries in the city – Chatterjee & Lal. Started by the husband-wife duo Mortimer Chatterjee and Tara Lal, the eponymous gallery floated around the city between 2003 to 2007 before finding its permanent home on the first floor of Kamal Mansion, a space with warehouse dimensions and a seedy past that includes a brothel and a pool bar. We speak to Mortimer Chatteriee to know more about the gallery’s history and their work so far.

Chatterjee & Lal, Apollo Bandar, Colaba, Mumbai 400 005.



The City Story: Could you tell us a bit about the history of the gallery?

Mortimer Chatterjee: We both worked for the same auction house in India from 2001 to 2003. We then decided to concentrate more on contemporary art from South Asia. Around that time, very few platforms were open to showing experimental work like performance art, video, new media work. And that was very much the focus of our initial years. We were lucky, because there was this generation of artists who were our age, late 20s to early 30s, who did not have gallery representations. In a sense, we developed and grew with that generation of artists.

It was a moment in the trajectory of the city which was very receptive to new ideas and challenging and provocative work. We were the first gallery to show art coming out of Pakistan, for example. Also, the fact that the art market was beginning to expand for contemporary art allowed us to take risks.

Between 2003 and 2007, we were in a number of spaces. In 2007, we moved to the current gallery space in Colaba and have been here ever since.

TCS: How did you choose this place? What’s its history?

MC: This place used to be a brothel, and then it was a pool bar for some time.

This location is close enough to the existing art district in Kala Ghoda, and yet it’s slightly on the cheaper side. Especially in 2007, it was a very affordable proposition as the area had not yet gentrified.

Because of its warehouse dimensions, it was very amenable to showing art, especially the kinds of art we wanted to show. Also, a number of our friends and colleagues started showing in the same lane. Within two years, there were nearly 6 or 7 galleries at the same strip. Sadly, that’s not the case anymore.

So yes, the attraction to this space was because it was centrally located, cheap enough, and with the dimensions we needed.

TCS: Is there any particular exhibition in which you have especially experimented with the space?

MC: In 2010, artist Kabir Mohanty had mounted this interactive work where visitors were invited to walk into a kind of sandpit which had these microphones and sensors which would set off different sequences of sound depending on where you walked. It was extremely sophisticated. We had placed microphones outside the gallery which were feeding noises from the street into the artworks. So you could never be sure if you were listening to live sounds from the street, recorded sounds, or the sounds of your feet, as it were. That, I feel, was a very interesting use of the physical space.

TCS: What have been the most breakthrough shows so far?

MC: I would point to our two shows with Rashid Rana, in 2004-05 and 2007-08. Then we have done a two-part retrospective of Nasreen Mohamedi back in 2004-05. We have also done major shows with some Japanese artists (2008) in collaboration with the Japan Foundation. We did a series of exhibitions called ‘Simple Tales’, where we juxtaposed classical art with contemporary. This, in my view, was the first time that a contemporary art gallery in Mumbai created an exhibition that speaks to a longer historical timeline.

TCS: There has increasingly been a shift in your gallery towards showcasing historical material.

MC: Yes, absolutely. We are now pitching C&L as a space for contemporary art and historical material. There is still so much research and historical scholarship that needs to be done in visual arts. Contemporary art galleries can have a very progressive role in spearheading that trend. Especially because contemporary artists do look to their forbears to kind of think about influences and their own practices, so why shouldn’t galleries look to earlier periods in order to inform the works of the contemporary artists they show at their galleries?

chatterjee and lal

TCS: You have also done quite a few gallery swaps. What’s your view on that?

MC: We have done gallery swaps with a few galleries in New Zealand and New York. We started doing this back in 2008, when there wasn’t much of a model for doing this, and art fairs were considered a better way for galleries to travel to another city. However, in the last 10 years, the gallery exchange trend has really taken off. There is an art fair in New York called Condo in which NYC’s galleries give space to international galleries for a period of time. It allows the travelling galleries to really embed themselves in a city without the cost associated with an art fair, and they can use the existing infrastructure of their host galleries, leverage their networks, mailing lists, press contacts, etc. So it is a low cost and very effective way to reach out to a whole new demographic.

TCS: What’s the most fun part and the most tedious part about running a gallery?

MC: Interaction with the artists is what we enjoy the most.

Accounts is the answer to the second part. Also, the political situation. The freedom or the perceived freedom to show what we want has become somewhat constrained in the last 5 to 6 years. Whether that’s an imagined fear or real fear, I don’t know. But it is certainly something that has seeped into the consciousness of the community.




Makers of Mumbai: Rhea Chhabria of SuckIn Straws

SPACE EXPERIENCE PEOPLE FOOD + DRINK VIDEO suckin straws metal disposable single use straws rhea chhabria


Rhea Chhabria always had the urge to do more for the environment and animals. When her pleas with restaurant owners to quit single-use straws fell on deaf ears, she co-founded SuckIN – reusable and eco-friendly bamboo and metal straws, stirrers, and cleaners.


The City Story: Why did you start SuckIN Eco Straws?

Rhea Chhabria: In November 2017, I was having brunch at Bastian when I met Chef Kelvin Cheung and applauded him for using paper straws. But he was disillusioned and not at all satisfied and asked me to help him find something reusable. I had made several repetitive attempts to convince other restaurant owners to quit single-use straws but failed. Therefore, I decided to take matters into my own hands and contacted my partner, Suraj Nair, to make reusable straws. We came up with the idea of metal and bamboo straws, and that gave birth to SuckIN in January 2018.

TCS: Why opt for bamboo and stainless steel as base materials?

RC: Stainless steel is a light, durable, rust-proof, flavour-free material that is available in food grade and medical grade quality; it doesn’t react with acids that might be present in foods and lasts a lifetime, just like your cutlery.

Bamboo, on the other hand, is a natural product that is fast growing, native to India, and inherently hollow, making it the perfect straw to be used up to 20 times and then put into your wet waste to naturally degrade.

TCS: How safe and hygienic are these products since they can be reused?

RC: Cleaning properly is the key factor for their safe usage. All the inner surfaces of SuckIN straws are smoothened, preventing any residual food particles, and we provide cleaning brushes that can clean the innards of the straws. Alternatively, our straws are also dishwasher safe, making the process of cleaning extremely simple and easy, whether at home or in a restaurant. We use only the best quality of steel which is rust proof, lead-free, BPA-free, and flavour-free. Using a SuckIN straw is as safe as using a spoon/fork. Bamboo is a natural product, so it doesn’t contain any chemicals. It is equally easy to clean, but being a natural product it catches on to strong natural and artificial colouring present in foods. It also could get damaged if someone has a habit of chewing on straws. We would recommend keeping it in a dry place to dehydrate it thoroughly before storing, to avoid any growth of fungus.

suckin straws metal disposable single use straws rhea chhabria

TCS: It is said that although a stainless steel object can be recycled, it does not degrade. By that logic, how sustainable it is?

RC: The whole concept of stainless steel straws is that they become like your cutlery, as they last a lifetime. Stainless steel can be recycled multiple times. When need be, the steel can be melted into liquid form and converted into a new object, thus never ending up in a landfill. Our products follow the rule of the 3 Rs – reduce, reuse, and recycle, making them eco-friendly.

TCS: What are the challenges you faced setting this up, and how did you cope?

RC: Hailing from a design background, business development and management is absolutely new for me, but my partner, Suraj, has guided me through the journey. The major issues we face as a startup are addressing people’s concerns over the safety issues of reusable straws. Another pointer that our clients in the hospitality business are irritated about is of theft of straws by their customers. To combat this, we started engraving the logo of each restaurant on the straw to make their customers aware that the straw belongs to the restaurant.

TCS: What keeps you going?

RC: Preserving our planet is the need of the hour. The inherent need to see change is what keeps me going. I have grown up near Juhu beach that had clean, light sand, seashells, fish, and sea birds and have seen it transform over the years into a plastic dump with carcasses of dolphins, turtles, and whales washing up ever so often. As a scuba diver and an avid traveller, I have seen swathes of plastic floating in the sea and have always wanted to do something about it. So, having a green alternative to straws and stirrers help us prevent single-use plastic landing up in the oceans, thereby protecting marine life.

suckin straws metal disposable single use straws rhea chhabria

TCS:  How green conscious is your lifestyle?

RC: We are all aware about how consumption of meat, seafood, dairy products, and leather goods damages our planet. I gave up non-vegetarian food and leather goods in February 2016. I still do eat fish when I am travelling internationally for lack of vegetarian options. I have reduced dependency upon single-use plastic at home and in the office. Using a bamboo toothbrush, biodegradable sanitary napkins and soap bars, carrying my own reusable cutlery and water bottles, etc. are some options I religiously adhere to. In fact, anybody with a green responsibility can adopt such a lifestyle.

TCS: What are SuckIN’s future plans?

RC: We aim to create a variety of products to replace single-use plastic items. Our goal currently is to replace every plastic straw in India with reusable and eco-friendly alternatives. We can also style these options as corporate gifts. We are also working on cheaper options that we can sell to coconut vendors, udipi restaurants, and fast food chains. We are positive that we will be able to achieve all these in the next five years.

Photographs courtesy SuckIN Straws



Makers of Mumbai: Nishchay Gogia of Moochwala



Moochwala was launched in August 2015 with t-shirts dedicated to lovers of moustaches and beards. Since then, it has steadily grown into the one-stop shop for all things mooch, making moustache-inspired items like quirky bowties, mugs, mobile covers, diaries, and more. We caught up with its founder Nishchay Gogia who tells us about its origins, social causes, and what he’s learned about Mumbai’s shopping habits.

moochwala nischay gogia


The City Story: How and when did Moochwala’s journey begin?

Nishchay Gogia: It was [in 2015]. I was planning a solo trip to Spain and wanted to carry a couple of fun graphic t-shirts with me. I was a bit disappointed to find there were only two options available anywhere I looked that played around with the concepts of moustaches and beards, and I already owned them.

While away, I noticed that beard trend wasn’t isolated to India; it was all over the world. So once I got back I got in touch with my designer friend Amrita Saluja and discussed the possibility of working to fill this gap in graphic t-shirts together, and Moochwala began. A lot of names were scouted at first, and we almost locked on “Moustache Mania”, but we found Moochwala to be more generic. Like you see someone with a beard and moochwala–daadheewala is the first thing that comes to mind. It makes it easier for the brand to travel.

TCS: Do you have a background in design?

NG: No, I don’t. I’m not a design person, I’m an ideas person. I enjoy cracking quotes. As a creative director in television, I’m good with keeping track of trends and manage to come up with t-shirt around that. So when Wild Wild Country was all that everyone could talk about, we came up with a t-shirt that said “Wild Wild Beard”. Also, some of our products and designs are seasonal. We have Moochwala rakhis that pop in during Raksha Bandhan that have been very popular. Also during Diwali we’ve had tops with quotes centred around the festival.

TCS: What is the connection between Moochwala and Mumbai? Do you consider the city a nurturing space for a business like yours?

NG: Definitely. I’m a Bombay boy; born and brought up in the city. Mumbai is a city where we have people from all over the country. It’s a great testing ground for a brand, in that sense. You get such a wide and varied sample to test your products on.

moochwala nischay gogia

The city’s pulse, the pulse of the people, and the way they shop, changes every two stations. What I mean is, a Bandra and a Khar shop in a particular way, but a Mahim and a Matunga shop in a completely different way. Every two stations there’s a different shopping pattern. There are a few of our designs that work in a particular belt and others that do not work in a particular belt within Mumbai itself, and that provides a huge learning curve for any brand.

TCS: Since all your products revolve around the mooch and beard, does your name limit your customer base to men?

NG: Moochwala is for lovers of beards and moustaches. Having one – or both – is not a prerequisite to being a patron of the brand. The break-up of our customer base is something like 60 women to 40 men. I must say a large part of the credit goes to my good friend/guinea pig, TV actor Nakuul Mehta.

He has almost every t-shirt that Moochwala has ever made. I test new stuff on him. Most of his following is female. Nakuul wears one of our shirts, he puts it up on social media, and I get five orders for that t-shirt almost instantly. Also, most of our t-shirts are what you’d call boyfriend fit t-shirts. We also have crop tops and V-necks for the ladies.

moochwala nischay gogia

TCS: Moochwala is more than just a brand offering merchandise. You’ve also often voiced an opinion on social matters.  

NG: Yes. Moochwala has a big mooch, a big beard, and a bigger mouth. We’re not afraid to talk about things that matter. It’s great to have a platform with some 5000-6000 followers where I have the opportunity to put something out that I feel strongly about.

In the past, we had this tie up with the film Phullu to put an end to period shaming and talk about menstrual hygiene somewhere in 2016.

As a brand, we also want to stand for people that are not afraid to talk. Another one of the issues I was eager to address was awareness for depression that often leads to suicide. All of our t-shirts come with a back print. The idea is whenever you see someone with a Moochwala logo on his or her back the concept was, “I’ve got your back you can talk to me.”

TCS: Is there something that’s stayed with you since the start of Moochwala?

NG: One of the most heart-warming experiences since the launch of Moochwala has been watching the response to our campaign Bhaag Anil Bhaag. We wanted to raise the funds to allow Anil Kumar, a 38-year-old woodcutter from Kerala who was shortlisted for the Asian Masters Athletic Championship, to get to China and compete.

moochwala nischay gogia

So I came up with the idea, and Nakuul was the face of the campaign where we sold t-shirts with the slogan “Be BadAsso”. The response we got was phenomenal. We had orders coming in from Pakistan, Dubai, South Africa, the UK, the US, and everywhere. We reached our goal in three days. To make such an impact it was a big win for us.

TCS: So how do we get our hands on some Moochwala goodies?

NG: We’re reachable on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. A simple Direct Message on any of these platforms enquiring about our products will get you a swift response. Our transactions are currently only via PayTM and online payments. We deliver all over the country and internationally as well. We also do pop-ups at fairs where and when we can.



Makers Of Mumbai: Avinash Bhalerao Of Grain



It’s the simplicity of Grain’s designs that make them stand out. Their bags, made of ahimsa leather, are handcrafted in founder Avinash Bhalerao’s elegant designs with clean lines and classic colours. We speak to Avinash about selling through social media, a typical day at the office, and what’s next for Grain.

grain avinash bhalerao


The City Story: Why did you choose leather as the main material for your bags?

Avinash Bhalerao: Genuine leather lasts a life time. I wanted to make something that lasts long and looks better with age. Leather has a unique quality of getting better and younger every day. Grain bags are such that there is no other material in the inside lining, just leather. We keep it raw to have a natural look and finish, thus making them more premium. We may have roots in leather but are also open to other materials which will help us achieve our vision of making decent, minimal bags. We have already started experimenting with different cloth and canvas materials.

I’m involved in every stage of making the bags, right from sketching the designs to being present when the craftsmen do their thing, it is almost as if the distinction between the artisan and the designer vanishes and the sole point of it all is to make that one bag that would just leave you with immense amount of satisfaction and a smile on your face.

TCS:  You don’t advertise. How do your customers find you?

AB: We have social media presence on both Facebook and Instagram where we share updates about our products, which helps us spread the word, but we also get lot of help from word of mouth where someone who has bought our products share their good experience with others and they directly reach out to us via phone or email. As of now we are happy with organic users we get from Facebook, Instagram, and word of mouth.

grain avinash bhalerao

Our buyers get to see our entire catalogue on their email, and after detailed discussion with us they order their required product. All our consumers get a personal touch from us while deciding which product they want to buy. (Ed. Note: You can reach Grain at info@grainindia.com or +91 98678 40439)

TCS: What does a typical day in the office look like for you?

AB: Working on new designs, managing the production floor, and making sure all orders are reaching consumers on time.

TCS: How does Mumbai feed a designer’s creativity? Has it had any influence on how you conceptualise/design products for Grain?

AB: Mumbai has given us both love and fame and good clientele list and response. We have started with a small thing and now we are growing larger. Mumbai is the best platform for creativity; everyone here welcomes your work and supports you.

grain avinash bhalerao

TCS: On the flip side – does the city pose any challenges for a small business as it grows?

AB: Every business, small or big, faces challenges with increasing competitors and changing rules and regulations. As a business, we just make sure to keep working hard and to keep getting up whenever we fall.

TCS: If you had to pick just one thing, what is your favourite part of your job and why?

AB: Designing a new product is the best part, as designing is in my soul.

TCS: What’s your personal favourite Grain product and why?

AB: The Galloway backpack; it’s very minimal.

grain avinash bhalerao

TCS: What’s next for Grain?

AB: We will soon have e-commerce website going live, so consumers will be able to check our catalogue online and directly buy the product they like from our website. We are also working on opening a Grain Shop soon, which will be located in one of the best locations in Mumbai for buyers who want to touch and feel our products before buying.

TCS: What’s your favourite thing to do in the city on your day off?

AB: Sketching.



42 Questions With Adhuna Akhtar

adhuna bhabani


In this series, we ask people the hard questions about things that matter – like man buns, footballs, and secrets from the chair.

This week we talk to actor Adhuna Akhtar, babe, Bollywood’s bringer of curls to screen, and founder of BBlunt,  who has changed the way we regard hairstyling and hairstylists.


1. Is every day a good hair day for you? 

I wish!

2. Who does your hair? 


3. Man buns – yay or nay?


4. Liverpool or Everton?


5. What position do you play in the OD Squad? 

Owner along with my partner for the new season Nitya Mehra. 

6. Who’s your favourite football player?


7. How old were you when you rode your first horse?

Four years old

8. Where do you ride horses in Mumbai now?

At Japalouppe Equestrian Centre in Talegaon. 

9. Do you have a scooter like a good Bandra girl?


10. Did you bring curly girls to Bollywood? 

I’d like to think that we [the BBlunt team] helped..

11. Free will or destiny?

Free will

12. Dogs, cats, or horses?

Dogs and horses with equal vigour!

13. What’s one thing that hasn’t changed for teenage girls?

The Patriarchy

14. What’s one thing that has?


15. What advice did your mum give you that you’d give your girls?

‘If at first you do not succeed, try, try again!’… Amongst many other legendary words of wisdom my Mum has shared with me. 

16. Do your girls borrow your clothes or vice versa?


17. What’s one thing any woman can carry off? 

A great haircut! 

18. What’s your personal style mantra? 

Whatever I feel in the mood for!🤣

19. What’s a good hat for girls for Mumbai?

Any hat! I love hats – find one that suits your face shape and shields your eyes from the sun. 

20. What do you first notice in a guy?

I first notice everyone’s hair…. it’s an occupational hazard!

21. What country in the world breeds the sexiest guys? (Generalisation we know) 

Europe… generalisation 🤪

22. Biggest turn off? 

Ugly shoes

23. What is the worst thing we’re doing to our hair? 

Growing it to extraordinary long lengths even if it it’s in bad condition! A regular haircut and conditioning regimen helps. 

24. Are silk pillows really the answer to great skin and hair?

I highly doubt it.

25. How many nationalities/ethnicities make up Adhuna Bhabani?

British Isles (English, Irish, and Welsh) and India (Bengali)

26. What’s the most British thing about you?

My passport

27. What’s the most Bengali (or Bandra) thing about you?

I enjoy eating seafood!

28. How long have you known your best friend?

Since I was born…

29. How many ‘friends and family’ haircuts do you give a month?

Not many… it varies

30. What’s changed in Mumbai on the salon chair?

Our clients know more now than they did 20 years ago… there is easy access to what’s available outside of India. 

31. What’s changed outside the door?

The traffic has increased, travel has become a pain in the neck… The lack of city planning… should I go on?

32. What will always be on your salon playlist? And on your own?

Hip Hop/ old school/funk

33. Do stylists still get told everyone’s secrets?

There is a fair amount of secret sharing between stylist and client… it’s important to build rapport… 

34. Without naming any names, what’s the most hair-raising thing you’ve heard from someone in the chair?

I can’t pick one!

35. Where in Mumbai do you go out drinking and dancing?

My home, homes of friends… I’m getting old 

36. What Mumbai watering hole do you miss the most?

The Ghetto… 

37. Where do you head to when you have two days to escape?

Goa or the hills

38. Do you have a favourite spa?

No.. I wish I had time to ‘spa’… perhaps in some other lifetime.

39. What’s the worst part about running an empire?

Having to juggle everything that needs to be addressed yet managing to motivate and be positive all the time, for everyone. 

40. What’s the best?

The pleasure of watching everyone’s journey and growth 

41. Finish the sentence – Boys will be…

Equal to girls. 

42. Who runs the world?

They’re not running it… they’re ruining it. 

Photograph courtesy Rafique Sayed