Thursday, November 25, 2010

Bollywood posters

If you enjoy exploring the Bazaars in India, there is an antique market in Bombay with shops that sell posters from Bollywood movies. This can be an exciting way to spend an afternoon in Bombay. ‘Bollywood Bazaar’ is the name of a shop on Mutton street at Chor Bazaar in Mumbai that sells Bollywood posters and other Film memorablia from Hindi films. It has been a shop in this antique market since the last 65 years. It was in the ‘80’s that Shahid Mansoori first began to keep his own personal collection of film memorablia in his father’s shop here.

For Shahid, this was a passion and his sources were Cinema halls that were closing down, offices of distributors and private collectors. There are about forty people all over India who help him source the material. In the early days, few people took interest in buying old film posters. Today, Shahid sells in India as well as abroad. Every year, his collection is displayed at a private exhibition in Paris which is organised in collaboration with a French art dealer.

Posters can cost from Rs.50 to Rs.5000, depending on whether it is an original first print or a 2nd or 3rd print. In the old days, these were only hand-painted posters. Shahid also has some of these rare hand-painted ones in his collection. He has gathered also the booklets with song lyrics from films which were usually made available to the public after the release of a new Hindi film.

The original shop that belonged to the family was called ‘Mini market’. Later, Shahid Mansoori purchased two more shops on the same street. One of them is ‘Bollywood Bazaar’ which hires out film memorablia like posters, records and photographs and is managed by Shahid’s son Wahid.

The second shop is called ‘Super Sale’. It is managed by Sajid, his second son and caters primarily to a foreign market. They also have a warehouse that stocks more material which is often used in their ‘Film and T.V. serials’ decoration assignments. Sajid mentions that the two books that I might find useful are ‘Living Pictures’ by David Blamey and ‘Bollywood Posters’ by Sheena Sippy.

If one is a lover of Bollywood films and memorablia, Shahid Mansoori offers to relate tales of how some of the posters and photo stills of Hindi film actors and actresses found their way to his shop. In an antique bazaar and to an antique lover, it is perhaps these tales that are so much what he seeks. If you were to take a ‘Bollywood Bazaar tour’ it would center around these shops called the ‘Mini-market’ and ‘Bollywood Bazaar’ at this corner junction of Mutton street and its focal point would be Shahid Mansoori. It is a journey through time and a fun-filled one!

You can write to them at or call them on 91-22-23472427. They are closed on Fridays. 

Other Bazaar tours in India :
Bazaar Tour 1 : Dadar Flower Market, Mumbai
Bazaar Tour 2 : Antique market, Mumbai
Bazaar Tour 3 : Varkala, Kerala
Bazaar Tour 4 : Gandhi Bazaar, Bangalore

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Festival of Lights

It was Diwali last week and bazaars all over the city of Bangalore and everywhere in the country were “places” to experience the sanctity and joy that comes with this festival of lights. In a simple way, place means ‘character’ of a space. This is a term that needs to be understood since the design of architecture and city planning are based on experiential learning. As I now write this blogpost about a walk in the bazaar during the Festival of Lights, I think about the meaning of place and its relevance to an understanding of the Indian bazaar.

There are shrines and temples on the way to Gandhi Bazaar that are beautifully decorated with lights of different colour. The pushcart vendor and his business thrive in the shared light and shared festivity. 

Christian Norberg-Schulz mentions George Trakl’s poem Winter evening in his writings on the phenomenology of place. He says it is more than a point in the calendar. In our own context, we try to analyse this. Winter evening – it tells you that it is winter, it tells you that it is evening. Winter evening has two attributes – winter and evening. It conjures images of cold weather, dull and husky air, a sky that has less light than otherwise. Whereas winter is related to time of the year, evening is related to time of day. There is a small phenomenon embedded within a larger phenomenon. Within a city, different places have different numbers of attributes that define its character. Here again, some perceive all the attributes and create their definition of the character of the space. Others perceive a few of the attributes which make up for them another character of the space or the sense of place.

The Plaintain leaves that are being offered for sale on D.V.G. Road at Gandhi Bazaar become the decoration for the footpath as shoppers turn the corner, some to stop and buy the leaves for this auspicious time of the year, others to move onto the street beyond. 

Place is always more than the spaces we design. A place may have collective memory. Its character may be defined from what people remember about their experiences of or within that space. Each person in a city has a set of memories. These add up to make a place what it is. What Gandhi Bazaar is as a place could be defined by the collective memory of the many generations who have lived in Bangalore. 

The streets are made more beautiful by the lights that are up for sale and also the lights that the shopowners have jointly organised making the entry to the shopping experience more special.

Sometimes, an event also has a collective memory. For example, the collective memory of the Commonwealth Games 2010 would comprise of what took place before the start of the games and towards the preparation of it. It could also be the winning of medals from the Indian players. For an event of this nature, the collective memory of the place would necessarily need to be built up from people who are not only living near the stadium, or living in Delhi but people from all over the country. Similarly, the festival of lights builds up memories of the Gandhi Bazaar in our minds in many different ways. 

As years pass by, the Diwali festival is celebrated with new kinds of paper lantern designs coming out each year. The clay diyas or lamps continue to be sold year after year.

If one were to explore the idea of ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ - what are the inside and outside spaces in the context of a city? I may enter Bangalore from its outside, from another town, from a highway. I am now inside Bangalore city. In the past, a settlement had sometimes a fort and the walls of the fort determined the inside and the outside. A wall is the element that creates often the inside and the outside, also in a house. It creates an enclosure. What kind of enclosures do we have within our cities? The wall or the boundary. In a house, the wall is the boundary. In a city, the boundary may not be a visual barrier. The boundary may be a river, for example. In Benares, there is river, there are the ghats and there is the town. The ghats are not just a “series of steps’. There is a character, a sense of place. It has also collective memory.

There is a gentle rain and shoppers take shelter for a while. Soon the bazaar is alive again with some choosing paper lanterns and others gathering at the Granthige stores to choose what they need for the puja at home.

If you visit D.V.G.Road in the Gandhi Bazaar area during Diwali time, there is also an inside and an outside. One of the streets is covered with arches of lights, there are festoons and lanterns for sale, there are kiosks of popcorn, there is the loudspeaker announcing offers for discount sales. There is a note of welcome in the air as you step into the “inside” of the festive bazaar street with its arched lights. In India, with each festival season, urban spaces take on a different character. In the Bazaar, a sense of place is created with its own meaning for each of us. 

Read about :
Mylapore Temple Bazaar, Chennai
Fish market, Mumbai
Gandhi Bazaar, Bangalore
An afternoon in Festive Dussehra