‘Queen of the Suburbs’, that’s how the suburb of Bandra is descried, and rightly so! Everyone loves this suburb. It is the symbol of Mumbai’s cosmopolitan lifestyle. From the energetic nightlife, the seafronts of Bandstand and Carters Road and the celebrities, we are in awe of everything that Bandra has to offer. There’s so much happening in Bandra, so much life, so much excitement. It’s difficult to comprehend why just one suburb, in this huge a mega polis, has been blessed with so much. Well, we came across a Mumbaikar who is trying to understand what makes Bandra click. Discovering Mumbai presents Aalika who is working on a project, ‘The BandraProject’, which aims to unlock the mystery behind Bandra’s charm.
Aalika, a resident of the South Mumbai, completed her graduation in English with concentration in contemporary culture and media, from US. She has also studied at the New York Film Academy. The idea to start ‘The Bandra Project’ occurred to Aalika when she first moved to her office in Bandra, when she was working on a feature film script. As she slowly discovered Bandra, it dawned to her that Bandra is a very unique cultural space. “That’s when I decided to make a documentary so that I could capture the suburb before redevelopment completely changes it”, says Aalika.
To start off, the team began walking around the lanes of Bandra with a video camera, just to get a sense of the space. “On these trips we met a lot of people, some of whom became subjects of the film”, says Aalika. A lot of these meetings led to other introductions. “Everyone who finds out about the film has a million different suggestions about where and whom to shoot”, she says. It has been a very organic process, with not much of an agenda. Aalika, usually, doesn’t exclude much because she feels that one never knows what you are going to end up with. Hence, she explores pretty much everyone and everything, unless she feels that it really isn’t going to fit into the film.
The Bandra Project, being a unique project, has had its own challenges for Aalika and team. The biggest challenge was inherent in the nature of the project itself; the project being unscripted, they could never be certain of what they were going to get. “A person whom I thought would be great on camera could turn out to be the opposite and vice versa. I’ve had a shoot that I scheduled for one hour, turn into four hours, the majority of which was unusable”, says Aalika. The unpredictability, sometimes can lead to a lot of stress, but it is also the very thing that makes working on such a project so exciting. She feels that there is no real way to control this, unless you tell people what to say, but then it defeats the entire purpose. “So the only way to overcome it is to go with the flow and enjoy the experience”, says Aalika.
Support for the project has been overwhelming, right since the start. “No one had really documented Bandra in this way before”, says Aalika. Time and again, she receives queries from proud Brandaites about how they can help her with the project. Everyone has welcomed the camera’s, whether in their lanes or in their homes. Help has come in many forms; she recalls an incident where they were caught by the police thanks to their antic of making the cameraman sit on top of the car while driving around on the streets of Bandra. But thanks to a Bandraite, they were able to sort the mess out without any serious repercussions. “At the end of the day, Bandra is all about community and this project has become a symbol of that” says Aalika.
For Aalika, there has been a lot to learn from this project. The biggest learning however has been ‘to not focus on perfection’. “Especially with a documentary, as in life, sometimes the best parts are the ones that don’t go according to plan” she says. Right now she is focussed on completing the documentary and has not really thought about the future.
As for the question of what makes Bandra so special; this is what she has to say, “If I had to sum it up I think it’s the sense of community; right from the physical presence of small neighbourhoods, to the inexplicable feeling of belonging and camaraderie that the residents of Bandra have. People have the desire to be proactive and celebrate the spirit and culture of the suburb.”