Mumbai’s centre of gravity is poised to shift from South to Bandra. Rishi Majumder explores the phenomenon
Photographer: Pal Pillai
Bandra is the new heart of the city and South Bombay is the new suburb,” says filmmaker Karan Johar, who’s shifted from town to a flat at Union Park, and located his office in the suburb as well. But then Bandra has for some time been the home of the biggest of the big in the entertainment industry and sports. Co-incidentally, Sachin Tendulkar and Aishwarya Rai live in the same building. What’s invading Bandra now is just about everyone else – from executives, businessmen industrialists to even call centre employees. While the old folk in this ‘queen of the suburbs’ still remain, the new entrants rise steadily.
“Last year I sold a one-bedroom-hall-kitchen flat near Mount Mary for 55 lakhs. Today a flat in the same building is going for 80,” exclaims Naresh Gajraj, partner at Prime Realtors, a real estate firm. And Gajraj believes the property boom is here to stay. “What else can I say if I’m selling a shop with 250 square feet carpet area near Candies in Pali Hill (a popular restaurant) for 35 lakhs?” he says. What’s more, he’s convinced that property prices at Pali Hill, Mount Mary and Carter Road will continue shooting up the way it has. Avvas Corporation’s Najmuddin Bookwala is optimistic that the boom will spread to other parts of the suburb as well. “The reclamation area, Hill Road and Gaothan areas are to be watched, for steep property increases,” he says.
Gaothan areas are occupied by fishermen. Bookwala claims these areas will be redeveloped by the government, leading to decongestion through re-planning and development, leading consequently to construction opportunities. But coming back to the present, with property prices touching Rs 60,000 per square foot (Linking Road), Bandra seems to have in some cases touched town prices already. And things are yet to happen…
Everyone who has shifted or plans to shift residence or business to this “suburb with character and quaint by-lanes”, as restaurateur AD Singh puts it, is waiting for two things – the shifting of a chunk of South Mumbai business to the BKC (Bandra Kurla Complex) and the completion of the Bandra Worli Sea Link. “The Business district known as Nariman Point, will be relocated at the Bandra Kurla Complex,” says Sudhir Bahl, owner of Khyber, Red Light and Squeeze. “The multinational crowd will move base almost completely into Bandra Kurla Complex. Which logically means they’ll be residing at Bandra,” says Johar, matter-of-factly.
Adman Prahlad Kakkar brings in another perspective here. “If the scheme to develop Dharavi as an ancillary to the BKC is successful, imagine developing 400 acres of prime property that is bracketed on both sides by rail lines.” Kakkar goes on to say that together BKC and Dharavi in future will be the new Nariman Point, while Bandra will be the new most wanted residential area. The other factor, the Bandra Worli sea-link, is something a tad more distant than the BKC. “All I’ll say is let it happen,” says Harish Chainani MD, Police Timepieces and Jewellery. Bookwala, however, feels it’s more than worth the wait as “this connection between Bandra and South Mumbai will truly make this ‘suburb’ Mumbai’s most central area”.
One effect of this population shift has been an infusion of younger crowd into the suburb. “Bandra is today defined by the great energy of the young generation who live life on their own terms, not on parental money or name,” states designer Manish Malhotra, who resides and works in the area. This young crowd, ranging from multinational executives and those involved in TV, glamour and films to BPO workers, is good news to many a gym, nightclub, restaurant or café owner. Bahl, for instance, has mirrored Khyber and Red Light over 10,000 square feet of area at Kalaghoda, in Bandra, off S V Road, over 15,000 square feet with Squeeze and a second Khyber.
“The crowd north of Worli was eluding us. We couldn’t allow that,” he explains, adding that there’ll soon be another roof top restaurant in the Bandra establishment. “These young people have money but aren’t snooty. They want to look good and socialise and love life,” points out Leena Mogre, who recently launched her health club Leena Mogre’s Specialised Fitness Gym, in Khar.
And it isn’t only certain areas in Bandra that are predicted to ride the property wave. When Bahl and his partners set up Squeeze and Khyber, they bought land at a lane off S V Road because they got it at Rs 5,000 per square feet, as opposed to 30,000 at Linking Road, four years ago. “S V Road is known as Linking Road’s poor cousin, but that’s not because of location, but the quality of the neighbourhood,” says Bahl. He claims that once a few brands invest in S V Road, real estate prices will shoot up there as well.
But wouldn’t all this development accompany a fear of congestion? “Commercialisation can happen in a nice way too. There’ll still be our hills and lanes,” Malhotra debates, adding that one shouldn’t condemn progression for such fears. While Bookwala and Gajraj hope for many bungalows in Bandra being converted into Multi-storey, Chainani has his fears – “If the roads and infrastructure for water supply and power don’t develop simultaneously, we’re in for big trouble!” Mogre too points out – “What’s the point of having huge multi-storeys without providing for the water and other infrastructure. But while this fear isn’t unfounded, most feel that it’s Bandra’s capability to assimilate the new while retaining its old world feel that attracts residents. A D Singh, for instance, talks of Bandra in the same vein as one would of a European village – “However crowded it gets, it retains its charm. There’ll always be beautiful places you can walk to or walk around.”
“Anyone can see that Bandra’s the next central hub of the city. If a government still can’t provide for power and water to match its demands, it should step aside,” states Kakkar plainly, and moots for self government, if necessary. Which is apt, Bandra being the first suburb to implement autonomous government – it manages its own boulevards at Carter Road and Bandstand. “Through vigilante committees we’ll look after all the properties in our area ourselves!”
Linked to the fear of congestion, is the fear Bandra’s vanishing culture, making it more like town than many would prefer. Kakkar advocates maintaining essential elements of this culture. Disagreeing with Bookwala, he says, “Hopefully we’ll preserve the Gaothan. They add that mysterious element to Bandra which few places have.” Akashdeep Saigal, a TV star who’s lived in the suburb for 25 years, agrees as he remembers, “There was New Talkies, an old fashioned theatre I loved which used to play English movies. Now that’s been replaced by a mall.” However even he wraps up with, “Whatever happens is for the best, and anyway, you can’t do anything about change – it’s bound to sweep in with its good and bad.” Where the law and order situation is concerned however, Joint Commissioner of Police Arup Patnaik assures – “The law and order situation has n’t worsened due to the change in culture. In fact the underworld influences that earlier plied have now diminished.”
While it’s normal that property dealers won’t be worried about crowding multiplexes or apartment towers, they are wary of manipulated prices. “Certain areas in Reclamation, Link Road and Veronica Road are highly priced only because of hype,” claims Bookwala. He worries about the residential areas on link road being sold to commercial enterprises—”In Delhi, the government and court took action against the same kind of congestion, which led to a drastic fall in price. Commercial buyers here should learn from that.” Even if they don’t, they should remember – Manhattan wasn’t spared its growing pains either.
This article first appeared in Mumbai Mirror, Times Of India: http://alturl.com/6nni