If you have ever been to Mumbai as a tourist or live in the city that never sleeps, one of the most common places that you are taken to is the Ajanta caves. The ancient caves have some of the oldest murals you can see in the city and the art is only been evolving since. Decades ahead, mural art has transformed into becoming one of the finest mediums to witness street art. Contemporary Indian muralists have ushered in a new outlook to classic art which reflects the spirit of the city. MW talks to mural artists across the country to understand their process, the future of street art, and how they bring city walls to life through their creative quests.

NEETHI, BENGALURU-BASED ILLUSTRATOR, MURALIST AND DESIGNER

Ukkadam Art District 

We have stacks of colourful plastic chairs. Since there’s limited water supply, kudams/water pots are a common sight at Ukkadam. I’ve also taken inspiration from the patterns on the colourful clothes wires that deck the lanes of Ukkadam. Television sets and phones act as portals to escape to a fantastical universe. The TV screens of the murals are activated via AR, with the central TV playing a montage of the common sights at Ukkadam.

WeWork Oberoi

This mural is inspired by the Kabootar Khanas (Pigeon Parks) of Mumbai. The artwork adds movement and colour, and opens up the main lounge space.

WeWork Seawoods

As the first WeWork in Navi Mumbai, I wanted to make it playful, and give a nod to the landmarks around the location. This mural is inspired by the Ferris Wheel ride at Wonder Park. Instagram #InTheMaking campaign. From dance and music, to exploring hula hooping, my #InTheMaking mural for Instagram celebrates the thriving creative community of India that continues to uplift our spirits every single day.

Paint by Numbers

A Paint By Numbers mural event I conducted at the Itsy Bitsy fair in 2018. From seven-year-olds to 40-year-olds, it was amazing to have so many hands go into a single painting. Art can let you build a community anywhere within minutes.

ANPU VARKEY, BENGALURU-BASED MURALIST

Harvest Moon, Bangalore

This was an unplastered wall, and it stood at an intersection. There were many religious symbols around the area, and I wanted to make something that would connect with people. The moon is a metaphor for love, longing, for finding our sense of alignment within the universe, and it means something to everyone. Within her stride This is from Bangalore in April 2021. It was for a project promoting walking and cycling in and around Malleshwaram, and through street art, they wanted to enliven the spaces and make them safer spaces for women. I was interested in the motions of a walk, and the way the saree is worn by working women, which is a little higher than normal, just above the ankles. Also, the way the saree falls around the ankle is pure poetry.

Within her stride

Toss in Trivandrum

I wanted to connect the two walls which were facing each other, and I decided to make two players play with each other, much like in life there is always an opponent, or an opposing idea to any thought. Toss is also about the stance and body posture that each player holds while making a move. There’s also a stadium around this underpass, which also helped me visualise this.

Tension

This was done in Alappuzha, Kerala March 2021, as part of a curated exhibition called Lokame Tharavadu. The city is known for its coir industry, they make ropes and it’s the leading industry there. I wanted to give a tribute to the workers there, looking at the labour involved. But it’s also a tug of war, where two sets of hands (there are both male and female hands used for it) are seen pulling a rope.

Dizzy

This was done in Mahim, Mumbai, for a st+art India project. This work is about strength, and the feeling of weightlessness. I was attracted to the windows that adorned each side, and imagined a girl hanging upside down from a branch between them. It also pertains to that memory in childhood when we weren’t afraid to try new things.

RANJIT DAHIYA, FOUNDER OF BOLLYWOOD ART PROJECT (MUMBAI)

Money Heist

I made this in 2021. It is a 156ft/126ft mural art located at the Reclamation flyover, Bandra, Mumbai. It was obviously an ode to the Netflix show, Money Heist. Asha Parekh, Helen and Waheeda Rehman Made in 2021, this 25ft/50ft is an ode to the divas of the 70s. This art is also located in Chapel Road, Mumbai.

Asha Parekh, Helen and Waheeda Rehman

Made in 2021, this 25ft/50ft is an ode to the divas of the 70s. This art is also located in Chapel Road, Mumbai.

Irrfan Khan

Made in 2020, the art was a tribute to one of the finest actors in Bollywood. You can find this art in Waroda, Mumbai.

Amitabh Bachchan

I have always been a big Big B fan, which has always drawn me to make art as a tribute to the megastar. In 2017, I painted a 230ft/30ft art near the Toll Naka, Bandra- Worli Sea Link, Mumbai. I made another one back in 2009, which was a 10ft/10ft mural located in Bandra West, Mumbai.

SANSKAR SAWANT AKA CHEW’D PERFECT – A VISUAL ARTIST/ ILLUSTRATOR FROM MUMBAI

Hype in the city

This is a skate park that I designed in Carter Road, Mumbai. It was a part of a public interest project. We painted a skate park like a board game so that people could skate according to the infographics. It is the biggest and the only skate park in India. 

Maalai for Start India, Chennai

Maalai means a beautiful sunset in Tamil, and the inspiration behind this image was basically sunsets being my favourite time to paint in Chennai summers. The art is a composition of all the things I found around me that suits the entire place including Tamil typography, political communications, the board games they play, the rangoli patterns, etc.

Mascot installation for The White Crow

This is located in Jio World Drive, BKC. The art is more about having a mascot in a mall. I aim to make art that creates an impact on different target audiences.

Party Pooper Starter Pack

It is an installation which is inspired by the Indian commode style storage. The bottom has a cooling and a drainage system installed with the top designed as a commode stacked with beers along with other accessories like tissue roles, opener, etc. It’s a smaller pantry on wheels.

All of a Kind for Fila x Tinder

Fila and Tinder collaborated with artists to design sneakers. The theme was how people leave out of my studio when they sort of play around with my stationery and paints and end up drenched in colours. So they enter the studio all white, but leave all covered in colours.