Walking through the lanes of Bandra, the novelty of graffiti appears to be fading. The murals by Bollywood Art Project that brought alive the sleepy neighbourhood over the past five years, now look decrepit. Time has taken its toll — the paint has started to fade away, moss has begun to reclaim the walls, and the murals look like ghosts of an extinct art form. But two street artists, Harshvardhan “inkbrushnme” Kadam and Sachin “Drift” Shetty, are working towards its revival.
Over the past six months, the duo has created four pieces together in Bandra and many more across the city individually. “Our styles are complementary to each other, so it’s a smooth collaboration. While mine is based on mythological philosophies, Sachin’s is more meditative in nature,” says Kadam. Shetty, who worked with a magazine, would commission illustrations to Kadam, and that how they got acquainted.
We meet Shetty in a quaint bylane that connects Hill Road with Waroda Road in Bandra. One side of a 30-foot long wall is painted with a piece that covers three-fourths of its length. For this mural, both the artists started from two opposite ends of the wall, using white in the beginning to keep it minimal. Shetty’s abstract shapes are made using fluid lines, that gradually flow into more fuller forms. Kadam’s side of the mural is abstract too, but geometric. They both flow into the centre with a large Mayan God-like face looking down. “This is our first collaboration,” says Shetty. He used to do paste-ups — a form of street art where you take a printed art work and stick it on a wall — with Kadam in New Bombay three years ago.
This wall is also one of the most difficult walls they have ever worked on — it’s largely damaged, with chipped plaster and broken bricks. Certain parts of the mural have thicker paint than the rest, indicating the struggle the artist went through to paint it. “The entire wall was covered with moss. We tried to scrape it off, but with little success. It’s not possible to paint intricately on such walls,” rues Shetty. Most street artists, however, would not touch a wall that is not smooth, and one that has not been primed before. While their accommodating approach makes it tougher for them to work, it also gives the duo the freedom to paint whenever and wherever.
When Ranjit Dahiya of Bollywood Art Project approached them to paint a few walls in a Muslim-dominated chawl near MET, they agreed without giving it much thought. They took the little paint that Dahiya had at his studio and started to work on damaged walls in pink and black. The artists were surprised to see that despite the fact that the neighbourhood, chiefly occupied by people with financial constraints, were accepting and supportive of their work. “They would allow us to wash up at their one-room tenements, offer a snack and chai. Eventually, I was interacting with the people around, especially children, more than painting,”
This support from the community is what spurs the duo on. But Kadam and Shetty don’t find such an environment everywhere they go. After painting a dragon-shaped mural on a wall off Carter Road earlier this month, Kadam and Shetty received mails from a local resident demanding them to “stop ruining the look of Bandra”. There are many who have denied them permission to paint on their building walls. “Bandra has gotten saturated over time. We need to find more spaces for street art,” says Shetty. They are now looking for permissions for walls in New Bombay and in the Andheri-Versova belt. “People want to experience art. We just need to bring it to them,” he says.