The humble V N Purav Marg that connects Sion to Trombay was once the road that the who’s who of Bollywood took back in the 70’s and 80’s to head to the biggest Holi party hosted by filmmaker Raj Kapoor at the RK Studio’s, located at the eastern end of this road. Named after freedom fighter Vitthal Narayan Purav, who went on to become a politician with the Indian National Congress, the road is home to educational institutes, hospital and famous eating joints.
Ashok Ovlekar, 67, who belongs to a family that has been residing in this part of the city for 12 generations, said, “Purav, a freedom fighter had worked with the government of the day to build schools and libraries in the region.” The road has the Sion Fort at one end and goes right up to Trombay, on the highway, connecting Mumbai to Navi Mumbai, on the eastern part of the city.
A major chunk of the road is in Chembur has seen rapid development. “My grandfather used to say that majority of the land here belonged to the agri community. Most of the areas, which flank the road used to be grazing lands for cattle, and is still known as Charai Gaothan, which means grazing village in the local language,” Ovlekar said. Narrating stories that he heard from his grandparents and parents, he said, “In the early 1940’s and 50’s, the road wasn’t there and Chunabhatti used to be a huge marshland and people used to take ferries to go from Sion Fort to Turbhe village.”
Rahul Chemburkar, Conservation Architect and a resident of Chembur for more than 40 years, said, “In the mid-1960’s the urbanisation of the road started. It transformed Chembur from a hamlet to the urban and commercial space that it has now become. If you’re going out of the city or entering it from Navi Mumbai, you use VN Purav Marg. It is evident by the number of petrol pumps in the road.”
He added, “In the past, the road had weekend homes for city’s rich and the elite. The road was away from the city but still not aloof. Now, on the stretch one can see huge businesses being set up on either side of the road. Chembur has developed with the development of VN Purav Marg. The street has seen transformation from a laidback residential place to the noisy place of business that have grown along the street,” Ovlekar said. “It’s used by the fishermen and fisherwomen, who catch fish in Turbe village. A lot of businesses have been set-up in this area of the town. It also has colleges and housing societies and many people have moved to this part of the city,” said Ashok.
Landmarks here include the RK Studios, Diamond Garden, Tata Institue of Social Sciences and Surana Sethia hospital. “Festivals like Holi and Ganesh Chaturthi used to be huge because a lot of Bollywood stars came to these parts for the celebrations at RK studio”, added Ovlekar. In 2015, actor Rishi Kapoor tweeted photographs of the Holi parties held at the RK studios, which had stars like Amitabh Bachchan in attendance. He further tweeted that after Raj Kapoor’s death, the parties were discontinued. Diamond Garden, officially known as the Nag Acharya Garden, was built by Nag Acharya, who was a friend of VN Purav. A famous eating joint on VN Purav Marg is the Bhatt Vishranti Gruha. Known for its spicy Misal Pav, the place boasts of names like late Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray and other local politicians as their customers.
Like most roads in Mumbai, the VN Purav Marg too suffers from the traffic snarls. Vijay Dabade, an auto driver, said, “The street becomes congested in the evenings and it gets difficult to drive through in the area after sunset. It is only after 9 pm that the traffic eases.”