Is Shehar Mein…

Wonder what Emraan Hashmi would have done then—till a few years ago, many housing societies in the suburbs did not want to allow film people into their buildings. The person’s religion had nothing to do with it, they were afraid of the corrupting influence of film people on their kids—ordinary folks believed the “film line” was full of drunk, debauched, immoral men and women.

When someone in my building wanted to keep a film aspirant as a paying guest, a lot of neighbours protested. But the PGs turned out to be young, well-behaved graduates of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) looking for work and a foothold in the city. Like the upcountry migrant, when one finds space in a particular area, others make a beeline for the same, and for a while, Santacruz was buzzing with FTII types, who them moved on en masse either to their own apartments or out of the city depending on how their careers went. But while they lived around, they did nothing noisier than playing cricket with the building kids, and maybe breaking a few glass panes.

Maybe it’s the discomfort with public perception of them, or maybe just because they like to hang out in flocks, film people cluster around certain areas. When Pali Hill was just a green overgrowth, film stars started building their bungalows there, and it came to be known as the Beverly Hills of Bombay. Years later, when high-rise apartments came up in Pali Hill, many actors made Nibbana their home – the very building in the eye of a controversy for refusing entry to Hashmi.

Then real estate rates in Bandra skyrocketed and the film community moved further north to Juhu. When Dev Anand had built his bungalow in Iris Park, there was no habitation for miles around, now people from neighbouring buildings can peer into his garden.

Soon enough Juhu was out of reach as well, and Versova started developing fast, and in a matter of a few years, large tracts of marshland were gone and apartment blocks came up, many of them housing members of the film industry. It is still said that throw a stone in Lokhandwala and chances are you will hit a film or TV type—at worst a ‘struggler.’

When Versova, Yari Road, Lokhandwala and Oshiwara became too crowded and expensive, the showbiz herd moved to Andheri East, Goregaon and all the way up to Malad. You could tell by the way these sleepy downmarket suburbs suddenly had new cars racing up and down and young people in flashy clothes (you can still spot a film aspirant a mile away), and the domestic help upped their rates.

A cluster of shabby building in Mahakali called PMGP (Prime Minister’s Grant Project) became the place for every film struggler to touch down at when they came to Mumbai. And the small one-room ‘kholis’ made by the government for “lower income groups” from Versova to Gorai, were taken up by the less prosperous rungs of film professionals.

Now, of course, housing societies bend backwards to have a star in the building, and every autowala and cabbie in the suburbs could give the gawping tourist a Bollywood tour. When they push their kids into performing vulgar gyrations on TV to Bollywood hits, who are they to judge film people?

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