Mumbai: What do established television actors and Andheri have to do with each other? Why would their struggling colleagues, still having some catching up to do, plump for a Saibaba Complex or a Gokuldham of Goregaon (E)? And why do you bump into so many BPO and call-centre employees in Powai, Andheri (E) or Malad’s Mindspace?
The city, from the looks of it, is not through doing what the Kolis did several centuries back. People sharing an office or a trade are still giving the thumbs-up sign to the concept of professional ghettos that the Kolis first introduced to Mumbai and the diamond community (clustered at Malabar Hill, a stone’s throw from Panchratna, the diamond-trading hub at Opera House), the film community (initially based at Bandra and then Juhu) or the mill workers (who lived in central Mumbai’s Girgaum, Lalbaug, Chinchpokli and Parel) perfected.
These traditional ghettos are, of course, reformatting according to the new economy’s requirements. And, in the process, they are transforming the suburban localities – once out of bounds – into sought-after addresses.
“People are proud to say they live in Versova and they have a film star in their building,” says big-screen villain Gulshan Grover, who has a palatial 6,000-square-foot duplex at Versova and three beautiful women – Rani Mukherjee, Manisha Koirala and Sushmita Sen – for neighbours.
Versova, Grover says, is the new Beverly Hills of film stars. “Staying here makes sense for entertainment industry professionals as most film and TV studios are located here,” he says. Adds Arshad Warsi: “Versova has evolved so much that everything, from food to servants, is just a phone-call away.” That most of urban India boasts this USP is another story.
Lesser mortals – middle-level scriptwriters, assistant directors, small-time actors, cinematographers and make-up men – have congregated at Adarsh Nagar in Andheri, although their favourites are clearly Goregaon and Jogeshwari.
Entire clusters of television actors, writers and cameramen reside in Gokuldham, Saibaba Complex, Vanrai Complex and the surrounding areas of Goregaon (E). Cinematographer Sudhir Talsane was one of the first to move in at Saibaba Complex in 1993. “It was a kind of jungle then,” he says. The only thing going for that area was the rate: Rs 5 lakh for a one-bedroom-hall flat. Some 12 years later, the same flat costs Rs 15 lakh-Rs 20 lakh.
Not so cheap is Powai, now the Mecca of IT and BPO professionals. Even senior IT professionals are grunting that certain Powai localities – like the Hiranandani Complex – have become unaffordable. Powai corporator Chandan Sharma recalls that grandfather C D Sharma sold a huge tract of land to L H Hiranandani for Rs 300 a sq yard in the early ’80s. Hiranandani Complex’s current rate is over Rs 5,000 a square foot.
Rodas Hotel general manager Sunny Sriram says Powai has become hot property as most IT offices are located there. “IT professionals and corporate honchos don’t have to bother with the nitty-gritty of day-to-day living like commuting,” he says. “The night life, too, is good with many pubs and discs. I don’t think places like Parel and Lalbaug can match Powai.” Adds Powai Labs CEO and IIT alumnus Reapan Tikoo: “This locality holds a sentimental value for IIT alumni but, more importantly, it makes sense to stay here if you are from the IT world. We have the best infrastructure.”
It wasn’t like that in the 1980s, when Powai had no roads, electricity or telephones, says Hiranandani Constructions managing director Niranjan Hiranandani, claiming to have created not only the township but also provided infrastructure to attract IT.
For diamond merchants, it was Malabar Hill. “Most of us are Jain and vegetarian,” says Gitanjali Jewels CEO Mehul Choksi. “The development of Panchratna Building in Opera House was primarily due to its location.”
But with the diamond market slated to move to BKC, will the diamond merchants shift their residences to Bandra or somewhere nearby? “No,” says Choksi. “We will continue to stay at Malabar Hill. Travelling an extra hour to Bandra will be inconvenient but we will manage.”