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Deconstructing Mumbai: The city of extremes

Aman Kanth

Jaipur: Mumbai is the bustling financial epicentre of India; indeed, it is the magical metropolis, an extreme city where people are chasing their dreams.

On Day 4 of DSC Jaipur Literary Festival, Gyan Prakash and Sonia Faleiro share their thoughts on Mumbai with Madhu Trehan at the Kingfisher Airlines Baithak.

Gyan Prakash and Sonia Faleiro discuss their books, ‘Mumbai Fables’ and ‘Beautiful Thing’ respectively, which describe Mumbai in a diametrically opposite way. If Gyan’s ‘Mumbai Fables’ is the history of Mumbai, Sonia Faleiro’s ‘Beautiful Things’ is the story of Leela – a dancer cum bar girl from Mumbai.

Though Gyan and Sonia’s books come from completely different background, their narratives are based in Mumbai. If ‘Mumbai Fables’ brings together myth, architecture, films, music and Dalit poetry together, ‘Beautiful Things’ is a gripping story of a dancer cum bar girl Leela. Apparently, both books reflect on Mumbai, sociologically and culturally.

Talking about their respective works, Gyan Prakash and Sonia Faleiro shared anecdotes about their wonderful books with the audience.

Sonia’s book narrates the life of a 19-year-old Leela, who works in a dance bar and loves the economic independence of her profession. Talking about her Mumbai experience, Sonia said that she was “fascinated and repelled by Mumbai”. Though running briskly since the 1970s, when the Maharashtra government declared these dance bars as illegal, more than seventy thousand women have been thrown back to the streets. Sonia’s book is a fictional account of one such bar girl.

If Sonia’s book is based on the marginalised sub-culture of Mumbai, Gyan’s book is based on the conceptual and figurative Mumbai. Talking about his image of Mumbai, Gyan said that it was based on “images of actor Johnny Walker, Dev Anand-Waheeda Rehman romancing on the Marine Drive, Mario Miranda’s cartoons and Blitz magazine. I dug under these images and found fables about Mumbai - the out of control mega city.”

The bracing session was followed by a book reading session by both Gyan Prakash and Sonia Faleiro and their views on the city of extremes – Mumbai.