When the Riverfront Road developed, Natarani was swallowed up, nearly 122 sqm of land was lost. In 2015, Darpana lost the case of reclaiming its land, and a few months later in 2016, Mrinalini passed away. “We lost Natarani and then we lost my mother. It was a time of death, a time of destruction. We had to choose whether to remain in that or redefine our vision, our dreams and ourselves because Amma’s legacy was not meant for us to be defeated. So yes, there is a sense of loss, but there’s also rebirth,” says Mallika.
As Darpana celebrated its founder’s centenary this May, a new gallery was named after her. The only air-conditioned public space in this complex, it will host an interactive exhibition on Mrinalini’s life. To rebuild Natarani, they had to demolish the 1968 library-cum-dance studio built by architect Balkrishna Doshi. However, the main building, designed by architect Achyut Kanvinde in 1963, was left untouched. Mallika and Yadavan Chandran, Darpana’s artistic director, toured over a hundred theatres across the world to help redesign Natarani.
They commissioned architects Nimish Patel and Parul Zaveri of Abhikram to build Natarani’s most exotic feature — a seven metre wall. With its serrated bricks on the inside and curves lined with steel plates painted indigo on the riverside, it not only has become a popular photoshoot spot, but also cancels the traffic noise. Indigo, a dye produced in Ahmedabad in ancient times, and maroon are the signature colours of Darpana and Natarani.