How do you document a city? Artists have contended with this question over the ages as cities have constantly eluded them – from the heterogeneous and dynamic medieval metropolis to the elusive cosmopolitan energy of the contemporary urban space. Mumbai has been vibrantly portrayed across mediums in books like Maximum City and Shantaram and films like Salaam Bombay and City Lights. But the changing rhythms of the modern city seem to belie a definitive or even an adequate representation. And yet, we try.
Avid Learning’s Multipolis Mumbai series inherits this legacy of a passionate love for the city that translates into a desire to capture its essence. Only, it does it in the form of conversations – conversations about, conversations around, and conversations with the city. The series began in April 2012 with nine distinct discussions that interrogated how Architecture, Music, Food, Theatre, Fashion, Environment, Literature, Innovation, and Film influenced, and were influenced by, the city.
“The series looked at Bombay as a construct that supported or hampered creativity. How has Mumbai changed with the genre?” asks Asad Lalljee, Founder-Curator of Multipolis Mumbai. Held on the first Wednesday of every month, the original series took place at Studio X and was moderated by Naresh Fernandes who engaged with industry veterans like Kiran Rao (Film), Brinda Somaya (Architecture), Meher Castelino (Fashion), and others. The series became quite popular as audiences reacted positively and illustrious partners began to adopt individual genres, like Tata Literature Live! for Literature and TEDxGateway for Innovation.
But the genesis of the series was purely personal as Lalljee, back in Mumbai from New York, felt a certain dissonance with his city.
As Multipolis questions how the city is and has been an incubator for creativity and culture, there is an analogous moment when the series itself begins to illustrate the city’s organic dynamism. Lalljee describes how Avid actively curates Multipolis around events and people who happen to be in town. For instance, the series’ upcoming event, “Heritage and the City” took shape as Lalljee weaved together isolated individual encounters with Bharat Tiles, BARO’s inventive design, the national textile revival, and celebrations of khadi around Gandhiji’s 150th birth anniversary, to create a panel on the modern uses and consumption of India’s extensive textile heritage.