AN EVENING IN BANDRA FORT

My search for a title for this blog ended when I was listening to music and came across a classic Hindi film ‘An Evening in Paris’. Not that this movie was filmed at the Bandra Fort in Mumbai, but it somehow resonates well with the place, because a host of actors from the film fraternity have graced this historic site.

Multi-starrer movies like Dil Chahta Hain, Wanted, Jane Tu Ya Jaane Na, Talaash, Aashiqui 2 and alike have opted for this landmark to depict romance, drama, songs, and action sequences. Over the years, the Bandra Fort has become a useful resource for the Indian and Foreign film-makers.

With a vision to promote and facilitate film shootings, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has set-up an institution called ‘Film Facilitation Office’ (FFO) in the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC). The FFO acts as a single-window for facilitation and to secure permissions that eases filming in India, and Bandra fort happens to be one of the listed locations on their website.

History:

Land’s End or Byramee Jeejeebhoy peninsula comprised of Bandra Fort and its adjoining area, including the hill. As the southern-most tip of Bandra, Land’s End played a critical role in the history of the suburb in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Capitalizing on its strategic location overlooking Mahim Bay, the entrance to Mahim creek and the erstwhile islands of Mumbai to the south, the Portuguese build a fort and military outpost at Land’s End in 1640.

The Castella de Aguada or ‘Fort of the Waterpoint’ was named after the area’s fresh water springs and housed a garrison of soldiers. In fact, the Mount Mary Church was built at the same time for use by the soldiers stationed at the Castella de Aguada, today known as Bandra Fort.

From 1661, with the British in control of the islands of Mumbai, the fort assumed great strategic value, situated as it was between two foreign powers – the British and the Portuguese. The early 18th century witnessed a decline in Portuguese power and their defeat by the Marathas in 1739. The Castella de Aguaga was destroyed by the British control in 1775, after a short period in the possession of the Marathas.

The fort would be used in the years before World War 2, when two battalions of Italian and English soldiers were stationed there.

Cultural Events:

Bandra is more often referred as the ‘Queen of Suburbs’ and to an extent, leads Mumbai as a melting pot of activities and cultures, attracting a cross-section of people. The annual festival ‘Celebrate Bandra’ showcases a wide range of activities that revolve around music, theatre, film, dance, sport, food, heritage, art and poetry – held at various venues of the suburbs.

The week-long festival is a ‘culmination of creativity’ and a platform through which the native talent and the heritage are highlighted. The ‘Open-to-all’ fest has witnessed renowned performers displaying the best of their genre expertise in front of diverse audience groups.

The Bandra Fort amphitheater is one of the premier venues for Celebrate Bandra and it converges into an open-air entertainment arena during the festival. The steps made of black rocks transforms into a seating arrangement, catering to a full house. Loud cheers of ‘Once more, once more…’ still echo in my ears when I had gone there to watch the singer ‘Sukhwinder Singh’ perform live.

Sports and Fitness:

The Bandra bay is blessed with two natural recreational sites ‘Carter Road’ and ‘Band Stand’, both of which nurture fitness activities like walking, running, cycling, yoga and exercise. On-and-off, sporting events are held on weekends at these locations. Bandra Fort yet again takes another shape of a life-sized stadium welcoming athletes at the dawn of the sunlight.

The layout of the Fort provides dynamic applications like event gatherings and the local residents trust, therefore, encourages community events. However, at the same time the trust ensures to preserve its heritage value. The garden lawn doubles up as a sunrise and sunset viewing point and play-area for children – making it one of the good community spaces around.

Lifestyle Activities:

The Bandra Fort is an ideal testing ground for upcoming professionals like photographers, you tubers, painters, vocalists, writers and other creative pursuits. People invest hours gazing at the Arabian Sea and drown deep into their imaginations. Some souls drop-by to seek answers, release stress, and there are those who visit for lounging at the site.

A splash of waves on the rocks, the Bandra-Worli Sea link at the backdrop, the blue sky cape and panoramic outlook provides a perfect moment for photography. For instance, spotting an ongoing pre-wedding shoot is a normal feature at the Bandra Fort.

So, it is up to you whether you want to sit-in-silos, have a one-on-one chat with your friend, or hold broad discussions within a group. Whatever it may be, just ensure you are not disturbing the couples making love in some or the other hidden corner of the Fort.

The structure that was officially built to ‘battle’ and bring down opponent’s; with evolution of time, it somewhat unofficially functions as a place for romance and raise trust within relationships

“Jisne Paris mein mohabbat nahi ki … woh duniya mein kahin nahi kar sakta”.

“The one who hasn’t fallen in love in Paris … he can’t fall in love anywhere else in the world”.

This is one of the dialogues from the movie ‘An Evening in Paris’ released in the year 1967. Undoubtedly, Paris city is still a symbol of love, but in the current context, the dialogue has low relevance.

If one has to rephrase it, consider saying “Love can happen anytime, anywhere”. It’s happening at Bandra Fort 🙂

The Temple:

Adjoining to the main gain, there is a small entrance that goes-up towards ‘Shree Kandeshwari Mandir’. This temple is worshiped by the local fisherman. If you are curious, and walk a little further down, you will reach at the waterfront. A walking path is getting paved with cement blocks, and once completed will allow a 360 degree walk around the Bandra Fort. I took a walk in the current setting, and it is fairly possible for a fit person. Broadly, the plan of the civic authorities is to encourage ‘Heritage Walks’ for tourists in the future.

Bicycle Parking:

Interestingly, Bandra Fort is one of the few tourist places in Mumbai city that offers safe and dedicated bicycle parking facility. Although very conventional, the parking stand can accommodate around 15 bicycles, probably the highest count till date (I am not including the Public Bike Sharing zones since they only allow their own fleet). By ‘Safe’ I mean the bikes are supposed to be locked securely before you get absorbed into the surroundings.

Seating area at the Bandstand lane or the Sea-Side road:

From St. Andrews Church to the Byramjee Jee Jeebhoy point, was constructed at the cost of the Honorable Mr. Byramjee Jee Jeebhoy C.S.I., who died on the 12th September 1890. These seats are erected in his memory in 1902.

Take a Video Tour:

Timings: (Subject to change)

Morning: 06:00 am to 10:00 am, Evening 04:00 pm to 06:00 pm

Entry is free.

Access to wheelchair users is limited till the open lawn.

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Author: Vijay Malhotra, Mumbai

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