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Located in the quaint bylanes in the heart of Mumbai, Bandra has a very cool and colloquial feeling to it. Silently located in this beautiful area is Chapel road. Here lie some of the most beautiful, larger than life murals of celebrated Bollywood stars across the rustic bungalow walls. We assure you, you just can’t stop looking at them! All of these are done by only one man and the founder of Bollywood Art Project (BAP) —Ranjit Dahiya.
Born and brought up in a small village of Haryana today, this 36-year-old man is an Art & Design teacher in Balwant Sheth School of Architecture (BSSA), Mumbai. An uninterested student Ranjit, dropped out of school in 11th grade. “If you don’t want to study, walk the cattle and bring some money home”, was a warning by his parents, as told by Ranjit. To which he decided to do something with his life and, “I started white-washing walls!” this gave birth to Ranjit the painter.
He started getting small jobs, when he painted a school. This is when the principal asked him to recommend a painter to paint goddess Saraswati’s mural, “I’ll do it!” was his swift reply. The principal wasn’t quite convinced, but he agreed to let him paint it. It turned out to be extremely good, this assignment got him more work. “I went on to paint hoardings, walls, roads, tractors, buses, tempos etc. “I also painted hoardings for Mahindra Tractors and Coca Cola!”, he exclaims.
One fine day, Ranjit happened to bump into his school friend. This meeting opened another door and an avenue full of opportunities. Ranjit adds to this, “he suggested me to study Fine Arts since I had a good hand on painting and studying Fine Arts would lead me to become a teacher, this stayed with me.” This lead him to finish his high school, and take admission in Fine Arts College of Chandigarh. This then brought him to the city of dreams- Mumbai, to work as a graphic designer at a leading media agency.
It was only in 2009 that he took up wall art. When he saw Ms. Dharna Pillo painting on a wall, her asked her if he could join her. She agreed! Surprised with this speed and precision in painting she offered him to go to Paris with her.
Paris escalated his painting career. His 32 by 12 ft mural of Sarkar Raj— which he painted in just four days received a lot of appreciation, and Mr. Bachchan also signed the art piece for him! He also recalls a French girl singing Nimbooda song. “This gave me an idea that people really loved Bollywood.” To affirm this, the City Council at La Rochelle, Paris invited him to paint a mural on the wall of a 15 by 9 meter building. While others negotiated money for a fee, he asked them to sponsor his exhibition. “I painted 31 Bollywood themed murals. We later took this exhibition to Durban Film Festival too.” He proudly remembers.
When he came to Bombay, he felt an urge to promote Bollywood through his art in his own city, “this city is known as the city of Bollywood but it is seldom visible. Hence, I decided to promote Bollywood through my art. The first mural I painted—Anarkali pose—was in 2012 on the wall of a bungalow near my house on Chapel Road. This was also around the 100 years of Bollywood and hence it got me more media publicity.”
It never stopped ever since, he went on to paint murals of Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna, Madhubala, Amrish Puri, Dadasaheb Phalke, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Sachin Tendulkar and a lot more! However, his personal favourite is Rajesh Khanna’s mural, “he was the first super star of Bollywood. I painted this one as a tribute to him after he died. I got random calls from people asking me where I was painting this one. They came and bestowed flowers at the mural. It made me feel so good.”
He also recalls that once a newspaper had featured his photograph of him working on a mural, standing on a ladder. An excited Ranjit told his mother about it but, “my mother told me in Haryanvi ‘what is so different in it, earlier too, you used to climb on a ladder and it is still the same’, these things are alien for them, some things never change but I know that they’re happy, so I leave it be!” he laughs.
Currently, he isn’t working on a mural but, he wants to paint Helan! “She added glamour to this industry and she still can set the stage on fire.”