Moonlight with strangers

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The Bombay Elektrik Project rescues you from predictable evenings, says Isha Manchanda

A SMALL ROOM in a Mumbai bistro is full to capacity. Around 50 people sit staring at turntables, a guitar and a saxophone; next to it is a table with a canvas, some tubes of paint, bowls of water and a few brushes. It’s Tuesday night at Cafe Goa and this is a Bombay Elektrik Projekt (BEP) event. Over the next two hours, as the DJ rolls out his set, artist Amrita Bagchi paints an exquisite view of the city with LP eyes and green and blue hues. “I had no clue what I was going to paint and I could feel the course change in my head with the music,” she says.

In any Indian metro, there aren’t many ways to spend your evenings besides eating out, clubbing and going to the occasional gig. But Mumbaikars are seeking adventurous evenings. For instance, the Brown Paper Bag Weekends (organised by bloggers Kanika Parab and Mansi Poddar, who call themselves the Secret Scouters of Cool), has been organising events like Turning Tables, where 20 strangers sign up to dine together.

The Bombay Elektrik Project is another such initiative. Since its informal start in December 2007, it’s organised over 200 concept nights in Mumbai alone — an event every two days, on an average. A little over three months after Kenneth Lobo, Sudeep Nair and Pramod Sippy started BEP, they decided it was time to “put their money where their mouth is”, as Lobo says. So the journalist, the restaurant consultant and the DJ — all three in their late-20s and early-30s — quit their day jobs. In the same month, they organised a Midival Punditz concert that saw over 600 people fill up the lounge. “We looked at each other and felt overwhelmed,” Lobo remembers.

Being a DJ, Sippy felt there weren’t enough platforms for live electronic music in Mumbai and wanted to do something about it. But soon the trio felt a need to do more than just organise gigs. “We were generally stumped by how in a city like Mumbai, there’s nothing interesting to do on a Monday night,” adds Lobo.

The unique effort to bring Mumbai out of the office on a weeknight has brought poets and performers from around the world. Of their concept nights — which are free of charge for the audience — the poetry slams and open mic nights draw the maximum crowds. At another event, over 100 people brought more than 3,000 books to Cafe Goa along with a bunch of LPs to provide background music to the exchange. The event saw people of all ages get together — enjoying each other’s tastes in music and books. A recent show-and-tell event, fittingly titled AV with Gravy saw travellers bring their stories and photos from across the world to share with each other. A stand-up comedy night invited “cubicle closet comics to make us laugh”.

The Bombay Elektrik Projekt tries to create a space in the city where entertainment isn’t merely a matter of passive consumption, but something people are proactively producing. Rohini Ramanathan, an RJ who has been moonlighting as the host for BEP’s poetry slams for over a year, feels that “BEP’s events help heighten a sense of community in people.”

From screening short films to sharing embarrassing diary entries from your childhood with absolute strangers, BEP is doing all it can to spice up your weeknights. With recent forays into Pune, Delhi, Kolkata and Bengaluru, BEP promises to make you dig out your high school journals, share your poetry and break out dancing shoes more nights in the week.

WRITER’S EMAIL
isha@tehelka.com

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