It was a rainy morning in Mumbai, when I was led into the studio cum office of ‘The Bus Ride’, owned by Ayaz Basrai. I would not have really figured out my way within the mesmerising lanes of Ranwar Vilage, Bandra in Mumbai where the studio stands. Little houses exuding an old-world charm lined the pretty narrow streets. One could be forgiven for mistaking it for a tiny European village.
The Bus Ride is an unusual name. “We thought of this name since we envisioned it as a mobile studio in the future” says Basrai. The location of the group’s office in a village in Bandra is even more unusal.
But, we are talking about a group of creative minded individuals who do things differently. Ayaz Basrai, Zameer Basrai, Ipsit Patel, Farzin Adenwalla and Maulik Jepiwala form this group. They have their hands full with a diverse set of creative activities related to design.
We start talking about issues closest to the office. The Ranwar Village, for instance has been a passion with Basrai. “It is heartbreaking to observe how insensitive building activities have eroded subtle customs in this village” he says. His association with the Ranwar restoration project started when the studio was commissioned a project on the same by Vivek Sheth, an NID student.
What are they aiming at? “We want to create a sustainable pro-development conservation plan” he says. This probably sums up his feelings about the entire conservation versus development debate. They have formed an organized map-plan and systematic photo documentation of the village. This captures the village in the present and acts as a time capsule that will offer the past to the future.
They are striving to create awareness of what is being lost in Ranwar. “It was a paddy farmers’ village. Now, it is a haven for developers. But, people do not realise that it is integral to the identity of Bandra. Most don’t see it vanishing. The intimate interactions with the neighbours, the beautiful architecture, the little spaces between houses where children play and adults chat, the entire way of life here is something worth fighting for. It is something very intangible that is being lost” says Basrai.
They have established a blog to create awareness about the issue. On the cards is a street exhibition within the village boundaries itself. “This will raise awareness and also increase resident pride. We have spoken to residents who have moved out of Ranwar and they tell us what they miss!” states Basrai.
Basrai is cautious that the concern for Ranwar does not border on nostalgia. He is trying to promote the idea that redevelopment needs to be given serious thought. Mere replacement of an old building by a new structure is not done! “The cosmetic approach to conservation is just one aspect. It is the lifestyle which is intricately woven around the structures that needs to be preserved” he believes.
With the efforts they are making, they may soon come out with what defines the Ranwar style of building. These new resources for builders would take into account conservation in a true sense – that of the structures and that of the culture of lives.
Smoke House Room:
We now move on to talking about another very different project Ayaz Basrai is working on.
Most of our work is centred on designing restaurants and pubs. But, the Smoke House Room is in a different league altogether.. he says.
A little introduction to the concept and one can see why Basrai calls it very ambitious. “This will be a very new gourmet experience in Dehli. The ‘Shroom’, as we call it, will break preconceptions associated with food and tasting. Here we will have scientifical skill oriented cooking. The menu will change regularly. The chef will be like a performing artist. People will feel as if they are in a food lab!” explains Basrai.
When a place is expected to offer such an experience, this philosophy has to echo in the design of the space as well. The interiors are fluid and organic; they are psychedelically inspired and kind of edgy. It is a place that will get people into a mood suited for eccentricity; it is attached to a cocktail bar and night club. The 18,000 sq feet area will have the thread of experimentation running right through it be it in activities or the décor.
The Dirty Old Man :
“He is me” says Basrai. This project is probably his most personal. Basrai has thousands of sketches depicting a man (himself visualised thirty years into the future).
His love for illustration and a desire to create a body of work where he can constantly improvise and add on are the binding factors of this project. “How often in our careers do we get a chance to reinvent the same project? This is my way of doing so” he explains. Basrai is on his way to making the dirty old man a brand. He has a blog where he has uploaded some of his sketches. The old man would be a social commentator and very soon Basrai hopes to come out with stationary and other expressions of this idea. This is a graffiti project which remains close to his heart since it offers scope to think in a different mindscape and challenge his creativity.
As our conversation draws to a close, I wonder at how his studio influences him. “There is definitely a sense of kinship here in Ranwar. We come to the space and feel relaxed. We wouldn’t trade this place for anything! Our studio reflects our personalities. It is a place with a soul”.
Probably that is what his underlying design philosophy portrays – spaces with soul. As I leave Ranwar village, I try and imbibe a little bit of its flavour. I see a quaint old house next to The Bus Ride studio with a notice “This Property is not for sale”. I smile. Maybe the awareness has begun.
By Dhanishta Shah
Ranwar Photos By Vivek Sheth
Shroom Photos By Tanuj Ahuja
Dirty Old Man By Ayaz Basrai