Brain gain: Mumbai's top 8 cultural courses

Brain gain: Mumbai's top 8 cultural courses

These cultural institutions pass our attention deficit disorder test

Ask anyone where to get a drink in Mumbai and you'll receive an instant answer. Several probably. Because it's easy to pinpoint the best bars in Mumbai and to draw a map.

But ask friends where to get a tonic for the brain and they will most likely draw a big blank.

Though you may have left the classroom a long time ago or been entirely wasted during your college years, this summer's your chance to refill the right-hand side of your brain.

A spate of mind-expanding activities have either revived in old institutions or sprung up in cool new ones beyond the Alliance Française and The British Council. Here's the best of them.  

The Museum Society, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya

Mumbai Museum

Last March, the Karl Khandawala memorial lecture at the Coomaraswamy Hall overflowed with more than 200 people who came to hear Professor Dr. R Nagaswamy reminisce on the great lawyer and art connoisseur in whose name the lecture is held, before delivering a lecture on Chola bronzes.

Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, had a similar sold-out situation in February when he staged the popular series "History of the World in 100 objects" here at Mumbai's main museum, formerly called The Prince of Wales Museum (before its name was ethnically mashed out of the realm of English speakers). 

Visiting scholars and curators from other museums are the main draw here, and the topics vary from antiquity to modern art. The museum even runs a museology course.

For information contact CSMVS at; +91 (0)22 2284 4484/2284 4519

Max Mueller Bhavan

Edward Theatre

The Max Mueller Bhavan, also known as the Goethe-Institut, frequently organizes talks, exhibitions and film screenings and is capable of conceptualizing stellar events.

For example last year they used the atmospheric, shabby chicness of Edward Theatre as their setting for the International Films City Narratives screenings.

It was thrilling to watch Godard and Ozu films sitting in a wooden bucket which cost you the princely sum of Rs 28.

CNNGo covered the event online and toured the theater on foot with film producer Mukul Deora for CNNGo TV.

For more information contact Max Mueller Bhavan at; +91 (0)22 2202 7710



This four-year-old institution not only runs an Indian Aesthetics diploma course and a course on art, criticism and theory (admissions currently open), but holds regular evening talks in its handsome brick-lined space fitted with good audio visual equipment.

Jnanapravaha is unique as an arts education institution in Mumbai for it packs in as much comfort as it does food for thought.

You can be sure to catch every prominent scholar passing through Mumbai here.

I have heard talks as varied as Dr. A Jamkhedkar on "Lajja Gauri" to Ram Rahman on contemporary Indian photography, and enjoyed poetry readings and short film screenings.

For more information contact Jnanapravaha at, email; +91 (0)22 2207 2974

Studio X Mumbai

Studio X Mumbai

After New York, Beijing, Rio and Jordan, Mumbai is the fifth city to join Studio X's network of planners, architects, interior designers, engineers and inhabitants who want to understand how to improve the social and cultural fabric of a city. 

Studio X is an initiative by the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University that has Rajeev Thakker at the helm in Mumbai.

Since its launch last February, interesting initiatives have included a group show of city artists called "Flow/CUT" addressing the city’s water issues; a workshop investigating how residents of a chawl relate to Khotachiwadi neighborhood's heritage status; and the book launch of "Why Loiter?" an original take on women’s safety in Mumbai, mapping what women from different classes and communities encounter in urban public spaces.

The fourth floor at Kitab Mahal, across from the architecturally historic Chatrapatti Shivaji Terminus main train station, is the venue for the various collaborations.

For more information contact Studio X Mumbai at +91 9820401836;



As a reaction to censorship imposed on Indian short films at the Mumbai International Film Festival in 2003, filmmakers withdrew their works in protest and Vikalp was born as an alternative platform.

There is no office or a formal organization, just a group of volunteers who keep a regular program going and Sunil Shanbag handles a modest archive from an office in Andheri.

Says editor Jabeen Merchant, "We give access to students and others who are interested in documentary (though it isn’t a lending library). We hold regular monthly screenings at two venues, Alliance Française and Prithvi Theatre in Juhu.

"The Vikalp@Prithvi screenings are run by acclaimed docu filmmaker Anand Patwardhan, with the help of a group of young volunteers, while the Alliance screenings are looked after by Paromita Vora, Sunil Shanbag and me."

For more information contact Vikalp@Prithvi's Facebook group, or email

Arbour Initiatives

Arbour Initiative

Young Kaiwan Mehta, with his well-crafted beard and enthusiastic demeanor, is the programmer for this architecture, aesthetics and culture-based Mumbai initiative.

Mehta made it to CNNGo's list of Mumbai Parsis you wish you knew.

Operating out of a building in Hammam Street behind the Bombay Stock Exchange building, there's dialogue at Arbour Initiatives which is as intimate as its setting.

It's like an old-fashioned adda (the Hindu word for community) which addresses the new-fangled problems of the city and poses questions that initiate many a dialogue which then carry on beyond the lecture's stipulated ending time.

"One of the new series being launched is 'Portraits' where scholars, thinkers, practitioners, artists will talk about one figure who has been crucial to the world of culture and aesthetics," says Mehta.

For more information contact Arbour Initiatives at, the Facebook group, or email; +91 (0)22 22652505/22655170

Projector Friday

Projector Friday Mumbai

Projector Friday is a new weekly meet-up, somewhere interesting like a terrace film-screening or Tulsi Pipe graffiti road along with a Melbourne street artist.

The latest event was an open-air screening  of "Videokaaran" along the BMC pipeline below Saki Vihar. The guerrilla-style documentary film is about a film buff who grew up watching in a semi-legal video parlor in the slums of Mumbai.

"It is imperative that we make sure the artists are in their element," says a representative of the one-year-old Projector Friday team.

For more information contact Projector Friday at

The Asiatic Society of Mumbai Literary Club

Asiatic Library Mumbai

A fancy name for a book club that's recently been revived at the very stately Mumbai edifice which, incidentally, also houses an original copy of Dante's "Divine Comedy."

The club is a mixed crowd of 10 to 20 people. Farah Chitalwala, one of the new attendees, says the two-hour discussion starts at 6 p.m. with an introduction and a few critical reviews read out in the Durbar Hall, followed by a general discussion.

The book chosen by the club is announced on the website in advance. They just did Kiran Desai’s "The Inheritance of Loss" and next up is William Dalrymple’s "White Mughals" for June 24.

For information contact The Asiatic Society at +91 9869260169;  

Having studied medicine at Bombay's oldest medical college, Deepika focuses on passions she could not study.
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