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After two-year break, grandeur returns to Shivaji Park Durga Puja

Hindustan Times logo Hindustan Times 29-09-2022 Somita Pal
Mumbai, India - September 29, 2022: Indian art director Nitin Desai inspects the ongoing work of the Durga Puja pandal designed by him, at Shivaji Park, Dadar, in Mumbai, India, on Thursday, September 29, 2022. (Photo by Pratik Chorge/Hindustan Times) (Pratik Chorge/HT PHOTO) © Provided by Hindustan Times Mumbai, India - September 29, 2022: Indian art director Nitin Desai inspects the ongoing work of the Durga Puja pandal designed by him, at Shivaji Park, Dadar, in Mumbai, India, on Thursday, September 29, 2022. (Photo by Pratik Chorge/Hindustan Times) (Pratik Chorge/HT PHOTO)

Mumbai: For the last two weeks, Milan Mandal has been busy at work giving shape to the Durga Puja pandal at Shivaji Park, under the guidance of acclaimed Bollywood art director Nitin Chandrakant Desai. Mandal, 45, is among 26 men from West Bengal who have been roped in by Bengal Club, organisers of the Puja, to give shape to Desai’s vision for the club’s 87th Durga Puja celebrations. This year, the 100-year-old club will be home to the city’s tallest Durga idol at 18 feet.

Mandal had been coming to create the pandal at Shivaji Park for nine years until the pandemic hit in 2020. After a two-year break, he is happy to be back at work. “I missed doing this for the last two years,” he says.

Close to 100 workers, including the 26 from West Bengal, are working for more than sixteen hours a day on the pandal that is spread across 10,000 sqft area. The theme this year is temples from the Mauryan age - 3rd century B.C.

Desai, who has been associated in designing the Lalbaugcha Raja Ganpati pandal, said Durga Puja at Shivaji Park is associated with his childhood memories. “I used to visit the Durga puja pandal in Shivaji Park as a child and always got fascinated with the grandeur of the pandals. It inspired me to become an art director. I secretly wanted to design Shivaji Park’s pandal some day,” he said.

This is the third time that Desai is designing the pandal here. “In 2019, he recreated the Devdas set for the pandal. He erected a palace-themed pandal in 2020, but due to the lockdown, the puja was virtual. This year, since it is the club’s centenary celebration, we decided to celebrate it bigger,” said Joy Chakraborty, chief advisor, Bengal Club.

The cost of the pandal including the idol, is close to 40 lakh. Talking about the theme of this year, he said, “We are depicting the temples across India from the Mauryan era. The sculptures and architecture are spellbinding,” he said.

Dhakis (or drummers) from Kolkata are set to reach Mumbai today. “We missed them the last two years. They are the pulse of Durga puja. We are going to have a team of five dhakis this time,” said Dilip Das, president, Bengal Club. A group of transgenders will also be participating in the dhunuchi dance (devotional dance with incense) at the puja.

The Bengal Club’s Durga puja, one of the oldest pujas in the city, will also see a return of stalls showcasing art and culture from West Bengal. The club has taken a 5,500 sq ft hall, where 37 stalls, including seven food stalls, will be put up.

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