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Where's the Party tonight?

Friday, April 08, 2011

Deadlines and skirts might have gotten shorter but the list of places to party at has gotten longer. Henna Achhpal finds out about the evolution of nightlife in Mumbai...

Touted to be the ‘city that never sleeps’, Mumbai is rightly called so as its people breathe a different air once the sun sets — partying till the sun rises the next morning. Mumbaikars believe in working hard by day and know how to party even harder at night. However, as all things change, Mumbai’s nightlife has also evolved over the years. From being something that was almost like a ‘page 3’ event, where you could spot the who’s who of the social circuit — something that the public could only get a peek of in the morning’s newspaper, is now accessible to that very public. While the ‘page 3’ types moved from the dance floor to the red carpet,the dance floor has since seen many changes. We speak to a few people from the industry and find out how Mumbai’s nightlife has evolved over the years and where it is headed...

Talking about Mumbai’s nightlife would be incomplete without a mention of Red Om Entertainment — the company that changed the way Mumbaikars party since 2004. Also responsible for Poison being Bandra’s hottest spot once upon a time and the likes of Jay Sean and Juggy D spinning music for the crowds — Red Om Entertainment has indeed come a long way. Vikram Mehta, co-founder of Red Om Entertainment says, “Personally, I think Mumbai has lost out on its so called famous ‘clubbing culture’. Now the people of Mumbai prefer places such as bars, restaurants with decks and lounges for their night outs. Night clubs and discos — especially stand alone — do not exist anymore, maybe just a handful in fact.”

Co-owner of the recently opened Tryst in Lower Parel, Rajiv Tandon says, “Mumbai’s night life has changed drastically over the years. It was once famously known as the city that never sleeps and people would party till 5 in the morning. Now, because of the 1.30am curfew, people are forced to stop partying.”

The space in Phoenix Mills that is now occupied by Tryst has seen its fare share of changes. Originally occupied by the hip and happening Fire ‘n’ Ice in the ’90s — it was the hotspot of Mumbai’s party goers, something they would swear by until it shut shop and was replaced by RA in 2004. This was then hanged to Play in 2008 and back to RA in 2009. Finally, the space has now been taken over by Tryst in November of last year. “Earlier there were fewer clubs and you could count the places on your fingertips. Relatively, today there are a lot more options with regards to restaurants, bars, lounges and night clubs,” adds Rajiv.

Jehan Johar, Head of Electronica Programming at BlueFrog has a different take on the matter. Jehan says, “In terms of night spots, people’s tastes have gotten wider and they are now interested in more variety. People no longer want to just go to a bar simply to drink or socialise, they are now paying more attention to music and the artist.” Jehan who has been with BlueFrog since the time it was being built, is one of their oldest employees. He adds, “There has been a large increase in the amount of international acts that are being organised in Mumbai and live performances have also caught on with the trend, especially over the last 3 years.”

While Vikram and Rajiv believe the focus has shifted from partying at clubs to having a good time at restaurants and lounges, Jehan thinks it’s the music that people are after. Whatever it may be, we wonder what the reason is for this change. Rajiv explains, “Earlier, we just had the elite class who would party. Night
life was a thing of the rich and famous. Now, due to a lot of disposable income and an increase in the number of young people with spending power, the kind of people that party has drastically changed.”

“Clubbing is a lot more cosmopolitan today. Back in the day, there was a clear line drawn as to what kind of crowd could be expected at a particular club. The distinction was clear cut depending on the age group, ratio and social status. Today there are very few places which can define their target audience and be assured to adhere to it for a long time,” says Vikram. “Earlier there was a certain Bollywood crowd, a particular house music crowd and so on. People wouldn’t dare step into a place which had certain positioning. Accessibility is the biggest change in today’s nightlife scene as compared to before,” he adds.

It seems as the younger generation began to take over the dance floor, the more elite crowd switched their idea of a night out to lounges and fine dining which changed the target audience of night clubs to a great extent. So, has there been a shift in the age of group of party goers? “Yes definitely.A decade ago, the party crowd was mostly between the age of 21 to 30 but these days people start partying at the age of 17,” says Jehan.

The shift in target group is also one of the reasons partying is no longer limited to just the weekend. Now, you would find crowds swinging to the tunes of a DJ even on a Wednesday night. Rajiv says, “Since it’s the teenagers that are partying these days, they tend to party on the weekdays as well since they don’t have much to do during the week.”

Vikram adds, “Now there are more people who want to go out at night because of which most places get extremely crowded on weekends hence people prefer going out in the middle of the week.”

While the party scene in Mumbai has evolved due to a lot of internal factors, have external factors such as the new rules introduced by the government affected Mumbai’s nightlife? Talking about the ‘no drinking and driving rule’, Vikram says, “This rule should definitely be encouraged. It was a deterrent only initially but today the rule has helped discipline people and has helped reduce carnage on the roads.” Jehan agrees, “It is a good rule as safety is extremely important and now there are many options that allow people to drink and not have to drive after the party. Thus, this rule does not affect our business badly.”

But what about the strict 1.30am curfews for clubs? That definitely puts the crowds off to a great extent. Vikram says, “The 1.30am curfew for clubs and bars has encouraged more private gatherings and house parties, hence it has affected business slightly. The other rule that allows permission to night spots in 5 star hotels up to 3am makes it difficult for standalone places to survive without the same permission.” Jehan adds, “The 1.30am curfew does affect business tremendously. Mumbai has quite a late culture and people usually don’t want to go out before 11pm. This makes it expensive to run bars and clubs if they get only two hours of proper business time, it’s not friendly to the industry.”

No matter what rules are imposed and how many changes the nightlife scene of Mumbai undergoes. People may change their idea of a night out, the older crowd may get replaced by the younger generation but one thing will always remain constant — Mumbaikars will never forget how to party.

standing the test of time

Toto’s, the garage styled pub in Bandra is probably the only place that has managed to stand the test of time in this ever changing city. Opened in 1992, it has been successfully operational for about 19 years earning itself a cult status.

On asking co-owner Laju Bhatia what he thinks has changed in this span, he enthusiastically says, “Absolutely, nothing!” On further coaxing he adds, “Toto’s hasn’t changed a bit however the kind of people that visit have changed. Earlier there would be a lot of youngsters but now because of the strict above 21 drinking rule, we see more working people coming in. Also, the rising prices have had an effect as well. Initially, we would sell a pitcher of beer for `100 and now it has become `500.”

“People’s tastes have gotten wider and they are now interested in more variety. They no longer want to just go to a bar simply to drink or socialise, they are now paying more attention to music.”
— Jehan Johar, BlueFrog

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