Art Movement Mumbai
Lifestyle

This art movement is changing the face of Mumbai slums

With the idea of changing the conversation, Chal Rang De, a Mumbai-based NGO backing an art movement, uses colour beyond its face value to express socio-economic issues, which are marring underprivileged communities. By Pallavi Singh

It was a rainy monsoon morning in 2014, and Dedeepya Reddy was commuting on the Mumbai Metro. This would have been just another train ride for the young advertising entrepreneur. But on this day, as the train passed by the hill slums of Asalpha village, something caught her eye. What this young Mumbaikar saw in the slums was a blank canvas. A space to show the world a brighter side to all the negativity these areas have received. Piecing her volley of thoughts together, Dedeepya, the socially-conscious co-founder of a digital media agency, was quick to get her act together. In association with a group of like-minded professionals, founded the art movement Chal Rang De in 2017.

The organisation began with colouring the slums of Asalpha village. In the last three years, they have taken this art movement across various parts of Mumbai such as Khar, Bandra and Worli. “Our aim was to use art, local talent and stories to change the way people look at socio-economic issues like poverty, safety, education, mental health, which are prevalent in the neglected areas and communities of the world,” explains Dedeepya. Be it walls, or sidewalks, in short, Chal Rang De uses art to spread a message of hope, positivity and inclusion. It is across everything they do.

Art Movement Mumbai
(Source: Image courtesy of Sammya Brata)

Together with local artists and ever-willing volunteers, they have been creating art that is joyful and intended to create change. It could be about mental health awareness or shedding light on local heroes. Even just brightening up a school that is doing wonders for children living on the street. “Chal Rang De is so much more than just painting and beautification; it is about expressing your feelings and bringing a change through art and colours. We have used art to express environmental issues, to spread awareness about mental health and suicide prevention, and a lot more,” says Saba Hemani, Project Head, Chal Rang De. “Our connection doesn’t stop after the painting; we conduct workshops for kids, women and the elderly from the villages we work with. All of us are like a big family.”

It has a shared mission of having the world come together and speak the language of love, acceptance and compassion. Chal Rang De has grown into a huge community of artists, activists and creators. Their most important members, however, are, as the founder says, “The scores of volunteers that sign up for an event regardless of the time or location. And, of course, the people living in the areas we are working in. They are our true driving force.”

Art Movement Mumbai
(Source: Image courtesy of Piyush Singh)

This dedication is evident even when one talks to those who live in these areas. Laxmi Naik, a resident of Motilal Nehru Chawl, Worli, is visibly elated by the efforts of Chal Rang De. “Our chawl looks brand new now. Due to the paintings on our walls, and the work done for it, we finally got rid of termites, ants and other insects. The bright colours have not just brightened our gullies but also our hearts,” she exults.

Dedeepya reminisces about how volunteers of this art movement usually say that they are not artists. But all go home feeling like a Picasso in the making. “Each one of us is an artist, it’s a matter of belief, post which, it is a journey of self-discovery. And, in this journey, I would want them to remember that no idea, no thought, is ever too small,” she says. “All it took for us was some paint, some brushes and some walls, and soon we were all speaking one language. If you have a vision for creating something that can help people, or even give them joy in that one moment, you have the potential to give them one of the best gifts. Hold on to that, always. It will be your legacy.” 

Art Movement Mumbai
(Source: Image courtesy of Sammya Brata)

It sensed the plight of the slum children who had no access to their schools and peers during the pandemic. The NGO created an online learning experience Chal Rang De Shaala. “We set up one-on-one video call learning sessions to teach these children various art forms like painting, writing, singing and dancing. The teachers were volunteers from across the country,” explains Saba. In her endeavour to transform the slums into art hubs, Chal Rang De’s founder Dedeepya was honoured with the Karamveer Chakra and the Green Crusader Award. It was awarded by Bhamla Foundation in association with the United Nations.

But the true reward is when visitors from all over make these bursts of colour a part of their trip. It gives them the chance to interact with and understand the perspectives of the people living there. The only way to bring about a change, feels Dedeepya, is to question what is right and wrong: “For us, the goal is to keep that ideal in mind and amplify our reach. We want to address critical issues that are not being talked about enough, like the safety of women and mental health; give people a platform to be heard; and create a means to bring about change. We want to change the conversation through colour, through art; we want to constantly learn and unlearn to create a better, more colourful world.”

Art Movement Mumbai
(Source: Image courtesy of Team CRD)

Dedeepya reminisces about how volunteers of this art movement usually say that they are not artists. But all go home feeling like a Picasso in the making. “Each one of us is an artist, it’s a matter of belief, post which, it is a journey of self-discovery. And, in this journey, I would want them to remember that no idea, no thought, is ever too small,” she says. “All it took for us was some paint, some brushes and some walls, and soon we were all speaking one language. If you have a vision for creating something that can help people, or even give them joy in that one moment, you have the potential to give them one of the best gifts. Hold on to that, always. It will be your legacy.” 

Related: Vistara is going the extra mile with its CSR initiatives to help communities