As an icon, the red bus is to Mumbai city what the Routemaster is to London. Since 1936 when the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Tramways Company operated the very first omnibus, the BEST bus has come to be a familiar friend on the frantic streets of this burgeoning metropolis. In the monsoon when train tracks are frequently flooded, it’s the surest way to get around town and no matter where your’re coming from or where you’re headed, there’s bound to be a route to get you on your way.
Sudharshan Shetty‘s Flying Bus is an ode to the city he grew up in and brings a certain sense of nostalgia to its swanky surroundings. A site-specific installation flanked by the Morphogenesis designed glass architecture of the Maker Maxity complex in BKC, it opens at a time when BEST has decided to phase out these double-decker beauties. Its nine-tonne weight notwithstanding, the gilded wings of the bus give it the look of a magical creature: is it an angel, a boon to commuters? Is it the efficient vahan of the common man as he cuts through the chaos of Mumbai? Or is it perhaps a reflection of its passengers’ aspirations: the laden symbol of a populace desperately trying to escape to something better? In a city that is constantly in a state of flux, Shetty’s installation bids us consider the memory of the double-decker bus, arresting it for a moment, just as it’s poised to fly away into extinction.
While the image of the bus itself represents this act of recovery and loss, the space within reappropriates it for an altogether different purpose: as a void to be filled by practitioners from the fields of art, architecture, film and photography. Inaugurating the project, is a selection of works by video artist Amar Kanwar soon to be followed by the works of photographer Dayanita Singh, graphic novelist Orijit Sen and artist Gurdeep Singh. The Flying Bus Project is designed to give a new lease of life to the notion of the double-decker bus, allowing it to transform into a space for viewing art in the corporate heartland. It brings art outside the confines of a gallery, into a context where everyday office-goers can interact with it, but at the same time it brings the struggles of the everyday into an otherwise sanitised, spotlessly clean office complex. As the two worlds collide, I’m left wondering at the poingnancy of the situation: where I once viewed architecture from the windows of a bus, Shetty now invites me to view the bus from the windows of architecture.
Flying Bus is open to the public at Maker Maxity Complex, Bandra-Kurla Complex, Bandra (E), Mumbai.