Urban Stories: A Collection of Graphic Essays on the City of Mumbai


Abstract: Urban Stories (working title) seeks to explore the myriad hues and dimensions of the culture of the city through a collection of stylized visual essays. Woven around Mumbai, the graphic essays will address a host of urban issues from the aesthetics of colonial architecture to the politics of postmodern identities. A visual experiment of sorts, Urban Stories will employ such diverse genres as collage and typography, illustration and photography. The resulting collection will emerge as a unique narrative of Mumbai, its pasts and presents, peoples and places.

Bio: ‘Urban Stories’ is a collaborative project between Nirupama Sekhar and Sanjay Ramachandran. Alumni of the Symbiosis Institute of Mass Communication, Pune, their previous collaborations include the short film ‘The 45 days around it’ (DV; 8 min; B&W) screened at the British Council Digital Film Festival 2004. Both are based in Mumbai.

Sanjay R. works in television production and is currently employed with Channel V, Mumbai. His interests include making music and illustrations.

Nirupama also works in television production and is currently with Contiloe Films, Mumbai. She enjoys pursuing independent projects in the visual arts and graphic design.

Email: ramachandransanjay @ gmail.com, nirupama.sekhar @ gmail.com


A collection of graphic essays on the city of Mumbai

By Sanjay R. and Nirupama Sekhar

I’m Nirupama and I work in television production in Mumbai, as does my co-fellow Sanjay. We are both graduates in Mass Communication and are collaborating on Urban Stories.

I believe there are more dimensions to Mumbai city than I will ever know of or experience. And it may safely be stated that there are as many valid stories of the city as there are Mumbaikars. Urban Stories is an attempt to visually capture some of these unique urban narratives.

Urban Stories seeks to explore the myriad hues of the culture of the city through a collection of stylized visual essays. Woven around Mumbai, the graphic essays will address a host of urban issues from the aesthetics of colonial architecture to the politics of postmodern identities. A visual experiment of sorts, Urban Stories will employ such diverse genres as collage and typography, illustration and photography. The resulting collection will emerge as a unique visual narrative of Mumbai, its pasts and presents. While a few essays will view the city through the lens of the past, the majority of the essays will present vignettes of the postmodern city by touching a wide range of urban issues: globalisation, migration, the changing notion of family, digital interfaces, power of the media, work culture, urban sexuality, popular culture etc.

This exploration of the city and urban culture in the proposed graphic essays is essentially through a kind of visual kaleidoscope of people and places. This method has specifically been chosen in order to consider how subjective narratives have become central to a holistic understanding of contemporary Mumbai.

Research to this end includes extensive photography and literary/ media research about the city and its history. To gain insights into personal impressions of the city, we are also interviewing a wide cross section of Mumbaikars.

Thats it for now!




Hello All.

Everyone knows that Mumbai has been explored and examined a million times by artists, scholars and ordinary folks alike. Yet, something more of the city always remains to be said. Such is its charm. And, so many are its stories. This is a city that simply doesn’t let you say: Been there, done that.

(Having lived in Chennai, Delhi, Bangalore and Pune, Mumbai is definitely my city of choice. To me, it is a case of the cliché being true after all: Mumbai is, without doubt, the City Magnificent.)

What I intend & hope to achieve through my project is to visually explore some enduring, some contemporary facets of the city. Which are these exact facets, you may ask. I am still figuring that one out.

Cops & whores. Actors & sainiks. Bollywood, beaches & businesses. Riots, rent acts and the inescapable rush. It could well be argued that Mumbai presents chroniclers of any sort with simply too much material to cope with.. I concede.

However, I perceive this dizzying array of subject matter as an advantage that gives me tremendous freedom of choice. From all that is Mumbai, I am currently shortlisting what I would like to showcase through my visual essays. It is hardly an easy task; however, it is proving to be an extremely fascinating one. The task of selection is fast becoming a stimulating process of re-examining my knowledge and experience of the city I now call home. Through this ongoing process of picking and choosing, I am building the essential framework of Urban Stories, my series of graphic essays.

(I intend to present Mumbai through a series of visual essays. Each essay will be a conceptually unique self-contained unit. I plan to use a variety of visual elements ranging from line drawings to photographs and collage.)

Knowing Suketu Mehta took 7 years to maximize the city into words doesn’t help at all! Working full time in television production barely leaves me with enough time to pursue research for the project at the pace that I would like. In the time available, I am currently focusing on subject research, design referencing and photographing the city. I have started the process of extensively photographing the city. These photos of the city – its architecture, roads, traffic, infrastructure, people, textures, colours and more – will provide the basic visual material for my graphic essays. Simultaneously, I have begun research on specific aspects of the city that are of special interest to me. Design references are also happening in order to streamline the overall look and feel of the essays.

(At a later stage during the Fellowship period, I hope to take time off from my work to focus exclusively on the project. Till then, of course, the juggling will continue. )

In March, I hope to get down to exploring the city (and my shortlisted themes) through its people. I am already certain that this next phase of research is going to be both challenging and enriching.



PS: Apologies for the delay. Blame it on TV..


URBAN STORIES: A collection of graphic essays Collaborative project by Nirupama S. & Sanjay R. For those still a little unclear about the nature of our project, ‘Urban Stories’ is essentially a series of visual “posters” or “panels” encompassing various facets of Mumbai. Our final product at the end of the project will be a series of visual panels. Each poster/panel deals with a different aspect of the city, and the visual treatment of the subject will also vary in each piece. Each individual poster endeavors to be both visually engaging and conceptually innovative. Every piece will also be labeled/ identified by an aspect of time.. any aspect of time. For example:

– Monsoons

– 1972-2004

– Past Continuous Future Tense

– 3 a.m. etc

This will serve as the unifying factor to the entire project, considering that the concept and designs vary in each piece. Following are some concepts for individual panels that we have been toying with.. pls feel free to comment. In fact, as our project is more creative than research-based, opinions and suggestions are welcome.

WORKING TITLE: Past Continuous > Of Pixels and Kohlis

VISUAL TREATMENT: The entire panel is an elaborate video game in typical 2D, pixel-based style. But the actual game is a depiction of life in a Mumbai chawl, complete with characters, scores, enemy targets (the guy who gets to the loo que before our protagonst for example), rounds and time taken, personal ammunition etc.

CONCEPT: A fresh perspective on an old subject. Life in a Mumbai chawl is by no means easy and comes with its own peculiarities and problems unique to the city’s ‘wadi’s’; its a game you play against time and against other tenants. ‘Sim City’, the video game about building cities, proved to be an interesting starting point for this idea.

THEMES DEPICTED: Mumbai Chawls. Over Population. Migration. Lack of living space.

WORKING TITLE: Sunday Morning > Raju, Live at Eagle Hairdressers

VISUAL TREATMENT : An advertisement for the local barber. The concept of the ad will proclaim him to be everything but a barber: soothsayer of the future of Indian politik, your own parental advisory unit in an alien city. Visual treatment will hark back to older times, like a 1940s newspaper ad with bold serif typefaces, screen printed material and sporadic images; a strong retro look.

CONCEPT: A fun look at one of the thousands of interesting characters that make up the city. The ad will feature the kind of character everyone can relate to; content will be witty, light-hearted and tongue in cheek.

THEMES DEPICTED: Dreams and aspirations of immigrants.

WORKING TITLE: From Dawn till Dusk >

VISUAL TREATMENT : (Inspired from a true story..)

Following the same concept of an ad for a particular character, is an ad for a unemployed filmmaking student looking for a job in films. His accolades include being so involved in cinema that even a real life event is explained in terms of zoom in shots and jump cuts. Meeting a girl is not real unless accompanied by a background score; and all punch lines are always dialogues from Tarentino films.

CONCEPT: Lighthearted in vein, this piece is also a take on the different characters that ultimately define the city. This piece addresses an ever-increasing bracket of urban youngsters who come to the city to find jobs in film and television, but not always with success.

THEMES DEPICTED: Influence of Cinema. Bollywood. Bombay as the city of dreams.





Hello all..

Urban Stories’ blog is at now at:


The posting (on blogspot) has details of the current piece we are working on, including pictures and info. More updates soon.. On a personal front, I’m really looking forward to next month.. when work will start full time on the Sarai project. Regards. Nirupama

Urban Stories: A Collection of Graphic Essays on Mumbai Posting 6 Please view updates,pics and works in progress at http://mumbai-urbanstories.blogspot.com/

THE project is taking shape.. and so far, learnt a lot about the city, good and bad. Most of the last week or so, its been either the rain or the riots in Mumbai, so just been stuck at home. With regards to graphic design, its been satisfying to actually have the time to work and experiment.. To try and break cliches, playing with colours and forms.

Currently, each graphic essay is a stand alone piece.. covering a range of topics from sexuality to urban identities to architecture.. (stil workin on them..)What needs to be done is linking them up, making them part of a cohesive whole with text and classification (temporal aspect). That should take shape once all the pieces are ready.. Looking at about 18-20 pieces right now, some are very detailed, some not so detailed.. with the post modern view especially evident in the text/ typo on each piece.. I see the final presentation also as something that one can experiment with..work creatively with..

Though for a project like this, reseach has been very specific to each piece..nevertheless have learnt a lot about the city..mainly photography and print media reserach have been key.

Hope to upload finished pieces in the near future..and get feedback to further refine each graphic essay.