Time Bound

Time Bound
The historic Rajabai Clock Tower, Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Chirodeep Chaudhuri marks time with his photographic project recording the ‘Public Clocks of Mumbai’ now being showcased at an exhibition in Mumbai

Uttara Gangopadhyay
February 08 , 2021
05 Min Read

Ace photographer Chirodeep Chaudhuri is in a dilemma. No sooner than he thinks he has clicked them all, out pops another, said Chaudhuri in conversation with poet and cultural theorist Ranjit Hoskote. Part of the Project 88 Art Talks series, Chaudhuri was talking about his project and ongoing exhibition ‘Seeing Time: Public Clocks of Bombay' (currently on at Max Mueller Bhavan in Mumbai).

Known for his photography series on commuters on Mumbai's railway routes, the typewriter, a venerable library in South Bombay, or his ancestral village in Bengal, Chaudhuri has been photographing the public clocks of Mumbai for decades.

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For Chaudhuri, what started as a journey along south Mumbai, later expanded across the city and its suburbs. While some were known features (the Rajabai Clock Tower), others he discovered on his many walks through the city. Some were serendipitous discoveries, some culled from old documents and photographs, and some through chance meetings. But it was not easy, said Chaudhuri during his talk. Apart from the legwork involved, finding a vantage point, the change in surroundings, even seasonal changes around the edifices, had to be taken into consideration.

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An amazing journey in itself, the photography series is not merely a documentation or a mapping project. As Hoskote pointed out, it is more like a voyage reflecting ‘obsolescence and continuity’, a reflection on the city known for its business prowess, a record of its economic changes, its evolution.

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A post shared by Chirodeep Chaudhuri (@chirodeepchaudhuri)

While the Rajabai Clock Tower is a popular edifice, the exhibition throws into light many buildings which have become such an accepted presence in the city that one hardly stops to take a second look. For example, the Prince’s Triumphal Arch in Mahalaxmi. Or the clock on the façade of Fulchand Niwas – a clock that has been featured in many Hindi movies, pointed out Chaudhuri, including the 1956 Dev Anand starrer Funtoosh.

A clock that showed Bombay Time (at one point, Bombay followed several time zones) to a clock in the Western Railway workshop in Lower Parel which still sported the Bombay-Baroda Railways symbol and could be wound by two aged technicians, from a quaint German clock with its antiquated mechanisms on the façade of a residential house to a clock painted on the façade on another (probably the owner could not afford a real clock), clocks on mercantile buildings, etc. have found their way into Chaudhuri’s photography collection.

Under the theme ‘missing clocks’, he has also documented buildings which once sported a clock but it does not exist anymore. For example, the blank space on Aurora Cinema.

However, according to Chaudhuri, he does not know if he will be able to stop photographing the clocks. Ever since his first exhibition in 1999 with images of nearly 20 clocks, currently he has over 80 of them in his portfolio. In between, his popularity as a chronicler of Bombay’s public clocks has spread far and wide. As a result, friends and strangers alike, keep calling him with news about old public clocks that they have found. So, just when he thinks he has captured them all, another one appears out of the blue.

If you are in Mumbai this February, you may visit the ongoing exhibition (on till February 20) at the Max Mueller Bhavan. Otherwise, you may catch them at the online gallery on Project 88’s website. You may also listen to a recording of the talk here

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