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The Cool Chef Cafe Mural (Sigh)

Finally, the matter has been put to bed, over a year after it all began.

Below is the original post I wrote last year, updating it as I went on painting it and after it was complete as well.

                                                                                                                                                               

Now, most of you would think of a single wall being painted when I say ‘mural’. Normally, you’d be right. This time, you’re not. But I wish I could agree with you.

BELIEVE ME.

As I write this, the mural is STILL not finished. It’s been a piece of work 6 weeks in the making. A process that has driven me to the edge and is threatening to nudge me over, the painting of this mural has given me a figurative and literal pain in the neck. You’ll understand why pretty soon.

Let’s begin by introducing you to the space :

Cool Chef Cafe (http://www.facebook.com/coolchefcafe)

Thadani House329/A Worli VillageWorli Sea FaceTurn Left After Bandra-Worli Sea LinkMumbai 400030+9122 24301127 / 322311997666660660

Cool Chef is a family run business of food and fun run by the Thadanis. Kaviraj, the younger son, is the Kitchen, while Tarun is the promoter and event co-ordinator of sorts. Together, they’ve dreamed up a bar to add to their restaurant, which doubles up as a party venue.

Located opposite the Coast Guard, near INS TRATA at Worli village, it’s not the easiest place to find unless you’re looking for it, but it does have a relaxed, jazzy, Goan vibe to it which makes up for being a little bit of a find.

Now, the bar project itself.

Tarun got in touch with me in April, and told me about this new bar that he and Kaviraj were starting, and that he wanted me to paint a wall in it.  That’s where the process begins.

Week 1 : The Beginning

I go to Cool Chef Cafe to meet Tarun and talk about the project. He briefs me on the bar concept and what ideas he has. While we eat lunch together, he shows me images of a bar painted by artist Todd James a.k.a Reas as well as paintings.

I’m asked to use his images to create a design for the wall, but to dress up the many naked women with large ‘boobies’ that Reas favours in his visuals. Among the images I’m shown are those of ‘terrorists’ wearing fluorescent pink, green, yellow, red and blue clothes wielding green guns. Interesting, I must say.

I’m shown the space, and explained how two rooms will be turned into one large space by demolishing the separating wall. Okay, doesn’t sound so tough, does it?

Sigh. If only.

I measure out the wall and take my notes. Once home, I take a couple of days to come up with a proper scale drawing of the wall I’m supposed to paint.

Week 2 : The Approval

Once the design is ready, I email it to Tarun and await his comments. Positive response with amendments. Changes made, sent for approval. Quick response. Colours are liked. I tell Tarun to let me know when the wall’s ready.

Week 3 : The Annoying Wait

Tarun tells me to come in and see the space. I go. The wall’s untouched. A window is being removed first. Next trip again the wall’s still standing. Annoyance creeps in. I tell him to let me know when the wall is actually ready.

Week 4 : The Beginning of the Work?

The wall’s finally brought down and a false ceiling is being made. Again, I must wait. The walls are not ready to be painted on. They must be scrubbed and readied still. A few more days lost because the wall guys have done the scrubbing and put the putty (laambi) which takes a day to dry. Then primer goes on. First coat. Takes another day. In the mean time, Tarun asks me to draw out one figure from the design on the wall so that he can see how it might look. I do so. “Hmmm. It’s not working, na?” is the statement I hear.

Okay. He says he’ll talk to someone to decide on the design again. Okay.

I go in again. I’m told that they want to put on a SECOND coat of primer so I should come on Monday. Also, Tarun tells me that we’re scrapping the design we’d approved, and that I should do something abstract of my own.

Oh, and I’d be painting ALL THE WALLS AND THE CEILING OF THE BAR now.

Week 5 : THE WORK COMMENCES!

FINALLY I’m allowed to start drawing. It takes two full days of work to draw out the design, since the paint has not been bought yet. In those two days, Tarun and I make a trip to Asian Paints in Bandra to choose the colours.

Colours selected, but not yet bought. A full day gone. Tarun buys the paints and calls me in. Ah. Fresh paint. Fresh walls. The magnitude of this ‘mural’ has not hit me yet. I’m assuming at this point that I’ll be done painting in like two or three days. Cocky, right?

So I begin. And it hits. HARD. This is going to take more than just a few days. Painting moves slowly, because there’s a ton of other things happening at the same time.

Ideally, a painter is called in after all the carpentry, masonry and electricals are finished with. Not so here. I’m trying to paint while wood and marble are being cut, holes are drilled into the walls in the wrong places twice and then the right places and plaster of paris sections are constantly broken and remade.

Painting the walls is no big deal : armed with rollers, large sections are conquered. It’s the small ones that are painful.

Painting the ceiling? Pain in the neck, as I’ve mentioned before. Cravings for flat scaffoldings on which I might lie down and draw and paint become a very annoying desire. I must paint through the pain.

While all of this is fine, have you ever felt like you’re about to melt like chocolate in an oven at 400 degrees Centigrade?  Painting in this space feels like it. Possibly worse, because it’s the same heat inside as it is under the torrid summer Sun of May. There’s only ONE stand fan in the room and it is shared by 4 labourers and me on a stool in the opposite corner of the room from where they’re being all dusty with their cutting and grinding.

Heat, pain and no network on the phone mean I’m losing my mind and getting tired all too fast. It’s a workout, both physically and mentally.

Week 6 : The End Is Nigh.

As the 6th week ends, hopes of finishing are left standing in the dust as we roll on by. With little help coming from the social media SOS’s I’ve been sending out, it’s been a long, hard battle to find any form of comfort in the fact that I may be finished soon.

As I work in silence while things go on around me, I’m given horrid news. Tarun dislikes the yellow on the wall, and the light pink. Both colours he chose. Double work. Annoyance.

I grit my teeth and continue.

The annoyance disappears just as quickly, because my lovely student Dharmista and her younger daughter Khushali drop in to lend a hand and see what’s been keeping me from taking classes. They take up brushes and rollers and paint in large and small sections to give me some hope of a quicker finish.

A couple of other friends and Tweeple join in over the days and I get more and more done.

Today, I had to stop short of finishing the whole thing because I ran out of spray paint. Silly, right?

Week 7 : It Ends.

My hope is that by Tuesday, I’ll have finished this mural completely along with all the changes that the Thadanis want. Like changing the location of the door they want to break the wall for. And colour changes. It’ll happen. It will.

—————————————————————————————————

It doesn’t. It goes on. Week 7 melts into Week 8 with severe delays and changes. Also, Week 7’s Friday sees a soft opening for the unfinished space with a Salsa Night..good response, people like the colours and design.

Week 8 : After all the changes and madness I’m losing my mind. I’ve gone to Pune over the weekend for work, and told Tarun that I’ll be back Monday, so to keep my cheque ready. I get delayed to Tuesday, giving him an extra day.

The cheque’s not ready. I’ve come to do the final touch ups. I complete everything and am made to wait. I finally meet him 2 hours later, and he’s got a cheque. Thing is, it’s only for 5,000. Not the balance amount. He wants to negotiate the price down a hell of a lot, which I refuse. I explain to him how working on this project has cost me income from students and other opportunities. How I’ve been walking from Worli to Matunga Road (around 4km) in the evenings because I didn’t have enough money for cab fare. He still tries to negotiate. I’m frustrated and angry at this point so I agree to a small drop in price on witnessed agreement to installment payment every week from the next week.

It’s finally over, barring payment.

An Afterthought :

If you ever hire an artist, make sure you can afford our services and can pay half up front if not the full amount. We do not take kindly to delayed payments when that is the only source of income for us. Just an afterthought.

If you get a chance to drop in at Cool Chef Cafe’s new bar, check out the artwork and let me know what you think!

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30 thoughts on “The Cool Chef Cafe Mural (Sigh)

  1. thanks Jigar! wouldn’t have taken it as an insult! not a lot of painters write the way i do, so it would be tough for you to find stuff like this anyway!

  2. Thank you! I insisted on a contract but they refused. Due to my urgent need for work, I decided to take on the job anyway. I did receive a small advance, which is why I commenced work. Lessons have be learned and applied since.

  3. lovely work and its a terrible but all to familiar story. i have a question or two to ask you –
    1) did you sign any kind of a contract?
    2) did you ask for an advance of some kind?

    this is not your fault but you must be prepared for people who are going to take advantage of you. Only you can protect yourself.

  4. First of all, awesome artistry.

    Second, feel so sorry for the unprofessional attitude of these cafe guys. Hope, you have got all your dues.

    Third, kudos for this is the first time that I’m reading the blog of a person who paints for a living. (not an insult) 🙂

    All the best!

  5. its beautiful , lovely design and colors , i understand the pain about the payment ,as its been done to me quite a bit , but the work is great ,hope that can cover part of pain

  6. Wow. It looks quite fascinating. Can’t wait to go back to B’bay and have a look at it. Need me to beat the guys up for you? I cant totally do that. Heh.

  7. Thank you so much, and unfortunately I wasn’t. I’m still waiting for the final payment to come in. While this mural is good work of mine, it’s left me penniless due to the forced delays and non-payment of dues.

  8. This is some very crazy stuff. You need to be celebrated as an artist and I really hope you were compensated appropriately! Very inspiring!

  9. haha thanks! no no i wasn’t making notes all along. the only way to preserve my sanity was to look at it like a murder case with a timeline and details. 😛

  10. I can’t tell you how proud I am of you. Incredible stuff! Way to go and a big God Bless. Dad.

  11. Love the post, the way you’ve written it (I’m sure that meant you were making notes all along- for timelines, details, etc) and of course the mural, as you call it 🙂

    p.s. And you should have taken advance, at least 50% if not more. Anyway, hope you get the well-deserved remuneration soon 🙂

  12. Sounds like a lot of planning should have been done beforehand by whoever was managing the overall project! But you did good anyway, and its a lot of hard work! Of course, you cannot finish so quickly – it is impossible by human standards. Plus I understand you wouldn’t want to compromise on quality :// – anyway I like the work and all the photos, especially the work in progress looks interesting 🙂 good job! 🙂
    Cheers
    Aditi

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