The residents of the neighbourhood, after a two-decade fight, have managed to save a three-kilometre open space for walking, cycling, jogging and relaxation. It connects one end of the celebrated locality to the other
Rachana Dubey (BOMBAY TIMES; April 4, 2017)

Over the next six months, the beautification of the Irla Nullah, which had been initiated years ago by the local citizen bodies of Juhu, will be complete, making it the second neighbourhood (after Bandra) in Mumbai to have a Bollywood Walk of Fame. The two-kilometre stretch will be replete with statues of celebrities who once lived in the area. Hand impressions of those who still reside in the tony neighbourhood will also find a place of pride on the walk, which will start from the Kishore Kumar Udyan.

Life-sized statues (approximately 5.5 ft to 6.5 ft) of late celebrities like Raaj Kumar, Meena Kumari, Balraj Sahni, Yash Chopra, Amrish Puri, Parveen Babi and Kishore Kumar will be placed along the walk. Amitabh, Jaya and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Dharmendra and Sunny Deol, Alia and Mahesh Bhatt, Varun Dhawan, Zeenat Aman, Rani Mukerji and Aditya Chopra, Sonam and Anil Kapoor, Hema Malini and Shatrughan Sinha are among the 45 celebs whose hand impressions will be up for display at the promenade, constructed with the intention of giving the city a new tourist spot.

Six meters on both sides of the nullah have been reclaimed to form the Prithviraj Path (walking track) and the Yash Raj Path (the walk of fame) with four bridges joining the two at regular intervals. BT visited the site and found that landscaping was underway, along with arrangements to treat the water.

P K Das, the architect of the plan, says, “The idea was born out of a desire to integrate the backyards of the city and make them into proud cultural forecourts. We have claimed six metres of space on either side of the Irla Nullah, which the BMC marked as a flood zone after the floods in 2005. We are now developing it for walking and cycling and also creating a Walk of Fame.“

Activist Ashoke Pandit, who has been working with the local citizen bodies on the project, says, “The beautification of the nullah  should set an example because we have so many of them in the city. Through such projects, you not only reclaim an open space, but also free a water body of its odour and filth. People will eventually stop treating these bodies as drains. nullahs will stop being nullahs.“

However, buzz is that there is a shortage of funds to get the statues sculpted. Ashoke says that lyricist Javed Akhtar, who is also a Rajya Sabha member, has utilised Rs 30 crore of his Local Area Development fund for the project. Plan is to loop in other star MPs like Shatrughan Sinha, Rekha and Paresh Rawal too, to raise funds. He adds, “We might even seek help from industrialists. We've already finished working on the green belt, which runs adjacent to the nullah's walking track and Walk Of Fame. We're positive we will open the doors of the Walk Of Fame to the public in six months.“

Apart from beautifying the stinky nullah and reclaiming patches of land attached to it, the local residents' bodies also reclaimed a vast open space that has now been turned into a pleasant and green walking park. Called the Kishore Kumar Udyan (proposed title), it houses an amphitheatre in Vijay Tendulkar's name (also proposed) , and was opened to public only a month ago.

The park is interconnected with the Kaifi Azmi Park, and with the help of an underground arrangement, will be connected to a children's park across the road, near Amitabh Bachchan's residence, Praeeksha. Over the next few months, the plan is to interlink more parks along the way to form a seamless green patch running into a few kilometres in the heart of Juhu.

Architect Das elaborates, “This project was born out of a movement by the citizens. The objective is to reclaim public spaces and expand them. Open spaces like the Kishore Kumar Udyan have dwindled, which is the tragedy of urban development.“ Actor Anupam Kher, who has been a regular at the Kishore Kumar Udyan/Kaifi Azmi Park, says, “I walk in this park every day. And I am proud that this is happening because people have fought for this land with several private parties and even the government bodies. Open spaces are a must in this concrete jungle that we call our home.“

Beautification of nullahs doesn't stop with the one at Irla. Das points out that there are 300 kilometres of water-bodies all over Mumbai. The master plan is to create greenery around all of them and interconnect them. “These nullahs are not actually drains. They are narrow streams and are present in almost all the neighbourhoods. People have forgotten that Mumbai had four rivers. We have to revive them all and give the city a contiguous space for walking, cycling and interacting,“ Das sums up.