Art Deco: A new, modern style for Bombay
Patronised and built by the city's business and industrial elite through the 1930's and 40's using emerging materials and new technologies, Art Deco transformed the look and feel of Bombay. The building style became a visual marker of modernity and a thriving port city's desire to be a counterpart to any other world metropolis. Nowhere is this more visible than on Marine Drive. Pictured here is the water coloured rendering on paper of the Marine Drive promenade with Art Deco buildings.
Watercolour Illustration of Soona Mahal (2019/2019) by Shubhika MalaraArt Deco Mumbai
Late Kawasji Fakirji Sidhwa (2017/2017)Original Source: Mehernosh Sidhwa Family Archive
Soona Mahal was built by the Late Kawasji Fakirji Sidhwa, who ran, amongst other things, a flourishing, completely legal, country liquor business. With the reclamation of the Backbay, today's Marine Drive, he envisioned in Soona an Art Deco palace with a commanding sea view.
Late Soona bai Kawasji SidhwaOriginal Source: Mehernosh Sidhwa Family Archive
At Marine Drive, we notice a shift away from the westernised building names used a decade earlier at the Oval - Belverdere Court, Windsor House, and Oval View. Soona Mahal, for instance, was named after Sidhwa's wife, the strong-willed and graceful Late Soona bai Kawasji Sidhwa.
Keki C. SidhwaOriginal Source: Mehernosh Sidhwa Family Archive
Many remember Soona Mahal as Soona Service Suites, a warm, welcoming bed and breakfast, and home away from home for many of the city's working professionals, run by Khorshed Sidhwa, the owner's daughter-in-law. Meanwhile his son, Keki C Sidhwa, was an accomplished boxer; at a young age he was Western India’s featherweight boxing champion for 5 years in a row, from 1937-41.
Street view of Soona Mahal, Mumbai (2017/2017)Art Deco Mumbai
The building's distinctive Deco features include the structure's streamlined design, deep cantilevered balconies, pops of bright colour, vertical accents and commanding rooftop turret.
Worm's eye view of Soona Mahal, Mumbai (2017/2017)Art Deco Mumbai
Notice the stepped ziggurat motifs at the top end of the vertical bands and coloured vertical accents on the building's exterior. Running cement chajjas or 'eyebrows' and deep, curvilinear balconies offered reprieve from the sun's glare, as residents enjoyed panoramic views of the bay by the sea.
Detail View of Soona Mahal, Mumbai (2017/2017)Art Deco Mumbai
Soona Mahal, like most of Marine Drive's Deco buildings, was topped by a flat terrace, and circular viewing gallery, a unique, social space for its residents.
To Mehernosh Sidhwa, the building's current resident and grandson of the owner, the round, turreted structure looks like a docked spaceship, moments before take-off.
Mehernosh Sidhwa (2017/2017)Original Source: Mehernosh Sidhwa Family Archive
A purist, Sidhwa strives hard to ensure that the building is preserved in its original form and design.
Entrance lobby of Soona Mahal (2017/2017)Art Deco Mumbai
Inside, Soona Mahal displays some of the hallmarks of Art Deco design and construction - including the original elevator, carved wooden stairwells, and coloured-marble cladding on the walls.
Ceiling details inside Soona Mahal, Mumbai (2017/2017)Art Deco Mumbai
The oval shaped ceiling of the entrance lobby has a two-toned bead cornice moulding with single ogee or S-shaped brackets at regular intervals. It adds a sense of drama and finery to the space.
Marine Drive: View of promenade (2019/2019)Art Deco Mumbai
Soona Mahal remains one of the most authentic Art Deco structures along Marine Drive. The outstanding universal value of Mumbai's Art Deco in general, and Marine Drive's sea-facing development in particular, was recognised on June 30, 2018, when the Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles, Mumbai, was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The inscription includes the spectacular massing of 35 buildings in Art Deco along Marine Drive, a section of which is pictured here.
To know more visit the exhibit on the World Heritage Site in Mumbai.
Art Deco Mumbai showcases Mumbai’s Art Deco, advocates its conservation, chronicles its history, documents neighbourhoods and has created the only online repository dedicated to Mumbai’s Deco buildings. Photo Credits for family portraits to Mehernosh Sidhwa. All the remaining images are from Art Deco Mumbai’s archive.
Read more on Soona Mahal
Explore the Art Deco Mumbai Gallery