Bandra, Your Opposition to Converting Mehboob Studio Into a Covid-19 Quarantine Centre Reeks of Privilege


Bandra, Your Opposition to Converting Mehboob Studio Into a Covid-19 Quarantine Centre Reeks of Privilege

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

As parts of the country begins to slowly lift the lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic, Maharashtra continues to reel from the effects of the outbreak. Its capital, Mumbai, in particular, has seen a huge surge in cases over the last month, now consistently recording over 1,000 cases every day.

Given the strain such a high number of patients will put on our healthcare sector, the state government had recommended earlier this week that Bandra’s Mehboob studios — the favourite of hundreds of Bollywood producers and filmmakers — be converted into a 1,000-bed quarantine centre.

But residents of the plush suburb have apparently refused the BMC permission to do so, a move that some are saying smacks of privilege. According to Mumbai Mirror, locals have argued that allowing Covid-19 patients inside Mehboob studio will put them at an increased risk of catching the virus, “especially with monsoon around the corner.”

The backlash follows a similar appeal by south Mumbai residents to not turn Wankhede stadium into a quarantine zone, a plan that was promptly dropped. The latest appeal from Bandra, however, was criticised by fellow residents as well.

Most notable of the list was actor Pooja Bhatt, who had some scathing words for her neighbours. In an interview, she said she was “amazed by the sheer hypocrisy” of Bandra residents for “suddenly developing a civic sense”.

“I think this is extremely selfish and very inhumane of the people mentioned in the article. Most of these are people who do not hesitate to litter around their buildings through the year,” she was quoted as saying. She also shared a number of pictures as proof.

Her interview was shared by father, filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt.

Other residents of Bandra, meanwhile, argued that Mehboob studio was not the most ideal place to set up a quarantine centre, even in a city struggling with a lack of space to deal with the thousands of active patients.

One was quoted as saying they had an alternative nearby which was ready with “rooms and infrastructure facilities”. Another resident said Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had indicated that he wanted shoots to resume in the studio, and that this move was giving residents mixed signals.

All through the last few weeks, corporators have been planning to convert some of the more prominent buildings in the city — St Xavier’s School, JJ School of Arts, and parts of DG Ruparel College, to name a few — into quarantine centres to deal with the shortage.

But for now, the fate of Mehboob studios remains unclear.