Marriott Hotels and VSCO, an online community for creators, asked photographer Nishant Shukla to share his perspective on Pune’s creative revival.
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Both spiritual and entrepreneurial, the western Indian city of Pune (pronounced poo- nay) is a study in contrasts. Sleek office towers stand above colonial buildings, and street vendors hawk spicy fried snacks beside hipster cafes. People come to work in its vibrant tech sector or meditate at the famous Osho Ashram, giving the city an eclectic, relaxed vibe.
Nishant Shukla was born in the UK and grew up in India and Saudi Arabia. Now based between London, Delhi and Mumbai, the photographer has been visiting Pune since 2003 and witnessed its astounding rate of change. Marriott Hotels and VSCO, an online community of creators, asked him to see Pune with fresh eyes and speak to its creative energy. What follows are excerpts from our conversation with Shukla.
The city is very varied from one neighbourhood to another. It’s developing quite fast and feels modern, with many high-rise buildings. But in other parts you feel like you’re back in time. In Shaniwar Peth there are old crumbling buildings with cast-iron balconies or wooden frames.
It has a unique energy. The neighbourhood centres around Shaniwar Wada, an 18th-century complex that people say is haunted but is a popular place for locals to picnic.
A cool area to walk around is Koregaon Park, which is filled with cafés and restaurants. There’s the famous Osho Ashram and beautiful old banyan trees in Osho Garden. The ashram attracts spiritually minded people from around the world.
Everywhere you go there is delicious handmade food on the side of the street. It becomes part of your interaction with the city. Small carts sell an array of light, delicate snacks. There are things like pani puri, a crispy wheat ball with water and spices inside, that’s like an explosion in your mouth. A typical Pune snack is dabeli, a potato with peanuts, pomegranate, coriander and cheese in a bun.
Pune is known for its music. There are a lot of independent bands and cool music venues. The art scene is young but growing. People have access to really amazing, independent spaces. They’re unusual, like farms in the centre of the city or a jazz bar filled with plants, with room to do things you couldn’t in Mumbai or Delhi.
Recently I collaborated on an exhibition in an art deco hotel/artists’ space called TIFA. Young people converted the building into an art and residency space with the hope of fostering a creative community. There are a lot of up-and-coming places like that, run by individuals since there’s no funding from the state.
In the old city, street artists have done a lot of murals. It’s not vandalism; it rejuvenates the area. It’s unexpected to walk around a heritage district and encounter new styles of art. A lot of it beautifies crumbling buildings, covering a dirty patch of wall with paint but working in sync with the space.
At Marriott Hotels, everything we do is guided by the principle that travel feeds the mind and inspires new perspectives. For the second year we have partnered with leading art and technology company VSCO to create a new digital visual series designed to inspire creativity, tapping into the VSCO global community to capture images and moving image stories of different people, lifestyles and cultures across the world.
Marriott Suites Pune