Bollywood bursts into Mumbai

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Buzzing with Bollywood: A slice of theatre at Mumbai Airport

There’s a lot to admire about the gradual re-shaping of commercial operations at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai, a project I saw first-hand on Tuesday night as I came through the international terminal before boarding a flight to London.

DFS India – a partnership with Flemingo – is making real progress in transforming the key duty free facilities airside. The two main stores – one dedicated to fragrances & cosmetics, the other to liquor & tobacco – display most of the major brands in well personalised space. The houses of Johnnie Walker and Chivas Regal enjoy great prominence and branding that matches their displays almost anywhere else. There’s a high-class cigarettes section, with Marlboro to the fore, there’s a vast confectionery store across the corridor, next to a fine fashion & accessories complex – all lined up along a street-style retail zone in Departures.

It’s not perfect. As the gaps on the shelves show (and in common with other Indian airports), getting stock into the stores is no easy task, although that will hopefully come with time. 

Plus the stores have to compete with a range of other services along the ‘avenue’ that runs through the Departures concourse.

There’s the lounge service to the right as you emerge down the escalator, and to the left is a fine array of food & beverage stretching down the corridor.

There HMSHost’s ‘Eat in Mumbai’ F&B zone, a top-class mix of local and international flavours, from Indian Paradise to Pizza Hut. Plus there’s real choice in coffee houses, from Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf to Cafe Coffee Day. Then there’s the Bombay Blue Bar, a trendy music bar fitted out to a very high standard – though the night I travelled through they seemed ill-equipped to cope with the demand for beer from the many thirsty Europeans taking flights back home.  

But one outlet stood out above the rest for me – the new IIFA Buzz Cafe operated by HMSHost (above) – a Bollywood-themed bar that really captures the imagination. It’s a theme that the operator has already put into action at Hyderabad Airport – and it combines a sense of fun with a vital sense of place.

It’s got an eye-catching, neon-ringed entrance, plush red velvet seating and posters of the glamour names of the Indian film industry dotted throughout. It’s casual, but very upscale too – and a memorable way to end a visit to India.

The Buzz Bar’s opening in Mumbai is significant for another reason too. Mumbai is the traditional home of the Hindi language Indian film industry, whose name – Bollywood – combines Bombay, the old name for Mumbai, and Hollywood. So it’s fitting that its international airport should honour one of the city’s great industries.  Fittingly too, like the Bollywood genre of movies, the bar has several vital ingredients for success: colour, theatre and drama. It’s an enterprise that richly deserves to succeed.

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