Free Culture: 16 Event Series For The #UrbanPoor

Nucleya playing an Awestrung concert.

Bass music star Nucleya playing an Awestrung gig.

Whether or not you consider yourself to be among the #urbanpoor, you can definitely be culturally rich in Mumbai where a number of cultural organisations, venues, promoters and sponsors host free events every month. And we don’t mean open mic nights (where you never know what you’re going to get) and resident DJ gigs (where the same folks perform every time) but major concerts, films and talks that you can attend without having to buy a ticket. From electronic dance music gigs and world cinema screenings to book launches, here are 16 event series that won’t cost you a paisa to enjoy (except the cost of transport but hey if you’re really poor, you’d walk).

Awestrung at High Street Phoenix
This year-old gig series, held at the courtyard of the High Street Phoenix mall complex, has drawn capacity crowds for its shows by acts such as bass music star Nucleya, Indi-pop veteran Lucky Ali and long-running alternative rock band Zero. Curated by city-based music artist and event management company Shark & Ink, the line-ups tend to be a mixed bag – they’ve included everyone from Rajasthani folk singer Mame Khan to retro pop specialists The Other People – making the announcements a bit of surprise every month.
When: Between September and May, usually on the last Friday of the month. You can RSVP via the event page on

Levi’s 501 Friday
Bankrolled by the American denim brand and named after its most well-known style of jeans, this gig series is programmed by the folks at Only Much Louder. Usually held at Blue Frog, it has featured over the last year such Indian indie music heavyweights as electro-folk-fusion duo Midival Punditz, techno exponent Arjun Vagale and ska band The Ska Vengers. It’s also where we first checked out fast-rising rappers Divine and Naezy live. The star-studded line-ups tend to attract a capacity crowd so it’s advisable to book a spot by sending an RSVP via the event page on
When: Between February and April and August to November, mostly on the third Friday of the month but dates can vary.

PlugUnplug at Bonobo
Launched in February, this monthly Wednesday gig series at Bandra bar Bonobo features acts playing either an unplugged set in the al fresco area or a plugged show in the indoor section. The performers, who are programmed by Mixtape, have included singer-songwriters Rodney Branigan and Nicholson and a cappella ensemble Voctronica.
When: Once a month, on the third or second Wednesday. Follow Bonobo’s Facebook page for updates.

Pratahswar at Ravindra Natya Mandir
Now into its tenth year, this dawn-time Hindustani classical music concert series organised by music-focused event company Pancham Nishad, celebrated its milestone seventy-fifth recital in December. Violinist N. Rajam and flautist Hariprasad Chaurasia are among the stalwarts who have performed for its regulars who congregate at the open foyer of the Ravindra Natya Mandir in Prabhadevi to watch the sun rise to the sound of morning ragas.
When: From October to May, usually on the last Sunday of the month. Write to with a request to be added to their mailing list.

Where We At at Bonobo
Curated by Only Much Louder, this monthly Friday night series at Bonobo, is described as “a showcase of the freshest new sounds across India’s aural landscape”. Based on its four editions thus far, it is more specifically a showcase of the country’s most club-friendly new sounds. Electronica superduo Perfect Timing, made up of Mumbai’s Sandunes aka Sanaya Ardeshir and Kolkata’s Jivraj ‘Jiver’ Singh; city-residing hip hop DJ Uri; and Bangalore electronic music producer _RHL who was born Rahul Giri have all been on the bill.
When: Once a month, on the second Friday though dates could vary. Follow Bonobo’s Facebook page for updates.

Alliance Française
Contemporary and classic French cinema is screened throughout the month at the French cultural centre’s auditorium at its headquarters in Marine Lines. It also conducts monthly themed series of movie screenings at other venues. At Prithvi Theatre, the Alliance runs From Literature to Film, a series of French movies based on books. Art-related films are shown at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum and movies that hinge on women’s issues at Whistling Woods Andheri Base. The Alliance also serves as a venue for screenings of documentaries by Vikalp (see below) and The Root Reel, a platform for the discussion of social issues.
When: French movies are screened at the Alliance Française throughout the month; dates for Alliance’s series at other venues and Vikalp and The Root Reel screenings vary. For the schedule of events, see here.

Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum
The BDL Museum runs a monthly series of screenings called Movies at the Museum. Curators filmmaker Avijit Mukul Kishore and architect Rohan Shivkumar show an eclectic range of movies and documentaries and are usually present to engage with the audience after the show. In the past, they’ve shown foreign films such as Theo Angelopoulos’s Eternity and a Day and historically important Indian movies such as the works of V. Shantaram and Satyadev Dubey’s Shantata! Court Chalu Aahe. The Museum also screens documentaries on art in collaboration with the Alliance Francaise (see above). For the schedule of events, see here.
When: Once a month, usually on Thursday or Friday.

Goethe Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan
The German cultural institute screens documentaries and feature films in German or films in other languages made by German filmmakers on Fridays in the library. Currently they’re showing films suited for the family. For the schedule of events, see here.
When: Almost every Friday.

The Pantry
The cafe in Kala Ghoda screens short films from across the country and around the world that have been curated by production company Mac Productions and Shamiana – The Short Film Club. The movies shown at their Short Films Night have included Oscar nominees as well as National Award winners.
When: Once a month, usually on the last Friday. Follow The Pantry’s Facebook page to get updates on screenings.

This informal network of documentary makers, which was created in 2004 to combat censorship and preserve freedom of expression, screens films on a variety of subjects such as communalism, caste, gender, sexuality and the environment at Prithvi Theatre in Juhu and Alliance Française in Churchgate. Over the last ten years, Vikalp has shown over 100 documentaries including Laura Poitras’s Oscar-winning Citizenfour, Nisha Pahuja’s The World Before Her and Ashvin Kumar’s Inshallah, Kashmir: Living Terror. Recently, it completed a run of screenings at Fort venue Jnanapravaha.
When: Dates vary, see here for the Prithvi and here for the Alliance Française schedule.

Asia Society India
The Indian chapter of the Asia Society, an international education institution, routinely holds talks on subjects that range from politics and economics to poverty and the arts. While a few of their events are ticketed, most are free and held at venues such as the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya and Nehru Centre. In the recent past, the Asia Society has had speakers such as former Indian ambassador to the US Nirumpama Rao, economist Kaushik Basu and Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri. For the schedule of events, see here.
When: Throughout the month.

Chai & Why
Prithvi Theatre holds this monthly series of talks, aimed at demystifying science, in collaboration with the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. At past installments, scientists from TIFR have spoken about a variety of topics such as fingerprints, colours and gravitational waves.
When: Once a month, usually on the first Sunday. Follow the Facebook page to get updates on events.

Godrej Culture India Lab
You will have to trek it to Vikhroli to attend one of the Godrej India Culture Lab’s events but from personal experience we can say that it’s worth the effort. These include their Friday Funda series of talks that have featured a diverse range of speakers such as American nature writer Stephen Alter and Barefoot College founder Bunker Roy; their Book and Film Club series of readings and screenings that have included authors such as journalist and film writer Sidharth Bhatia and documentary makers Fahad Mustafa and Deepti Kakkar on the bill; and a number of special lectures, performances and panel discussions, from a showcase of spoken word poetry to a spotlight on queer cinema. For the schedule of events, see here.
When: Throughout the month.

Founded in 2012 by Sanjna Kapoor and Sameera Iyengar, who previously ran Prithvi Theatre, the arts organisation holds a talk series called Mumbai Local at MCubed Library in Bandra, Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Byculla and Kitab Khana in Fort every month. Junoon has hosted a wide range of speakers from the arts and sciences, from filmmaker Shyam Benegal and actor Naseeruddin Shah to artist Reena Kallat and dancer Astad Deboo.
When: Every month, MCubed Library on the first Saturday, Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum on the second Sunday, Kitab Khana on the third Friday. For the schedule of events, see here.

Literature Live! Evenings
The organisers of the annual literature festival, held at the National Centre for the Performing Arts every December, host book launches, which typically include an interview with the writers, throughout the year. Author Amitav Ghosh and journalist Vir Sanghvi are among those who have been part of the soirees. Lit Live! usually holds two talks every month, one at the NCPA and the other at venues across the city such as five-star hotels, museums and art galleries.
When: Twice a month. Write to with a request to be added to their mailing list.

National Geographic Traveller India Meetup
The travel magazine conducts a popular series of holiday-themed talks at Bandra bookstore Title Waves where the topics of discussion have ranged from road trips to food trails and city adventures. Go early to grab one of the limited seats and stay back for the Q&A session during which audience members are known to share tips and interesting anecdotes.
When: Once a month, usually on the second Friday. Follow the publication’s Facebook page for updates on the schedule.

Alliance Française 40 Theosophy Hall, New Marine Lines, near Nirmala Niketan. Tel: 022 2203 5993. Get directions here.
Bonobo Second Floor, Kenilworth Mall, Phase 2, off Linking Road, behind KFC, Bandra (West). Tel: 022 2605 5050. Get directions here.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya Mahatma Gandhi Road, Kala Ghoda. Tel: 022 2284 4484. Get directions here.
Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum Rani Baug, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar Road, Byculla. Tel: 022 2373 1234. Get directions here.
Godrej India Culture Lab Auditorium, First Floor, Godrej One, off the Eastern Express Highway, Vikhroli (East). Get directions here.
Goethe Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan, K. Dubash Marg, Kala Ghoda. Tel: 022 2202 7542.
High Street Phoenix Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel. Get directions here.
Kitab Khana Somaiya Bhavan, Ground Floor, Flora Fountain, Fort. Tel: 022 6170 2276. Get directions here.
MCubed Library (Maharashtra Mitra Mandal Library) Princess Building, near Bandra Gymkhana, D’Monte Park Road, Bandra (West). Tel: 022 2641 1497. Get directions here.
National Centre for the Performing Arts NCPA Marg, Nariman Point. Tel: 022 2282 4567. Get directions here.
Nehru Centre Dr. Annie Besant Road, Worli. Tel: 022 2496 4676. Get directions here.
Prithvi Theatre Janki Kutir, Juhu Church Road, Juhu. Tel: 022 2614 9546. Get directions here.
Ravindra Natya Mandir Behind Siddhivinayak Temple, Prabhadevi. Tel: 022 2436 5990. Get directions here.
The Pantry Yeshwant Chambers, Military Square Lane, near Trishna, Kala Ghoda, Fort. Tel: 022 2267 8901. Get directions here.
Title Waves St. Paul’s Media Complex, opposite Duruelo Convent School, 24th Road, off Turner Road, Bandra (West). Tel: 022 2651 0841. Get directions here.

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