By Shilpa Jamkhandikar
MUMBAI (Reuters) - The raven-tressed heroine stares adoringly at the handsome Mughal prince, who gazes lovingly back at her - from where they are painted on a Mumbai wall.
The mural of the classic Bollywood film "Anarkali" is the brainchild of a pair of movie buffs, who hope to give Mumbai a distinct Bollywood identity through a series of murals, aiming for the iconic appeal of the "Hollywood" sign in California.
The mural from Anarkali, a 1953 film about a doomed love affair between the prince and a commoner, is just the first of many the pair, and their Bollywood Art Project, hope to create all over the city.
"Mumbai is the home of Bollywood, but it has no Bollywood flavor," said Ranjit Dahiya, who started the project with his friend, Tony Peter. "We wanted to change that."
They zeroed in on a wall in the posh suburb of Bandra, home to several Bollywood stars, and asked for permission to paint the 6 meter (20 foot) Anarkali mural, fully expecting to be rebuffed.
"But they had no problem at all," Dahiya told Reuters. "They happily handed over their wall to us for fourteen days and let us paint."
Over the weekend, the Art Project also screened the film with the wall as a backdrop, hoping to educate youngsters and help them relive Bollywood's golden past.
"We have a lot of indications around Mumbai of what Bollywood is today, in terms of posters of latest releases, but there is no indication of where we came from," Peter said.
The group aims to paint several such murals and put up posters all over Mumbai in the coming year, culminating in celebrations in May 2013 to mark 100 years of Indian cinema.
Their next project is an 18 meter (60 foot) tall depiction of popular 1970s actress and dancer Helen.
Peter says he hopes to recruit more of India's poster painting stars into the project, indirectly helping workers skilled in the once-flourishing art of hand-painted, larger-than-life posters, who have been struggling in recent years.
Both Dahiya and Peter have regular day jobs in design but say their project has become an all-consuming hobby.
But in a city notorious for its lack of civic sense and where most walls are adorned with tobacco and betel leaf stains, aren't they worried about the fate of their masterpieces?
Dahiya says no.
"I can't sit and worry about people spitting on my art," said the 32-year-old. "I've made it for the people, so how they treat it is up to them."
(Reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar; Editing by Tony Tharakan and Elaine Lies)