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An unbound space

Shyamanand Jalan wanted as few walls as possible in his house. Since that wasn’t possible, the late theatre veteran, filmmaker and lawyer settled for the next best thing glass, and lots of it. “He didn’t believe in demarcations. He wanted one area to flow into another,” says his wife, Kathak dancer, theatre actor and choreographer Chetna Jalan.

The result is obvious the moment you step into the 7,000sqft home on Judges Court Road. The sitting and dining areas are separated by glass walls and doors from the garden beyond them. You can also see the master bedroom which has glass on one side from here. This floor also has a guest room that used to be Shyamanand’s study. Two flights of stairs on either sides of this floor lead to the upper level that has five bedrooms.

As you walk into the sitting room, Chetna says: “This place was designed for performances and readings. Artists like Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, Birju Maharaj and Girija Devi have performed here.” Whenever a performance took place, the furniture, including the movable bar, was bundled out onto the patio. Today they are all in place and Chetna has cleverly given the room a comfy and manageable feel even though it’s very large. There are three seating areas with different sofa sets one in black leather, one cloth-covered and another in antique Burma teak. A long-stemmed chandelier, designed by the Jalan’s friend, Bitty Mullick, adds a quiet charm to the room.

The dining room, is dominated by a six-seater table and separated from the kitchen by glass doors. A flight of stairs near the kitchen door leads to the basement. Step out through the dining room’s glass doors into the garden with its potted plants, ivy-covered walls and hanging planters. “This is my baby,” says Chetna. A rocky cascading fountain on one side doubles as a birdbath.

Art is splashed all over the walls in this house, and you don’t have to be a connoisseur to spot that the biggest names in Indian art are represented here. Occupying pride of place near the entrance of the house is a painting by Rameshwar Broota that inspired Shyamanand Jalan’s film Eashwar Mime Co.

On the same wall is Paritosh Sen’s The Champ, presented by Sen to Chetna. Hanging by the staircase on the left in the living room is a photograph of their sons Sachetan and Tanmay, taken by Broota in the Sunderbans. Another special piece is a terracotta sculpture of a bespectacled Shyamanand Jalan by Shyamal Roy a 60th birthday present from Chetna. The staircase on the left leads to four rooms the master bedroom, and Chetna’s room as well as those of her younger son Tanmay and the nanny who brought him up.

Shyamanand’s room, the master bedroom, on the first floor again has lots of glass which give it a sense of light and space. A glass wall on one side of the room overlooks the garden while a large window on the other side looks down into the living space. The room has been kept unchanged since he passed away though his sons occasionally use it. It has a bar, a TV, a sofa and a Lazyboy recliner positioned near a small niche with family photographs.

Chetna’s room, in contrast, has a small temple, lilac walls, built-in white cupboards to match the marble flooring and a low, hard bed. “Classical dancers can’t have a nice cushy bed,” says Chetna, who’s also the director of the Padatik Dance Centre. Here again, a large window overlooks the garden.

Further down the corridor is Tanmay’s room. And there’s a small room occupied by Basanti, his nanny, who still keeps the earthen toys she brought for him from her village in Burdwan.

The staircase on the right of the living room leads to Sachetan’s room. Both the sons’ rooms are painted in shades of blue, with works by Broota and Anupam Sood sprucing up the walls.

Down in the basement, is one of the most comfortable rooms in the house. It is the sons’ earlier Shyamanand’s den. Placed near the wall-to-wall mirror is a treadmill. There are two bean bags and light wooden chairs placed around it, while a small refrigerator in a niche ensures that the place is self-sufficient.

All the awards that the Jalans have picked up over the years are on display here atop a wooden cabinet. Chetna decided this would be the best and the most discreet place for them. “We never wanted to display our awards in the living room,” says Chetna.

On the way from the den, the dancer stops beside an embroidered ‘Chamba rumal’ artwork depicting Krishna’s wedding hanging on a wall by the stairs. Telling you how the curator of a Chamba museum had it recreated for her, she says “everything in this home has a story behind it.” And it’s these stories that abound in every corner of the home.        

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