Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s bungalow, Mannat, is one of the most iconic properties in Mumbai, India. Fans can be often seen crowding outside this sprawling sea-facing mansion and waiting for hours to catch a glimpse of the star. The luxury property, besides having all the amenities, also has an intriguing past that makes it even more valuable.
The Paperclip, an Indian digital media house, on Monday shared a thread on X, formerly Twitter, shedding light on Shah Rukh Khan and “a group of people who helped shape the world of art for modern India”.
According to the thread, Mannat was earlier known as Villa Vienna before Shah Rukh Khan renamed it. The property has another building, Kekee Manzil, right next to it and both of them were once owned by members of the same family.
In the late 19th century, the 16th Raja of Mandi, Bijai Sen, built a property for his wife and named it Villa Vienna. After the death of Bijai Sen, the villa was sold to a Parsi man, Maneckji Batliwala, the maternal grandfather of Kaikhushru Minochair Gandhy, also known as Kekoo Gandhy.
In 1938, before World War II began, a fine painter named Walter Langhammer from Austria fled to Mumbai, then Bombay, “owing to his anti-Nazi leanings and his wife being Jewish”.
Due to his “connections and profound knowledge of art”, Langhammer was made the Art Director of The Times of India. Following this, Langhammer befriended Kekoo Gandhy after meeting him at art circle socials.
In the early 1940s, Kekoo Gandhy also met a man from Belgium, Roger Van Damme, whose father was a traditional frame maker. Van Damme shared his idea of selling frames in India, which impressed Gandhy.
In 1941, Kekoo Gandhy and his brother Russy set up a company to manufacture frames for paintings. They named it Chemical Moulding Manufacturing Company and later shortened it to just Chemould.
Gandhy later realised that Indian artists had no space to sell their art. He then travelled to different parts of the country in search for young talents, and exhibition spaces and tried to convince various institutes “to open up their doors and encourage more Indian artists”.
Kekoo Gandhy, who played an important role in establishing the Jehangir Art Gallery, the National Gallery of Modern Art, and the Lalit Kala Academy, often allowed budding artists inside his home, Kekee Manzil.
“But providing the space for creativity wasn’t enough. He made sure that his framing company had the latest artwork from these artists, and he and Walter would often influence people from their social circles to buy these artwork,” the tweet read.
Kekee Manzil was built by Kekoo Gandhy’s father next to Villa Vienna. But, as Gandhy’s maternal grandfather could not keep the villa, “It was passed down to his sister who ultimately sold it to a promoter”.
Years later, Villa Vienna was bought by Shah Rukh Khan, who transformed it into Mannat as it stands today.
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