MUMBAI: Living in a bungalow has become the ultimate status symbol for the city's uber rich, who are not swayed by penthouses and sky villas with 360-degree views.
In 2011, industrialist Sajjan Jindal bought a sea-facing, three-storey bungalow (Maheshwari House) with a porch and a garden at Nepean Sea Road for Rs 400 crore. It was touted as one of the most expensive deals for a home in India. The new acquisition is still unoccupied but it is believed the Jindals may use it as a family home in future.
At Worli sea face, property industry sources said industrialist Ajay Piramal plans to build his own bungalow on part of a one-acre plot (Gulita) his firm Piramal Realty bought for Rs 452 crore from Hindustan Unilever two years ago. Billionaire businessman Cyrus Poonawala, too, moved into a bungalow at Breach Candy six years ago. Anil Agarwal of Sterlite is another industrialist who stays in a bungalow next to Samudra Mahal building at Worli. The Birlas, Ruias, Tatas, Godrejs and Pallonjis all reside in bungalows or mansions between Colaba, Carmichael Road and Walkeshwar. NCP leader Praful Patel is believed to be building one for himself on the sea front at Worli.
Jaydev Mody, chairman of Delta Corp, a gaming and hospitality company, built a four-storey bungalow in the leafy Laburnum Road lane near Gamdevi for his family a decade ago. "We replicated the architectural features of the original property," he said of the family house called Barry Villa. It has living rooms on each floor and six bedrooms. "It offers you privacy, security, ample parking in a convenient south Mumbai location. Everything is in your hands because you do not have to deal with a building society," said Mody, spelling out the advantages of residing on an independent plot.
Property experts said several affluent families are going back to securing plots for private residences. "In the past 20 years, they have made enormous money and have outgrown living in apartments," said Jehangir Sorabjee, who himself lives on a bungalow property at Nepean Sea Road. He has tracked with horror the number of heritage bungalows pulled down and replaced by skyscrapers in south Mumbai.
"But thankfully there are still people who are not interested in the development potential of the plot," he said, adding that people frequently ask him if he knew of large 40,000-sq-ft independent bungalow plots for sale.
In the 19th and early 20th century, the landed gentry in Mumbai preferred large houses with sprawling gardens or lawns, which could accommodate 500 people for private functions, parties or religious ceremonies. Old-timers said many families sold their bungalows in the city when the Urban Land Ceiling (Regulation) Act was introduced in the mid-1970s and moved into apartments. The draconian law restricted individuals from holding excess land or property. "In the Socialist period, big properties were considered bad," said Sorabjee.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the super-rich started buying bungalows in Alibag, but in the past decade, they have had the capacity to purchase them in Mumbai itself. Today, a 1,000-sq-m bungalow plot could fetch Rs 120 crore at Bandra Bandstand, Rs 80 crore on Pali Hill and between Rs 170 crore and Rs 200 crore at Breach Candy. But such plots are extremely hard to get despite huge budgets.
"A bungalow offers privacy and exclusivity. Its occupant does not have to share any of the common amenities with others," said Anuj Puri, chairman of Jones Lang Lasalle India.
"Every Bollywood star is hunting for bungalow properties in the city," said a developer, not wishing to be identified. Aamir Khan has been in the market for a couple of years with a Rs 150-crore-plus budget, but with little success. Vidya Balan finally gave up and settled for an entire floor in a Juhu building. Ajay Devgn is hunting for one in Juhu, while Raveena Tandon bought a bungalow property in Shirley Rajan village in Bandra. In 2009, filmmaker and actor Farhan Akhtar purchased a bungalow at Bandra Bandstand (next to Westwind Society) for Rs 22 crore. Actor Shilpa Shetty and her businessman-husband Raj Kundra bought a sea-facing bungalow near Juhu post office for Rs 45 crore from builder Sudhakar Shetty three years ago. Former Miss Universe-turned-actor Lara Dutta and her husband, tennis player Mahesh Bhupathi, purchased a 2,000-sq-ft row house on Pali Hill for Rs 14 crore in 2011. The property-Shailja-comes with a lawn.
"It's a big status symbol for prominent film personalities. They feel their brand image and valuation shoot up by living in a bungalow," said the developer. Real estate experts said all properties in the coastal regulation zone, where development potential is restricted, can only be purchased by end users. "No builder will touch it because the floor space index is restricted and the profit margin is negligible,'' they said.