In a hotel turned green by the sea, its mirrors blackened by salt and shaded by a tangle of foliage forgotten, we dance. Our white skirts and shirts are lit by UV lights and ballooned by the breeze, and we appear like jellyfish that drift in from the beach beyond.
We’re at a rave at Juhu’s Horizon in 2002, a hotel just shuttered, abandoned for revelers to take over the lobby and do as they please. In a controlled fashion, of course (it’s 2003 not 1993!).
Let this party be our interval point in today's story, the first act of which features a bevy of film stars with 80s hairstyles whipped into cotton candy and held in place by a mountain of mousse. The next act is all about chefs and restaurateurs, and the Horizon-owning family that's hoping to bring back the glory days.
1972-2011: Coleridge Meets Rajesh Khanna
Horizon Hotel opened and prospered under the Sharma family in 1972. The prosper bit was padded by the fact that in year two of business, superstar Rajesh Khanna married actor Dimple Kapadia at the hotel. “I was only two years old then,” MD and owner Sagar Sharma says, “but I'm told that the line of well wishers snaked from the hotel’s swimming pool right up to Centaur Hotel.” The wedding was covered by the BBC.
As with the other hotels in Juhu, a neighbourhood that housed and still houses many prominent film families, Horizon became a hub not just for Bollywood meets and greets, but also a location for film shoots. “Over 200 films have been shot here,” Sagar informs us.
But Sagar’s favourite hotel memories hover around Xanadu, a nightclub, “nay THE nightclub” of the 80s and 90s. “Imran Khan and Wasim Akram used to say that if they had to make one pit stop during their Mumbai trip, it would be at Xanadu.” The club also hosted the World Dance Championships, which Xanadu regular and choreographer Farah Khan would win regularly.
Around the year 2000, things started to slow down; by 2003, the lobby could be hired for parties, and in 2011 the hotel officially shut, shrouded in mystery and promising a glorious come back.
2018: Sushi and Secrets
We’re now in 2018 and a current of electric anticipation is circling the business’ new avatar. Sagar lets us in on plans, immediate and long term, but in a nutshell, he hopes to build a St Regis-Palladium style hotel-hub ecosphere here. “The compound will house two hotels – The InterContinental, whose structure is already up and promises to be completed by end of 2018, and a Holiday Inn. The idea of building a lifestyle hub around them is so guests have access to more than just hotel restaurants.” A stately pleasure-dome decreed? If Sagar has anything to with it.
The plan is already taking shape, with an Indigo Deli, a pub called Tippling Street and Bangkok’s Thai restaurant Mango Tree functioning within the compound’s walls. Last week we told you about Wine Villa (signature dishes conceptualised by MasterChef Australia 2017 winner Diana Chan)’s imminent opening at Horizon, and we’ve just gleaned that Bandra’s Kofuku (yay!) and “a leading Indian restaurant I can’t name yet” will also be arriving soon.
“We wanted a Juhu space by the sea, but wanted to make sure we were away from the crowded main beach. And so Horizon fits perfectly. Plus it is a great mix of independent retail and F&B, and we’re excited to be here,” Anurag Katiar, CEO and Executive Director of Indigo Deli (deGustibus Hospitality) tells us.
Other vacant spots will be filled by fashion stores and salons; UK’s ‘best Brazilian wax experts’, Ministry of Waxing will disembark soon. Yes, change can be painful.
But amidst all the new, there will be nostalgia too, as Sagar plans to re-open Xanadu in the next few months as a rooftop bar. “If Horizon is to make a come back, we can’t leave Xanadu behind.” Maybe he’ll even bring the club’s dance championships back.
“It might just be the next big thing,” Sagar signs off. We’re thinking of Farah Khan and her cotton candy beehive that refuses to wilt despite the sea breeze, dancing joyously to a song that everyone loves. It's just the kind of hope 2018 needs.
Getting there: Hotel Horizon, opposite Juhu Church, Juhu.
Thanks to writer-director-producer Vishesh Bhatt and restaurateur Anurag Katriar for inputs and connections.
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