Tuesday, 31 March 2009


Friday, March 20, 2009

one of the most fun mag covers that i have ever shot
( at the exotic Cape Town)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Making of the cover

It was a fantastic experience to shoot with Kerri; she is such a great model n fun person to be with. I still remember clearly the first shot we took-The white waves dancing around her appeared to me like lava of melting snow and as she sat on her knees gazing at some far away illusion- she appeared to me one of the most exotic girls I had ever shot with. As I gazed at her through my lens for her face close ups, I realized her piercing blue eyes can cut through any defenses you might hold against such body -beautiful. The camera loves her and you love her.

She embodied within her the wildness and sensuality of South Africa.

They say about South Africa- one world one country!

That even India is.

We have almost everything that one can see in the world. But if they were to say the same thing only about Cape Town- I would completely agree with the statement. I have been shooting around the world but never been to a place before that’s got such a range of locations within an hour of the main city. You could be up on the Table Top mountains or be playing with sea-waters in next five min. From white sand beaches to extra-ordinary rock formations around –Cape Town has just got everything a photographer would want. I could have shot for the cover anywhere, in any corner…And thankfully Kerri is a fabulous model-the pictures just can’t go wrong. Great body…great looks...And a great attitude! Have I said this before? - can’t help it if there are so many stunning girls around!!!

Atul didn’t think twice about putting her on the cover .An excellent choice for a magazine that has made consistent efforts to get the best of the models for its cover. Just check out her body of work from across the many nations she has modeled.

We had decided to shoot at the beach side ; I had earlier crossed this particular location n loved the rock formation, though being too close to the city, I wasn’t too sure how feasible it was to do a shoot at that spot, but my friend Niel assured it was fine. Niel has been such a great help throughout my Cape Town stay. All thanks to wonderful Yasmin Mohamed that i met him.

Clothes and colors make a lot of difference in outdoor shoots. Kerri has a great sense of style -I dropped the idea of hiring a stylist for the shoot and asked her to carry a short dress in red and a bikini. Shanaz had done astonishing make-up ….the blue eyes just stood out and I just couldn’t wait to start clicking. All I had briefed Shanaz about the shoot was to accentuate her eyes. The inspiration behind the make -up on Kerri was to bring out the color and shape of her eyes by using deep sensual purples. She kept her skin fresh and dewy by creating illusion and adding light and then her lips pale to emphasize her eyes.

We were ready for the shoot !

But the sea was not.

It has a mind of its own-n it always decides how much of itself to give to the world- from the apparent calmness in the morning, its temperament changed dramatically – the waves rose as high as twenty feet and it looked awfully scary to get anywhere close to them. Though Kerri was an absolute sport insisting up on shooting there but I can take risk with my bones but not with the model. We kept on moving from spot to spot till we found a relatively safer place. Yet again we were forced to move.

The shoot was madness, where I slipped, Kerri slipped- the guy holding the reflector slipped-n I hopelessly saw the only reflector I had slip away into the waters. I must admit Kerri took on the waves head-on (literally!) Most waves got gentle by the time they reached her, the force broken by rock formation, yet few were furious enough to toss her around –bruising her body n cutting the knees. She cursed, screamed, shouted, laughed, smiled, mocked at the sea n punched imaginary things …but didn’t move till I was done with my shots.

If I say that water was cold- don’t trust me- as the water was much more than that- it was freezing cold! She didn’t complain once and I could see what goes in to the making of a great model- the level of commitment n the madness required to shoot extra-ordinary pics…
You must check the entire series of pics in the latest issue of Mega Modelz and if you think you got what it takes to be on the cover then don’t hesitate to get in touch with Atul- he is cooler than Cape Town waters…even if the magazine covers are hot like that of Kerri-Lee Miller !

And don't miss out the exclusive video of the making of the cover soon on this blog....! and next week the exciting story of Lyudmyla in Hong Kong !

Sunday, February 8, 2009

She can make your heart flutter with her charming smile n stop the same heart beating with her steely gaze- if she chooses to do so!

At the age of 25 she vowed to wipe off every militant operating on the soils of J&K –in the process herself becoming one of the prime targets for the militant groups. But Shaheeda Parveen has lived an extra-ordinary life between bombs n bullets and is no average woman.

I asked her casually upon my chance meeting with her, how Mumbai should have handled the terror attacks..?

“Terrorist plays with your fear- which is within you- take out that fear factor, and he is just a common thug who can be beaten to death! They fired all over the city and we let them escape- if we had only grouped together and pounced upon them-there would have been much lesser causalities! itne saare log milkar un terrorists kee boti boti noch dalte ( so many people together could have physically torn their limbs apart)”

To understand this statement you will have to know a little more about the woman whose name became synonymous with courage n ‘encounters’ in the militancy infected state of Jammu & Kashmir,-the bold & beautiful super cop Shaheeda Parveen- the only police woman so far from Jammu & Kashmir police cadre to have been awarded the prestigious President Police medal for gallantry in year 2002.

Between 1997 n 2002-she was responsible for wiping off a number of dreaded militants( the number would go as high as 80 plus); she was under extreme threat from militant groups, a lot of her body guards n informer s were killed – and she was one of the prime targets for Lashkar-e-Toiba…but then that never fazed her. How could I ever miss the opportunity of looking at her through my lens! This was no actress playing a character but courage personified

I first met her on my trip to Nagaland where I was the guest of the Corps Commander 3 Corps Lt. Gen. R K Loomba AVSM (all thanks to my dear friend Rahul). It wasn’t difficult to single out that graceful woman in that party hosted in honor of the General… I was introduced to her as a fashion photographer from Mumbai and I could not resist complimenting her on the way she carried herself and the gorgeous woman that she was. She had sparkling charm and an easy smile n when Mrs. Loomba told me she was capable of killing a terrorist with equal ease- I almost choked on my smile.
Her charismatic demeanor contradicted the fact that she had in the past, with equal ease, fired an Ak-47 into the body of a terrorist. But the moment you speak to her about the killings of the innocent, her pupils dilate with rage , the obvious fiery resolve making her eyes look like that of a tigress on the hunt.

And the change in her eye color makes you take a hasty step back.

This was before the Mumbai terror attacks. I never forgot her. So when she recently paid a visit to Mumbai, I decided to do a story on her extra-ordinary life.

In a family of six siblings, Shaheeda was the youngest. Born and brought up at Poonch, she graduated and decided to do something meaningful with her life and not just some regular job. During her interview for a teaching job, everybody prayed they get the job and she prayed that she did not! Teaching as a profession wasn’t meant for her! She had lived a tough life- her father having expired when she was just 4 yrs old. By the time she finished her M.Sc., she was clear in her head she wanted to join police force. Militancy was then at its peak and she had seen many a beautiful lives n families being destroyed as a result of the mindless killings in the name of Jehaad. Her decision to join the force didn’t go well with her orthodox n conservative family who even put up an advertisement in the paper-saying they had nothing to do with her. But Shaheeda ensured she cleared all her tests and in April 1995 she joined the J&K police as Sub-Inspector….eventually completing her basic training at Udhampur Police Academy and then three months advanced Weapon Tactics Course under CRPF.

She was one of the first woman commandoes to be a part of the elite Special Operations Group (SOG), the Jammu and Kashmir police's commando wing.

She was now ready to take on the militants head on. Armed with her strong Intelligence network and an Ak-47 on the side, she meticulously planned search n destroy operations-that made her a much feared name for the terrorists in the valley.

How did she prepare herself mentally for such a tough job, where blood flowed easier than water and even when you got to sleep, your silences are filled with innocent screams n sounds of bullets?

It all started when the horrific sight of slain bodies of an innocent family of eight people including an old woman & children shook her completely ,scarring her soul forever. Her eyes had filled with tears as she lifted the body of the dead child in her arms, but she hid them as she had to quickly learn to deal with such ground realities and also earn the respect of the force she would eventually be leading in operations. She would never again let a tear fuzzy her vision. And over next seven years, that sight gave her the strength to chase militants in rough terrain and 10 ft high grasslands holding grenades n firing bullets from her AK-47.

“I had heard brutal stories, I had read about them, but picking up dead bodies with your own hands was a devastating experience’ she told me quietly–her mind having wandered back to the year 1997 when she had her first real encounter with death n violence,”...and these people who butchered innocents knew nothing of Allah, using His name to carry such ghastly acts”

How did her first operation go?

Intel confirmed there were 11 dreaded terrorists grouped to execute another hit. I was super excited as it was my first operation, we cordoned off the area with a team of 20-25 boys armed with LMG (Light Machine Gun), Grenades n AK-47,but my boys got over enthusiastic opening fire before we should have. Then began the chase lasting hours…5 km over the hills… There were hundreds of rounds exchanged but we somehow lost them. I was seething with frustration as I was in charge of the SOG, but then that mistake changed the way I would plan my future operations. My seniors were still very happy at the initiative I had taken. After that I ensured with my team that there always was full proof planning. When your life is at stake you can’t afford too many mistakes”- she spoke as a matter of fact.

It’s not cinema, it’s much more real n lethal, when you execute an operation. You are risking your life n responsible for the lives n safety of your team members as well. On one such occasion her regular informer Saleema Begum (who was later on eliminated by the terrorists) provided information of some terrorists hiding in a house. It was the 9th of July 2001.

“It was confirmed Intel n we decided to act upon it. We took a civil truck, covering it with goods…but even as we approached the house, militants managed to disappear in to the vast fields of high maze. We combed the house but couldn’t find anyone. The residents of the house were scared n kept denying there was anyone present –they wanted us to leave n that further confirmed their presence. I wasn’t going to let them run away,’ she paused, her eyes turning steely again,” I walked with my team into the fields- in such places you can’t even see a feet away from where you are….

…I sensed a sudden movement about twenty feet away n then out of nowhere I was suddenly staring at that cold metal staring back at me, ready to fire in a second. But I was quicker than the hands holding that gun n shot him back,” she laughed, her face turning soft again.

She was rewarded with out of turn promotion, made into an Inspector and then later on awarded with President Police Medal for Gallantry

How does it feel to be in an operation? What are the thoughts going through your head? It surely can’t be easy…!!!

She looked at me calmly as if weighing my question, ’you think a lot before you fire that’s first bullet, and then it doesn’t matter! ‘ she continued with a smile,’ I have walked ten km under extremely demanding situations and fired for hours…and I have never been tired and always walked five steps ahead of the group…people used to be surprised how we can take only a small unit n go for ‘search n destroy’ operations! But my success was mostly due to my vast intelligence network, and my dedicated team. They fought for me, trusting me hundred percent and I ensured they get their dues, whether it was out of turn promotions, job incentives or whatever I could provide for them or get them from the department .”
She is currently posted at the Joint Interrogation Centre at Jammu, after having spent two years on deputation at Nagaland with her husband, who is a serving Colonel in Indian Army- whom she calls the ‘pillar of strength ‘in her life!

I wondered if she regretted not being in field operations anymore- she laughs,’ well not actually!’ I have done my bit- my job was to generate intelligence, co-ordinate with army formations for joint operations- and during my period of active field service, we conducted thousands of operations which resulted in wiping off a number of dreaded militants (notorious ones like Panj Sher Khan- the then district commander RO Pak) n recovering huge amount of arms n ammunitions….”

“…..I have served my country well, and will continue to do so wherever I am posted. I have been always blessed with able superiors who always encouraged n stood by me- n a dedicated team who never questioned my judgment. My job as a police officer has given me a lot, satisfaction, recognition and even I owe my marriage to it- as I met the man I would eventually marry during one such operation,” and on that note she laughed out heartily…and I couldn’t help smiling either.

Does she ever regret having killed any one of those militants?

It’s not about the number of militants I have killed or been responsible for, but the number of innocent lives that we have saved in the process.

Terrorists are wasted human beings- they have been brain washed into it- reason being of lack of jobs, un-employment, those who don’t know Islam ka alaf, they are fighting for Islam. It’s sad. Allah unko kabhi maaf nahin karega! Sixteen year olds who should be studying in schools and playing cricket are trained to handle sophisticated weapons n brain washed to kill other humans ruthlessly.”

What about a movie on her life?

All this while I had been taking her pics and throwing these odd questions at her.

‘I don’t wish to be a star – I am just a simple woman who got my country at my heart; I am a police woman who is just doing her job, and Allah would give me what I deserve”

And I thought in my head, well you surely are no ordinary woman Shaheeda, as I have met quite a few in my life! …and I truly hope she gets her due recognition in life!

She changed the way a woman would be looked up on by militants in Jammu & Kashmir.

She changed the way I would look at a beautiful woman in my life!

A few awards for her could be just the right beginning….!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Who should feature on the cover of Mega Modelz magazine?

It had to be an EXCLUSIVE !

This kept me and Atul Pandey (Editorial Director, Mega Modelz) thinking for quite some time- till we finally got this one !!!

I wanted to shoot with a girl who was an achiever of sorts n now well on her way to international recognition n yet connected to India. ..Once we agreed on the line of thought, it wasn’t difficult to zero in on Lisa Lazarus- the supermodel from London, current Miss UK –Universe and most importantly making her debut in Bollywood opposite none other than Salman Khan in much hyped up movie Veer !

Lisa n I had been in touch online for a while but working out a proper shoot needs time…! Was she free to shoot immediately? It had been almost a month since we had briefly connected.

I was determined to put Lisa on the cover n the issue deadline was fast approaching. I guess when you really want something, things fall in place (…and NO! I have not read The Secret- my mother says that to me n it always works!), n we got Lisa to shoot in the next 48 hours. How we managed it, is a trade secret!

The challenge now was to shoot her differently from whatever she had been shot before. I decided to present her two different sides to the readers of Mega Modelz- the bold n sexy girl you lust for and the cute dreamy girl you want to fall in love with! The hot n sweet! To accentuate the two emotions we worked on two different themes–keeping in mind the backdrops, lighting, makeup n obviously costumes n colors- white to bring out innocence n dark to add sensuality…. then small value adds -elements like roses n iron chains. The choice of outfits was kept as simple white n black, n the stylists Rinki & Neetu Jain did a great job in organizing the right outfit at 4 hours of notice. There was not even enough time to work out proper trials with Lisa as next morning she was to fly out to Dubai.

I usually trust for such shoots- the able hands of Mahendra Gupta for make-up & hair. He understands that I like to keep everything very simple yet beautiful and that my focus is always on the mood/emotion of the picture. Many times I have heard this flattering line from people about my work that my pictures somehow speak- I would very humbly want to put it across, that it’s not in my hands- I just try to make the models as comfortable as possible- n ultimately what speaks in the pic is their expressions n body language only…! The tricky part while shooting a model always is to bring out the right kind of emotions from within them. And for that a dialogue between the two is so very important- to get the right expression n then time your shot well to capture it.

Lisa is so quite used to shooting mostly glamour & I wanted to shoot her soft, innocent, naughty as well. Ultimately we got some really lovely pics. I realized she is a fabulous model and would surely be one of the finest Bollywood discoveries- (if she could withstand the pressures within the industry).The way she responds to camera n emotions –speaks a lot about her as a mega model n actress…..! It is there for you all to see in her pictures in the current issue of the magazine!

And before I forget to mention - she is an excellent human being- it was her last evening in Mumbai n she had whole lot of prior commitments to fulfill –yet after the shoot she stayed back close to an hour, just to cut my birthday cake. I had not mentioned my b’day( 20th Dec) to anyone, but my close friend Simple Kaul surprised me by dropping in with a cake to the studio- n needless to say-it ended up being a great b’day.

After all I could not have celebrated it in a better way than to spend the day shooting an exciting cover with a beauty queen n then cutting cake in eve with friends!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Mumbai has its good side n the bad side and the in-betweens! I have often been amused at the sight of sex- workers hiring an auto-rickshaw n making rounds looking for prospective customers. Its neither good nor bad – but just a fact of life! They would stop for just about enough time, strike a deal n God knows where they go off within minutes. A friend of mine once remarked if there were no sex-workers- the world would be full of rapists’ n mentally deranged people. Perhaps!

But yet, a woman trading flesh for money is a strange idea to me, though not at all alien to the society we live in. A popular Bollywood film called ‘Chameli’ popularized this term for such women.
I just bounced the idea of shooting a pic like that to Mamta during a casual chit-chat- she absolutely freaked out! She can be quite stubborn once an idea goes to her head. She insisted upon shooting that pic that night itself.
It was quite an exercise to find a make-up artist at 12 at night, but thankfully Manoj obliged and then to hunt for an auto-rickshaw at the Oshiwara crossing with a blue light inside, when it was pouring non-stop was quite a task. I stood beneath a shut tea-stall for more than half an hour- and every time an auto would pass by, I would stop him n ask if he had a blue light inside- I can never forget the incredulous look on their face- they so obviously thought I am some mad drunk guy stopping rickshaws at night n looking for a blue light. But I wanted a bit dramatic lighting and when you got someone as enthusiast as Mamta, the excitement rubs on to you as well and you are determined to get the shot right.

I was amazed at her excitement – she styled the whole look herself, organizing all the clothes from her friends’ including the red “chameli” Sari- right to that flower in her hair. We got the make-up done, found the auto-rickshaw somehow (had to pay him Rs 300 for 30 min of work) and then managed to somehow get a chai-wala as well. Now for those who are from Mumbai –these chai-walas are a very comforting sight at the nights when you are working late. You will find them at most of the prominent crossings with ready-made tea and also packs of cigarettes. They are such an integral part of Mumbai work life that you can’t imagine a night without them!
Did we get all the elements correct? Well…almost! There was not just enough light available to capture Mamta’s expressions and then to highlight the chai-wala as well! Somehow we managed to get a studio opened up for 2 hours to get a power connection to place the flash lights on the road- put rain protection cover on them and cover my camera as well to avoid water drops because all the moisture can really damage the equipment.
Nobody’s asked me the time so far- let me tell it was about 2.30am when we got these shots. But it was really so much fun- the only thing I dreaded was cops- if they would find us doing such crazy things in the middle of the night, then surely would have spent the night in the lock-up.

But all in all…it was great fun…! We even managed to get a quick shot in the studio before leaving. Why not shoot there as well since were paying for it….!
But the best part was the way Mamta would laugh after every shot and the auto-rickshaw guy n the chai-wala had great fun too. After all, they don’t get such wild people every night.

So, hope you enjoy the ‘Chameli by Night’ shots – which I doubt anyone else but Mamta could have delivered. She is adorable, immensely talented and I hope she gets to reach high point in her career as an actress- which she truly deserves.

(Dont ask me why the match stick is still burning in this pic after she got it lit up - I told you I like drama !!!---and dont miss that fire in her eyes !)

p.s.- Mamta Dutta is an established model n a really fine actress...!

Monday, August 25, 2008

I was shooting publicity stills for 'Coffeshop'-my close friend Ishaan Dutta's film in Goa, when I came across this amazingly vibrant rag-picker who was busy collecting thrown away plastic bottles from the set.
As usual,I couldn’t find my lighter, so asked this woman for a match box to light up my cigarette. She passed on the match box, giving me a casual indifferent look -completely ignoring the expensive camera in my hand. And that does hurt my pride once in a while-not that I am a show off-but it did take a lot to buy that one n deserved a longer look from anyone!
Goa is a heaven for tourists’ n film-makers …and the locals are quite used to people carrying heavy equipment around. So it was ok I guess to be ignored like that...(and if you are in India n not been to Goa- you surely are missing something)
However I loved her energy,body language n what she was wearing- the nice vibrant colors with all that metallic stuff around her neck, hands n feet. Quite a fashion statement actually! I wanted to shoot a pic but she wasn’t just in a mood and won’t smile. She asked me why I wanted to shoot her- I looked at her n said ‘because you got a more beautiful smile than the heroine in the film and I am going to ask the director to cast you in his next film’.
Now, who doesn’t want to feel good even if it’s a good joke! She just won't stop laughing after that- and I even noticed a hint of shyness spreading across her wrinkled face.
After that we had a few nice laughs n a few good pics.
I showed her the pics in the camera- she called her friends around, quite excited like a little girl ( I had to show them all one by one!) n finally said to me-
“ tu photo achee kheenchta hai”- (you take good photos...)
I hope she wasn't joking this time- it somehow always feels good to hear that!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

I close my eyes n think of those who laid their lives to gift me the freedom I have today- which allows me to be what I am. I salute those who loved before me, my country-loved enough to fight for it and die, as one would fight for honor of their mother.I hold the flag of my nation, with pride in my hand-I open my arms to feel the winds of change blowing across - I feel larger than life- I feel blessed...!
I love my country as a son would love his Mother and I respect your nation as you too are a brother... We are the blessed ones who were all born free...!
Lets not fight now ever...let’s not be slaves to inhuman desires ...Lets be brothers ...let’s be friends!
Jai Hind

I am putting below six of my most favourite shots which I took for the Independence day and the reasons why I chose to take these shots...

I believe that a new India is about bringing smiles to all faces.

And before i forget-61 reasons to celebrate India- a must read article in August 2008 issue of Mumbai Touchdown.
It's fine of the finest researched n informative article I have read in recent times. A big applaud to the magazine and the art director to come up with a unique concept, also enabling me to shoot some great pics.

Life is a beautiful challenge.....!

Imagine how boring an ordinary life would be , with no probs , no worries, nothing to fight ...nothing to tackle...its the unpredicablility of it which makes life exciting...!
When u r born free...u are ready to take on challenges in life...!Life is one big adventure...live it like that...! Its quite a sight in monsoons to sea these fishermen brave the wild ocean...the way they hold on to the boats...and sail across...!
And the most awesome thing is the Indian Flag on top of the boat !

I Love my freedom....

I have absolutely no words to describe this pic...it has often been reproduced in publications and yet it remains so fresh to me.

I believe I can fly...

You hold the flag of your nation, and feel the spirit of freedom in your heart n may be u too can fly....

I went to Saurabh's terrace to shoot this pic on the 18th floor, as I wanted the whole feel of a man flying across the city. More than the timing, the important thing was to get the jump and the thrust right, and most importantly hold the flag high. And my friend got it just right.

I feel larger than life- I feel blessed...!

The whole idea of shooting this perspective was to give a larger than life feel to the image- how would you really feel if you were patriotic to the core and were holding the National Flag in your hand.
Tushar's height and the extra low angle made this image to become possible.

The slight color gradation in the background to match the flag colors was achieved in photo editing .

My spirit- that would never die..!...my flag...that I would always hold high.

Gayatri is a trained kathak dancer , so creating that balance wasn't difficult for her. I chose that angle as I wanted her to really tower over even that 25 floor building in the background, and also keep the flag vertical. Keeping it b/w was simply to high-light the flag color and also white is all about purity n peace...and her lovely smile created the rest of the magic.

This picture was ofcourse made possible by my dear friend Priya at WSP ( The Times of India)

My great grandfather was a freedom fighter. My grandfather proudly told us this a million times as we grew up; how he actually died or whom he really fought, my grandfather never went into details as he didn’t remember much,-being just thirteen year old when my great grandfather was killed.

Sometimes I even wondered if he actually was a freedom fighter or my grandfather made up that story to make us feel proud, but even if it was just a story, it was too beautiful a lie to be questioned. He made sure every Independence Day me, my sister Poonam n younger brother Vicky, remembered that story and it charged us enough to shout through the rest of the day ‘Jai Hind’. It would be only years later when we would understand the true significance and importance of being born free!

My grandfather whom we all call Dau-ji was a farmer and till date he is passionate about farming. At the age of 81, when most would prefer to laze around, he has managed to convert half of our house in Ghaziabad( a city next to Delhi) in to a mini-farm where with his khurpi (a sharp metallic tool to dig soil) he would be busy most of the day digging or sowing.
I once noticed with utmost fascination the way he moved his hand over the soil, the way he would very gently touch the plants, removing infected leaves- cleaning the vegetables, watering them; more than work for him, it appeared to me like a prayer. He laughed when I said this to him and said “my karma is my prayer. I have come from this soil and soon one day I will go back into the same soil. That’s our mother and you must learn to respect and also fight for it, if the need be. “ I found it too filmy till I read the seriousness in his eyes.

That’s the day he made me understand that the green color in our national flag indicated our relationship with the land and the plants-on which other life forms depend. I also learnt that the saffron was for courage, sacrifice and the spirit of renunciation; the white for purity and truth. And most importantly the chakra (the wheel) in the middle was the wheel of the law of Dharma which meant there was death in stagnation and life only in movement. The wheel represents the dynamism of a peaceful change.

He said the day he would stop working, he would die. He never went to school but he knew what life was all about, and what our National Flag really meant, and most of us including me, who studied all their lives, even today do not understand our own national flag, including majority of the politicians who abuse it all the time.

I can go on endlessly about the stories about Dau-ji because he has always been my hero, but the reason I remembered him all the more today was as someone asked me if there was anything really as the spirit of freedom and the relevance of mother nation in global perspective.

I paused to think about it and realized that relevance of being the son of the soil would always be there. Every land has its own energy, vibes, essence, fragrance, values n culture, which is beyond comprehension of a normal human mind. We may meet a million women in our lives, but what we feel in the comforting arms of our own mother has no substitute ever. We travel around the world, but the moment we set foot on our own soil-the feeling is inexplicable.

We love our mother, but we were also taught to respect other women, who would be mothers to our friends or neighbors…and the same sentiment has to be valued with regards to other nations-That they are the mother-nation to millions of others like us, and since we don’t disrespect our own family, we ought not to disrespect anyone else.

I remembered I had once fought my mother for some stupid reason n had shouted back up on her, telling in rude words that I won’t be answerable to her for everything and she had to respect my freedom. After 3 days to that was Independence Day and I was very excited about it, Dau-ji stared at me hard and told me, “you got no right to celebrate the Independence Day as you don’t even know its real meaning. If you cannot love and respect and love your blood-mother, you can never be true to the nation you are born in. You are just a pretender- almost a traitor.”

I almost cried but learnt my lesson. I learnt being born free doesn’t mean you got the right to do anything you want to at the cost of disrespect to your country-your mother or abandoning your own cultural-social values. We demand so much from our parents, our country, but I think we ought to take a few minutes off to think what have we actually ever given them back!
Today when I see people sending their parents to old age homes or throwing them out of their homes to live a so called comfortable life- I almost hate them –as if they are traitors to the nation- because my grandfather taught me that lesson many years back, if you can’t respect your own mother, how will you respect your nation.

You might have been born free, but before that notion of freedom comes the truth that someone gave birth to you. Our Flag is not to be held high just one day in the year …but it should forever be held high in our heart and in our lives. That’s the essence of being born free. To understand and appreciate truly what we have been given after huge sacrifices…and to uphold those values and beliefs forever and pass them on to the generation next. To become a strong arm to those who might need us and become their strength in life.

…and before I forget to tell you, I did finally ask one day about the truth behind my great grandfather’s death. Dau-ji was silent for a few minutes n finally spoke,’ he had been poisoned by some jealous villagers before India got independence’. I stared at him silently.

He smiled at me after a few moments and said, ‘I never told you before how he died or that he died fighting, so don’t look shocked! I just told you he was a freedom fighter- and yes that he was! …with patriotism in every drop of his blood and the same blood runs through your father and now you…and I know one day you will do us all proud in your own way and make a difference to a few lives in the process.’

I wish.

Friday, July 11, 2008

There is something about a genuine smile…it touches your heart…touches your soul and some-how makes you feel incredibly good ! Nothing can touch your heart more than witnessing a pure smile...n even more so if it’s meant for you...!
I have shot a lot on the streets...candid shots...n over a period of time a few images just stayed back with me...in my heart n mind for various reasons n became my favorite photos!
Each of these photos always tells me-”Life is beautiful…”
I am putting below three of my favorite shots and the small stories behind them…!

The woman at the crossing...

There are certain bonds which are inexplicable…! Relationships that are meant for, and restricted to a certain time n place…Like, of this old woman at the crossing n mine! I never thought of her once I passed that crossing, but once there I always looked for her! As if this bond was meant to last for that five minutes of waiting at that crossing every evening.

She often found her way to the rickshaw I would be traveling in, wearing a torn sari n a beautiful smile, extending her hand for money…she never asked for it, there was something very warm about her, I never could ever think of her as a beggar; it was always as if I owed her something from another lifetime…When I put that one rupee coin in her hand, she would place her hand over my head …blessing me from her heart. She would smile n I smiled along with her…

We never talked but she always seemed to be able to read my moods even in my silence n accordingly her hand stayed on my head, just a wee bit longer when I was distressed by something!Mumbai is an expensive city n certainly very difficult to afford when it comes to genuine emotions…but in her I found a way of purchasing genuine blessings everyday for as less as just One Rupee…! I might sound selfish, but am no more the man I was in my little town, n like many others started believing in "value for money"...…But then somehow I feel she would bless me even if I didn’t give her that coin-she seemed like a good soul...but I didn’t want to test that…!

One day she saw me holding my camera and asked me to shoot a pic of hers…I was mildly surprised but asked her to give a nice smile…she asked me what’s a nice smile ? I couldn’t answer. She laughed …I shot it …and it did make a great picture!

I eventually bought a car and changed my traveling route. It’s a strange truth that the people we meet depend on the route we take in our lives!
I never met her after that.
But still whenever I look at this pic I smile-The photograph of a simple woman at the crossing…with a gorgeous smile...n a beautiful heart!

Laughter is contagious...

I had gone to shoot Mumbai Marathon-one of the greatest events Mumbai has every year in the month of January. This boy stared at the camera in my hand from behind the grills. I tried to initiate a conversation but he just wouldn’t talk n rather continued to give me those dead hard expressions…very unusual for a boy his age.

I am sure he was quite intrigued by the size of the lens I was carrying.

I asked him if he wanted me to shoot a picture for him. No response. I told him he was a great looking young man and would look even better if he smiled more. He stared at me for a second n burst out laughing saying his amma (mother) said the same to him! He told me I was funny. Imagine that!

What followed next was a photo-session which makes me smile even today…! He just wouldn’t stop laughing n I couldn’t stop laughing with him and soon everyone around us was laughing too, for no reason!

Laughter is contagious …n beautiful….!
Since then this pic has been reproduced in various publications n even today continues to remain one of my favorites!
The joy of laughter is supreme....it makes u believe that life is indeed beautiful....

Life is about sharing happiness...

They told me she is a mad woman...I agreed! Only a mad person could be so happy in today's world...!I stared at her peaceful face n the purity of her laughter. I was envious of her.I wish I was mad...cos i have almost forgotten how to laugh like that.

It had been a tough day for me in the jungle, trying to get some good tiger shots n I had got none! I looked at her yet again from the small tea stall I had been killing time at. As I observed her I realized she was a very beautiful n graceful woman who had surely seen better days in her life. I found out her story … (I wouldn’t want to put that here!)

I decided to take some pics of her. She seemed to be enjoying the attention.
I have noticed people on the road actually take pleasure in being photographed; they never get these pics but the whole idea that someone finds them interesting enough to shoot them, excites them a lot! They pose much more naturally, devoid of inhibitions n make lovely pictures.

She beckoned me to come to her and show the picture. I obliged n sat next to her. She was clean n didn’t smell awful as I would have expected her to. How much we assume for no reasons? She was happy and I was happy, sitting next to her showing her the pics and smoking cigarettes together. It was not such a bad day after all.

She made me happy or I made her happy, I am not sure, but we did share happiness for a while!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Alot of people have asked me how I shot this unusual photo of a woman walking on water. It always makes me smile, because the trick in it is really small.
Good photos are all about timing.

First things first –the model in this photo is a fantastic ballet dancer –Tanya, who has for years trained in various forms of dancing and has superbly flexible body n on top of that she loves to play with water. Now that is quite important, that people should love doing –whatever they are doing, n end results are invariably good!
She happened to be playing a significant role in a documentary film which I was shooting in M.P. (India), and while going to the location, we crossed this small river which wasn’t exactly too deep. She got excited, jumped off the jeep n next moment was playing around with water. Somehow instinctively she seemed to have found a spot which was quite shallow. I stared at her amusedly for a while from the jeep, but then impatience took over me as the light was dropping fast…

She was adamant upon not leaving the spot till I shot a picture of her playing with water. So I came upon this idea n told her to find a spot which had just very little water for her to stand comfortably, yet enough to make a splash when she jumped. It was a little tricky as she had to give enough thrust to create the splash, jump forward n then kind of balance herself to look it like she is floating or walking on water, n I had to shoot this at high shutter speed, get my timing correct to catch her in mid-air, keep her in focus n catch the water as well to get the desired feel.

The beauty of this photograph is that it was a one take shot n i shot it while sitting in the jeep. We couldn’t have spent more time on the spot as we were getting late for the video shoot n locals were gathering quite fast, amused at the sight of a beautiful foreigner playing with water in the middle of a jungle !

Sometimes good pictures just happen…like this “walk on water”…

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Rains always make me do crazy things. And almost every time I do something out of the box, I regret it eventually; especially whenever I come back home n realize that I have yet again managed to mess up my expensive lens. But I am a crazy guy n like crazy people, Rizwan Sikander for instance. He is humble, courteous, talented yet absolutely crazy!

He ended up at my place saying, “I want a unique picture”. Now, I have heard that before a million times. I asked how mad you can go and the look on his face said it all. We reached Versova beach (Mumbai). It was raining mildly yet the sea was in its full glory and the way waves would hit the rocks n the splash at times rise almost 15 feet, it would scare any man. Rizwan n me both hesitated a second. Was it worth the risk, standing on a rock with the angry ocean on your back side, at the peak of the monsoon period? But , I must say this guy has courage, probably that’s the reason he has always won all the reality shows he has participated in, including Fear Factor India '06 on Sony TV n created history by being the only finalist n eventually winning it!
I asked him if he would stand on the rock, appearing to be peaceful, while the waves rose behind him almost covering him. I warned about the risk of falling off n hurting him on the small sharp edges of the rocks beneath. That was my duty as a photographer. Before I had finished, he took off his shirt n was up on the rock in seconds. It must have taken some 20 shots, n for him as many hits from behind, before we got this one perfect shot!
He fell off the rock twice, cutting himself mildly below the knee. And my camera was all wet, and it was almost impossible to shoot anymore because of all the moisture it had absorbed.
But whenever I look at his picture and the peaceful expressions on his face, the powerful wave rising behind him some fifteen feet, I feel good! It always tells me, how one should be in life, in the face of danger---peaceful…courageous …! This picture has the great attitude of a winner.
That’s the spirit of Mumbai and I absolutely love this pic n Rizwan for making it possible.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I love Ami
Not because she is ex-Miss India or very beautiful and warm…or cos she got everything to make a movie-star...!
But because she is as mad a person as I am.

I was shooting at Goa for the Telenorr campaign with Ali Zafar n Sonya Jahan for a Pak agency when Ami suddenly decided to fly down to Goa in the middle of crazy rains to shoot some outdoor photos. I had warned her about the rains, Telenorr campaign was fine as their theme anyways had rains but shooting photos in such unpredictable weather is crazy and really disastrous for the lens.

I love outdoors…it’s always fresh n different n my friends always call up on me to shoot fresh n outdoor pics-guess that really works well with Bollywood producers as well

Anyway, to cut a story short how it happened…

After getting her beautiful Saree already torn ,shooting a pic with hand on the tree while a chameleon hid on the other side ( she didn’t notice n I didn’t tell)…..getting a few odd bruises…she spotted a nice rock about 20 feet away from the beach n decided to get shot with it.

I was reluctant…but I got on to a higher rock and shot couple of them…then she wanted to sit on it and wait for the wave to hit her n me to catch the splash
…sure…why not?

But we didn’t realize since it was monsoons n had been raining…the water level as quickly started coming up….
Couple of splashes were fine…they were low n quiet. Until she noticed a huge wave coming to her n got excited, motioning me to shoot as it would hit the rock. She waited anxiously…n so did me, with one eye closed n one looking through the lens…got it… got it …got it…....and then…oh! Where is Ami?I couldn’t see her on the rock anymore!

The monstrous wave lifted her clean off the rock and threw her some 15 feet away. The impact must have surely hurt her .The waves then started retreating to the sea…the force started dragging Ami back…she was half in water and screaming my name ….choking on muddy water badly. I laughed at her n took couple of her pictures screaming. I thought she was just trying to make me to get in the water, but then I realized the angry waves were actually pulling her back in the sea…
A million thoughts went through my mind upon seeing Ami almost getting drowned n go past me…then as if I woke up from a trance, I jumped in the water, clutching on to my camera …n with one hand pulled Ami back out of the water.

Needless to say this episode added a few more bruises n cuts to her…and I felt miserable the rest of the day for allowing her to get in to this mess….she was my responsibility after all! ...and while she almost slipped into water, i was busy taking photos. I hated myself so much !

Later on, in the evening over a cup of tea….sitting outside in that lovely resort, we laughed over the whole thing…and she said she wasn’t scared one bit…and at least we got some great shots!

I looked at her a few moments longer than I would n wondered
…such innocent laughter...such pure looks…so courageous…absolutely my kind of girl…Her boyfriend was surely one hell of a lucky guy!
I smiled back at her saying no more shoots in water for you…she just laughed …

And guess what, she called again this morning…”hey it’s raining…let’s shoot some photos”

Sure! But nowhere close to the sea!

photos- 1. On the rock- a beautiful shot
2. When the monstrous wave hit her!
3. When the wave started pulling her back in the sea! Notice the force of water around her body!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

...the daring story of deepak talan...(next week)...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

My first studio shoot...

If I say she is beautiful…that would be an understatement!

She is a raw bundle of energy - a divine human body blessed with an effortless smile and she seems to be growing more beautiful with each passing day…a woman loved across all generations. I would now be shooting with her after almost a year and she would, for good reasons, remain one of the most important chapters of my photography journey.

I had just moved from shooting wild life to celebs and I still had not done any studio shoots simply because I knew nothing about flash lights…

I got a call from GR8! magazine ( Shashi Ranjan –who blindly promotes me!) to shoot the cover page with Mandira Bedi. Assuming it has to be an outdoor I called her up to fix what time we can shoot...sweetly she said “tomorrow morn at 9 am”, she asked the studio add…I was zapped…forget about owning a studio-I never entered one as a photographer! I told her I will call her back n went across the street where there was a studio I had heard of. I booked it for the shoot and for that eve also…between that afternoon and next morning I had to teach myself how to use studio lights-something on which people spend years of training.

I had no clue where to put in the synchro chord and how to measure the light or use a light meter. It was too much to learn in one day…but the studio assistant was good and I practiced on him till 3am in the morning…using my eyes to judge and my instincts to decide-I booked a fog machine for the morning as I conceived a very magic-like shot…and of course didn’t sleep the whole night. I didn’t tell the magazine or Mandira that I had never been to a studio before. But I was sure they would know by morning and then hate me for wasting their time. Good, at least I could get back to wild-life!

She was punctual...dot 9am she was in the studio…I set up the light-surprisingly not too nervous- I was doing my first studio shoot-that also a cover n top of that one of the most popular faces. But then she was just another girl and it was just another picture, right? Once I look through the camera, I transform, I have realized over a period of time. As I took my first shot, Mandira very politely asked me to shoot a certain profile as she felt the other profile didn’t actually photograph well…I remember having said to her sweetly enough that she was a beautiful girl n any angle would suit her n of course I ended up shooting her 360 degree. ..
The pix came out fantastic n I learnt one of the most important lessons in photography, follow your instinct –knowledge comes later.

Too many technicalities can often spoil a picture. Often you end up missing a moment because you spend too much time getting the other elements right. Then, you have a good technical picture without really having anything to say. My first studio shoot with Mandira bedi-in one year those pix have been used for ITA awards/Gold awards Mauritius/Red FM world cup campaign and God knows where all- because nobody really ever paid me for them…!!! But I am not complaining.

My friend that evening told me how I could not know lighting –since “photography” meant ‘writing with light’!!!
He was right but then even today I shoot mostly on instincts ,though I acquired a whole lot of knowledge about the technical stuff…so much so…that I taught myself to shoot in candle lights, bulbs, tube-lights, tail lights of vehicles n even moonlight for that matter!!!

Over a period of time I have shot tons of stars but Mandira Bedi would remain a special. She gave me my confidence. I am shooting her again now…and quite excited about it...Not just because she is beautiful but there is something magical about her…only those who have met her would have experienced that…J

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The silence before the storm
It was the 5th day of my documentary shooting at Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve when I came across this scene-which a photographer just dreams of n hardly ever gets to shoot
-'a tiger going for the kill'
And as usual the dilemma-to shoot video or take pics. Since my HDV didnt really have too much of zoom-I decided to use my tele-photo lens n shoot this pic-just check out the way they are both sizing each other up.
It's a visual treat for wild-life lovers-the crouch,the anticipation, the chase n the attack! Your body goes still n a thousand indefinite thoughts block the traffic in your head...you experience a maddening rush of blood when for a few seconds everything in the jungle goes so silent that your own breathing sounds like a thunderstorm...and then you know you have witnessed something which not many people get to.
A tiger in its full glory. A tiger killing the way only a tiger can.
You don't feel bad about it either,cos you have learnt the fact by now
...in the jungle-killing is not a sport but a way of life!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Can you believe a snake would let you easily shoot a hundred pics without trying to move away? Like a professional model!!!
Trust me they love to be clicked,atleast when they are hanging from a tree-thats the impression I got while shooting this one!
I had gone to shoot a documentary film to Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in M.P.this year in the month of April. While taking some notes in the camp,i had this eerie feeling as if something is hovering right behind me. Looking behind twice I still couldn't figure out till my hand almost touched this one hanging from the tree and staring right at me. Startled,I dropped my coffee mug but next second I was rushing to get my camera. Now the dilemma- to shoot photos or video? I ended up shooting both till in the next half an hour both of us got bored of each other...crazily enough,I let it even kiss the lens- thats when I shot the pic when it was moving back....
Let me be honest enough to tell you that I did all this when my cousin (Deepak Talan) had told me they are not actually dangerous...but then ofcourse after I had finished with it he added with a smile-'but you never know-a snake is a snake ,is a snake!...'
Thanks for telling...:-)
I have known Shama for almost three years now...and the matter of fact is,this pic could have been shot only with her. We shot this around Independance Day hence this choice of colors- I wanted to use the 3 colors of independance but not use a flag,n relate to her energy,beauty,sparkling smile n the sense of freedom she projected in that gesture...'wings of freedom' or 'freedom flutter' (as titled by The Times of India when they published it)...the outcome was fantastic...

A one-take shot n till date one of my most fav.. technically though its a bit difficult to capture as pigeons fly around too quickly ,making it almost impossible to focus n shoot..

Shama is actually a pure soul( n i m not trying to flatter her!),enjoys life's small little blessings n that reflects beautifully in the way she spontaneously smiles. I personally feel she wasted herself by doing TV but now that she is doing Shashiranjan's Dhoom -Dhadaka opposite Sammir Dattani,may be after the release she gets her due credit...

Personally this pic is very close to my heart...it makes me smile everytime I see it, n ofcourse, this pic got me to shoot 12 cover pages of GR8! Mag...back to back..

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Mithun Chakraborty says Mumbai Tujhe Salaam

A year back i went to do a photoshoot for a friend at a bungalow at Madh Island-...as i walked in that bungalow which was still under construction, for the first time I saw in person-the man whom i had admired n fought for with many ppl over the years( ofcourse without him being aware of that fact)-Mithun Chakraborty - Mithun Da- a man so humble n polite that i was almost ashamed of having fought the auto-rickshaw guy outside his bungalow....

Almost a year later i shot with him for Filmfare mag-he asked me for a reference-and i told him its in my head as i hated copying a pic for a legend like him...the imp thing was that he trusted me-and luckily enough the accompanying journalist from the mag-Devesh- was quite a chilled out n non-interfering guy...

We had just about 20min to setup n get this shot n couple of other ones (which i will post soon) and quickly also took a video-shot for the promotional video of "Mumbai Tujhe Salaam'...which i have recorded with Kailash Kher and Shaan, though i still hate myself for allowing dada to walk so back on those sharp rocks where he ended up cutting his left foot n bleeding...but he just smiled at me n in that moment i knew why he is such a great man...its a different story that while trying to shoot another pic of him from deep waters,i almost got drowned with my camera..n he still smiled at me!!!---and i told him-dada u r my hero n i know you would save me if something happened!

Ever since then I have shot with him 4 times n its always a great feeling...

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