interviewed by Gulan Kripalani
You know when you see a space, it’s just a
space. But it changes with every moment of the day,
with the light. It becomes like a backdrop, like
a set. People perform in different ways at different
times. The hoardings, for example, actually form
the backstage for the film being shown and people,
absolutely unknowingly, interact with them. A space
keeps changing constantly. It’s the space
within that space — like a hollow piece —
|GULAN KRIPALANI. It
can be whatever it is depending on who is there
at that moment.
Exactly. It’s like anything in our
lives — like our homes. There is, say, a set
of vibes when you are here. Then someone else comes
over and there is a different energy. It’s
a constant thing that keeps happening; there will
be crying, people will be laughing . .
|GULAN KRIPALANI. So
you construct your frame, fix it, and say, “This
is my frame and I will wait for something to happen
I actually construct it in my head and then I wait
for that thing to happen. It’s very tongue-in-cheek
when it does. Sometimes I see a frame and construct
a story instantly. And then I wait. And that wait
can be indefinite.
So you think something will happen within that frame
that will make it come alive?
Yes. Come alive, tell a story, whatever.
So here we have a poster of Akshay Kumar and a man
standing in front of it with the exact same expression.
Yes. Sometimes you construct an image but the story
takes a different turn altogether. I did not expect
exactly that to happen.
No, how could you have known.
And then it’s like catching the moment, a
moment you have already constructed. It’s
very surreal when that happens because you couldn’t
have planned it. It’s fascinating! And a lot
of times it’s been bang on with what I’ve
|GULAN KRIPALANI. Really?
Yes, for example, with this image, I wanted
some very perverse- looking men staring at it and
I found a very perverse-looking man, bang on! With
his hand in the right place! Very Delhi. It is indeed.
So you were waiting —
|SHAHID DATAWALA. I
was waiting for something perverse to happen, and
it did, and I got it. These people were telling
me, “Kabse khada hai, lo na photo, niklo na.”
People get irritated. They don’t know what
I have in mind. So they hound me, ask me silly questions.
I have to ask, “Tumko kya problem hai?”
Every day I have some argument or the other. And
if you point a camera at the cinema halls or at
any architectural building, there is a problem.
|GULAN KRIPALANI. I
find it extraordinary that you wait for something
to happen and you do get what you want. It’s
Absolutely. Like radiation. “Jao, jao, udhar
khada raho, haath aise rakho!” I get excited
like a child when I see it happening. My hands start
trembling and I quickly get out my camera and shoot.
And I don’t take ten shots of the same thing.
Two or three and then I move away. I usually work
on the tripod and I keep looking till I get it.
What’s the longest you’ve waited for
Three, three and a half hours. I like this
one — the loneliness in the man, walking away,
Sathiya . . .
|GULAN KRIPALANI. There’s
a whole story right there.
Yes, for me the image has to be a story, otherwise
it’s pointless. An image has to have a lot
of layers within it. You have to travel into the
image. And every little thing within it has to speak.
I have to see an image and it has to do something
to me instantly.
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