But for the viewer, for me, the story would be very
Exactly. I have to tell my story and it all depends
on how you want to connect with it. Your version
of it will be totally different. That does not worry
me or concern me. As long as I know that I have
my underlying story, that there is a definition
to my image — that’s important. That’s
why I never ended up doing advertising or fashion
or anything like that. I could never connect with
that kind of imagery at all.
You don’t think advertising could give you
that story-like quality?
I’m sure it does. Prabuddha (Dasgupta) uses
his work very well with advertising and tells a
lot of stories with advertising shoots or fashion
shoots. For example, he used Louis Vuitton in Old
Delhi — Louis Vuitton suitcases with the thelawallahs,
Louis Vuitton outside a broken-down haveli. So the
image talks about two eras, about two classes. It
was great! The images were stunning. That’s
what I really liked. Using a Louis Vuitton umbrella
in Jama Masjid. That was a great piece of advertising
The juxtaposition of two completely disparate things
— spaces, times, classes, a conflict within
the work . .
Absolutely. There has to be a sense of conflict.
Like this one. Talaash and these people —
they may be worried or happy .
|GULAN KRIPALANI. They
certainly look kind of lost.
Totally. They are almost waiting for something to
happen in their lives. They maybe losers, loafers,
wasters. It talks about a certain class of people.
It relates to the poster. And that is how I construct
my stories. And they are very simple stories. I’m
not getting into complex issues at all.
When you say stories, you mean the emotions or strange
connections they evoke in another person?
I want to tell a clean simple story and then
leave it to the viewer.
And depending on the viewer, the story will change.
For example, for someone who lives a life close
to these young men, the story will be a very different
one from that of those who are afraid of such young
True. And there will be various kinds of emotions
— anger, jealousy . . . Like this one of the
army man who may not see his family or kids.
This was a passing shot?
|SHAHID DATAWALA. Yes,
an incidental one. I like very strong graphic elements
in my photos.
These, for example, are coolies who function in
the old part of town, carrying cans from cinema
hall to cinema hall or from distributor to cinema
hall. So I thought I’d put a whole story together
and call them “can coolies.” I could
travel with these guys — a lot of them go
out of town so one could go with them.
This man is tightening the reels before putting
them back in the can. They collect them from the
cinema halls and that’s why you see so many
scratches. They really manhandle the prints.
Well, this another era coming to an end. It’s
all digital and instant and satellites
|SHAHID DATAWALA. But
I think this one won’t go so quickly. The
small cinema halls can’t afford the new technology.
I shoot a lot in low light and that somehow enhances
these dimly lit cinema spaces. This is in Delhi,
a cinema called Westend. If you ask anyone, they
won’t know where it is. It’s tucked
away somewhere but has beautiful architecture. Really
nice lines, very well defined.
Those cinema halls were lovely. Large staircases
. . . grand . . . Going to the cinema then was like
going to Lonavala or something like that.
Yes, it was a big occasion. Not like now —
“Chalo let’s see what’s playing.”
Yes. Now it’s, “We’ll go
to KFC and then we’ll see a film and then
we’ll go to XYZ pub.” And that’s
it. In those days, going to the cinema was going
to a particular cinema.
Was this series your idea? A personal project? Or
No, I actually did this work with Sarai in
Delhi. They wanted me to apply for something and
I’d always had cinema on my mind — cinema
spaces, how cinema spaces used to be designed, the
hand-painted hoardings, the architecture. I’ve
always had this fascination for old architecture.
Even my car series or the Connaught Place series
— each has revolved around the bygone era.
So I thought, “Cinema!” And Sarai always
wanted to do cinema research, work on cinema-going
subcultures. So I applied for a grant and got it
and did it for about six months.
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