2 Click or Not 2 Click

Right from the beginning of my career in movies, I started travelling to interesting locations for shootings. And I would always feel that my friends and family should also get a taste or a glimpse of wherever I went or whatever I have done. That must have been the reason I took to photography so very passionately. May be not entirely. People do feel like clicking pictures, so they carry a camera with them. But this desire to click is stronger in me now. Any ways various mental or physical strengths naturally, keep changing in intensity.

My 1950 model Contaflex has been with me since 1974 and still going strong! It is totally a manual camera, with strong mechanical structure; so there is not much in it to wrong. I am told this is basically a German camera; but for just one year, it was manufactured in Russia and I happened to get one those models. So, it is dependable old German gadget and not one of those delicate darlings of today, with so many facilities and weak electronics. I must have clicked nearly 5000 pictures through its 50mm block lens. I have been getting it serviced too – though not too often.

Let me take this opportunity to thank 2 people here. First is Mr. Jayant Patel, who was instrumental in getting me hooked on to photography and second person is Mr. S I Sheikh, an expert in servicing old cameras. He gave up his repairing-business recently because he became too old. Because of him I could keep my camera going strong for years. At this moment I don’t even know if he is around…
I had bought this Contaflex for a sum of Rs. 800. Those days my average monthly income was about Rs.1000. But I could spend that large sum of 800, because I happen to save some cash after I signed up working with a big film company.

Well, Jayantbhai was an excellent still photographer. He must have won more than 50 medals in competitive photography. And all those medals were kept in a cotton bag (Thaila) that hung unceremoniously by the nail on the wall in their house.

Once during monsoons I was travelling to Lonavala and my first digital camera gave way. The screen suddenly got pixelated. I changed the batteries. Switched it off/on. Nothing! Sadly, I started watching lovely green hills and valleys (photographs) passing away. I felt I missed a lot of pictures during that beautiful journey. Soon I stopped struggling to fix the camera and concentrated on the view from the bus window. I did some reflection on it.

Surprisingly some benefits of ‘not being able to click pictures’, dawned on me, which did not show ‘clicking pictures’ in a very positive light –

*While shooting pictures I decide some scenes are good and some not so good – does it mean that I am being judgemental?
*I take pictures to show others, or is it to show off – is there a trace of ego?
*If the picture is being clicked while travelling then I have to move my eyes from the scene in order to pick up my camera, focus, zoom or make other adjustments in the camera. Thus my mind gets engrossed in a mechanical and relatively unartistic activity; while the scene would be passing away without me even taking a look at it. Thus I will not be able to ‘fix’ that scene in my memory. It will finally remain on the photographic print or in HDD of my computer. I realised travelling pictures make me loose a lot, mainly because I am not seeing the visual directly and so called ‘fully’. If I use all that time to look at the panorama, it will get memorised in my mind in rich 3-D with all related sounds, movements and smells, while the photograph will remain a soul-less 2-D frame. All it will document that I passed here one day.

So if I am travelling to a new location, it may not be worthwhile to look away or look through a gadget rather than look directly at the view. I remember once I was flying by a helicopter to Madurai and I noticed some amazing formations of clouds. They looked like soft fluffy toys of various amazing shapes, playing with each other. I remember them so well because my camera was not at hand.
If I stop somewhere for a leizurely cup of tea; I would have time to replay that scene in my mind. Yes, that would be only in my mind.

Makes sense? I am sure not for all.

Contaflex 861/02 Carl Zeiss Ikon Tessar 2314609/ 1:2.8/ f=50mm

Paa for my Deeds

When your wishes get fulfilled and start falling in your lap means, that you truly deserved the good luck. And in all probability you will do well with them.

I just happen to call a friend casually and she asked me if I wanted to see the movie, ‘Paa’. She added Amitabh and Abhishek will also attend. I was happily surprised and obviously said ‘yes’! Seeing Paa was high on agenda for me. Also I had not yet seen Abhishek personally.

Show was at 1.30 pm in a nearby multiplex. It was passed 12 noon. I rushed up with my bath, dressed up and most importantly had my lunch. I can’t stay hungry beyond a few minutes after my due ‘eating’ time. I gobbled up ‘roti subzi’ from my plate as slowly as I could and was at the theatre before 1pm. I was a bit early. I relaxed after rushing things for past 45mins. Deliberate relaxing is so important.

In a few minutes I noticed some tourist buses were being parked by the side of the gate of the theater. Buses normally are not allowed in. Some security guards were running between the buses and managers. I knew the students of DEEDS had arrived. The buses had to be parked inside the compound for their safety. I took charge of communicating this to the manager. Soon it was organized. Nearly 200 young boys and girl students in uniforms queued up at the entrance of the multiplex, under the instructions of their teachers. They were not using words to communicate; but gestures or squeals – they were all deaf. DEEDS is an NGO that runs regular and vocation schools to provide education to deaf young adults. They have nearly 20 centers in Mumbai and elsewhere in India.

Soon I was in my seat along with all those happy children. They were so excited. Such outings are always special since they are bit rare. It did cross my mind as to how will they get the dialogues of the film; but I gave it no further thought. Anyone can easily understand the storyline of a movie without hearing ‘sound’. Well may be I am putting the movie ‘sound recordist’, out of jobs but that’s a fact that for many years the movies were silent. Later on they did add music and some effects to Charlie Chaplin movies and I hated it. I had seen them completely silent way back in 1969…

I am told that Amitabh and Abhishek will joins us after the show. Somehow I thought if Jaya also would come with them. It would have been nice to meet her. The film started and there she was on the screen. She was reading all the names in the titles. So, it was seeing her in person, since she was not acting. Cool. I got another wish, which I only thought about.

Soon screening started. Theater fell silent.

Everything about the film was good. Producers had planned ‘not’ to dramatize Auro’s sickness ‘progeria’, to earn sympathy points. He was there as everyone else. Only a small change that I will make will be in Amitabh’s introduction’ in the movie. I would have certainly put a few students in the toilet where Auro is first seen. They don’t have to call him by his name and all. It would be more normal to fill up the ‘loo’ a bit more and add some passing. There was no need to give him a filmy ‘introduction’ – hogging the frame all by himself! Rest all was great.

There was short intermission during which organizers had a small big job to do. They taught the students currently popular ‘jig’ that Amitabh does in the film; to present it in front of him. They learnt it pretty fast in 2-3 rehearsals only. Finally on cue, children in entire theatre did those complicated arms movements. They were ready.

Second half of the film was more engrossing, which is not too common in Hindi cinema. Most films fail in this area, especially in the climax…

‘Paa’ has a beautiful end.

We had to wait for 10 minutes for the father and son duo to appear, and appear they did. After excited exchange of hand waves between delighted children and the Bachchans, things settle down. Bachchan senior joined children in the jig they were ready for. Both Bachchans spoke about the movie, mostly during a chat with press.

Amitabh: the make-up for the film was very difficult and tiring. It used to take 4-4.30 hours to put it on and 2-2.30 hours to remove it. During this entire time I could not speak, laugh, eat or drink. After that we would be shooting for 6-7 hour on every working day. Our make-up persons were from abroad. And they did a wonderful job. The head of a progeria patient becomes very large, hair is lost and the veins on the scalp become visible. Since I am playing a 13 year old, I could not do anything about my height. Second point was that eyes of progeria patients bulge out. They become very large, which also we could not do. Although there is an injection which when given in the eyes can make them large; but everyone opposed the idea, as it would have had adverse affect on my health.

Abhishek: I carry him in the film, because I am his father here, otherwise I am always sitting on his shoulders. “Mere paas maa hai”, is a line from one his father’s films, but I am happy kyonki “mere paas Paa hai”.

I watched Bollywood’s most famous ‘father and son’ in a good mood, very witty and relaxed. Amitabh especially handled a battery of young and stupid media very well, providing them with in depth answers (read gems) to silly questions (read roadside gravel).

Sucharit/Suyesh (P-2)

It must have been nearly 20 years after that adventurous evening, when I met those three saints and also witnessed the dramatic scene of a pregnant woman delivering a baby, who then shockingly was forced to abandon it in the middle of the dense forest.

My village Jandera had got its name from its own population; because all of them followed one faith and ideology called ‘Godaism’. Jandera was under the kingdom of King Vikram, who ruled from the capital city of Amor.

Jandera was very lucky to have a young villager who had become well known for his spell binding discourses. Even nearby villages were buzzing with news of this young boy’s abilities. His speeches had become very popular. He did not talk about the religion or scriptures, but about practical issues of how to lead a simple and uncomplicated life. People were visiting him in herds, because the boy had practical answers to everyone’s day to day problems. They asked him various house hold, health or relationships related questions and he offered them long term easy solutions. He never said, ‘I will give you something’. Instead he said, ‘you have it all in you. You have all the solutions inside you; you just have to learn how to discover them’. Due to this the flock was getting self-empowered, especially women. Many of the listeners now wanted to stay with him as long as they could, to learn the art of living, the art of staying happy and be confidant! But he would always refuse such offers, ‘you have to take care of your own life and family. No one should turn away from his basic duties. All you have to do is do your job well and lead an honest life’. In spite of this people just kept walking behind him; there was no way to stop them. His disciples were growing every day!

The boy’s name was Sucharit – man of good character. Strangely his huge popularity got him another name, ‘Suyesh’ or the one who is famous for good reasons. Sucharit was about 20 years old. He was tall, had a lean muscular body. His beard grew a little scanty. His curly hair was up to his shoulders. He was mostly seen in a white cloth wrapped around his waist and a pleasant expression on his thin face.

Like everyone else, Sucharit too followed a near 2000 year old religion called Godaism. Followers of Godaism believed that the universe was created and governed by a single omnipresent, omnipotent power called, God. He lived with three old men, who were carpenters. Yes, these were the same three saints had rescued this howling baby boy, from a forest 20 years ago. So, Sucharit was a carpenter too, expert in making simple and economical furniture. He did most of the work himself, so that his old saviors could take it easy in the dusk of their life. All his life, the saints had fed him, taken care of him and most importantly sown seeds of good qualities in him. They adored him for the way he had grown up- so bright, so strong and so humane. But they had never bargained that he would be so popular.

It had not been easy for those saints at all, bringing up a child right from his birth. They never let out the secret how they had found him. Only dismissive answer they had for numerous questions and doubts for nearly 20 years was, that ‘his mother’s name was Meera, who was known to them and God was his father! Can’t you see it on his face? Look at the peace and glow! Doesn’t he remind you of God?’ It was nearly a declaration from those well respected saints to make a point for the boy. A thoroughly impressed village crowd ‘semi believed’ them. Everyone knows how babies come on earth. An abandoned ordinary child was turned into an extraordinary phenomenon, only to cover up the absence of his father. Whoever met Sucharit just once, who he was did not matter. Sucharit spoke in a common man’s language. Slowly a belief started developing that he was a god and not a human. He physically ‘touched’ them to make them believe that he indeed was a human being. Due to constant speeches and interaction with troubled lot, Sucharit had grown very sharp in his mind and kind in heart. He could genuinely feel or even guess everyone’s pain. ‘Suyesh Sucharit’ had become a strong magical magnet. His strong attraction converted many of his listeners into his disciples. They really loved Sucharit from their heart.

Sucharit as a rule did not allow women to follow him permanently. He knew women are needed at home much more than men. But nobody had been able to convince or force ‘Mangala’ away. She had to face a lot of criticism from everyone. At that time it was looked down upon for a woman to live with a man, without village head’s consent. She in fact lived with many men, because they were all his disciples. She took up the job of doing all day to day chores for Sucharit on the pretext that he had no time to do them anyway. She smilingly, cooked, washed and mended his clothes, took care of all important visitors, who were growing in number. Now Mangala became a strong confidante of Sucharit. And gradually got a nod of all his followers, to be with them.

She would wait by his side until he fell asleep at night. She was ready by his side again with a jar of water in morning. Watching her devotion, everyone developed a deep respect for her too, not so much because she was close to Suyesh, but because Suyesh also had so much respect for her. Mangala was now Ma Mangala for everyone. Phenomenal popularity of Suyesh now could not be handled by the usual small scale arrangements. It needed planning at a much higher level. Ma Mangala stepped up consultations with other colleagues and designed a security net for Sucharit. Since they had spotted spies from Amor too many times in the crowd, visitors were not allowed to get very close to him. Donations too had become large to be taken lightly. They had to be received, stored securely and properly accounted for. Thankfully Sucharit’s ministers had kept all these worldly matters away from him. His last meeting had so many visitors that they had to meet outside the village in a more open space. Sucharit spoke for a long time making everyone spell bound. Someone guessed there might have been nearly 50000 people in that gathering!

And that did not send a friendly message to king Vikram of Amor.