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).