A few minutes from now, I'll be heading to Gautam's studio-cum-home. It's his birthday. He would have spent it in Pune, amidst great dhoom-dhaam, inaugurating the Symbiosis School of Photography - his dream project. We shall gather for a few hours, his friends and admirers... listen to Maria Callas, talk about him with love... a lot of love. And then go home... back to our lives, our routines, our families, our obligations. C'est la vie... shrug the French philosophically. Yup. That's life.
This appeared in the Hindustan Times on the 14th...
There are photographers. And there are great photographers. Gautam Rajadhyaksha was a great photographer. Not because he was the best. But because he made his subjects look their best. I don’t know of a single person privileged enough to be photographed by Gautam who didn’t emerge from his studio feeling – and looking - like a million bucks! It was this special ability of his, to transform fairly ordinary looking people into divine, sublime, ethereal creatures that was incomparable. In fact, his portfolio shots of aspiring models and actors were often so stunning, potential clients would look crest fallen when they actually met the same persons in the flesh. For all that gloss, there were no tricks involved. No gimmicks. Nothing more complicated than understanding the single most important aspect of photography – light. Gautam had mastered light, and nobody could compete with him when it came to lighting a face…. and almost miraculously finding that unique something about the individual, which others could not see, but he somehow managed to capture.
For me, he was the younger brother I bullied into taking up professional photography, and later writing. Out of selfish motives, of course. Why waste in-house talent, I argued, when he was reluctant initially. Once pushed, there was no looking back! He became the absolute darling of top movie stars who refused to be photographed by anybody else. It was said, Gautam had the magic touch. If he photographed an aspirant, that was as good as a ticket to big time. I can recall several early shoots, notably with Kaajol and Tina Ambani. Apart from those unforgettable images of legends like the Mangeshkar sisters, Sachin Tendulkar, J.R.D.Tata, Dhirubhai Ambani, M.F.Husain, Rekha, the Bachchan family and several other personalities, all of whom became his life long friends.
That he died almost literally with a camera in his hand, speaks a lot about his commitment to his art. Some of the pictures he shot as recently as yesterday, have yet to be downloaded. But for those of us who spent so many glorious hours listening to operatic arias, while he cajoled us to give just one more shot, another smile, a different angle… go the extra mile for that perfect image, Gautam shall remain not just in our hearts, but also in our living rooms as we flaunt his portraits with as much pride as others flaunt their paintings. Why not? Gautam was indeed a master… and so shall he remain, the undisputed King of Portraiture.