Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Man with the Magic Lens....

Last night after I got home from Gautam's funeral, I told myself 'this is not the time to cry... just get to your laptop and do what you have to do. Write those tributes... you owe him that much'. There were 8 requests pending from various newspapers. The deadline was the same for all - 9.30 p.m. It was close to 8 p.m. when I started writing the first of 6. The one you are reading here was the last one to be sent off. That's because the editor, Siddharth Vardarajan of The Hindu, had very kindly extended his deadline by half an hour. It was well past 1 a.m. when I finally switched off my cell phone and called it a night. It was one of the longest nights of my life. Gautam... and dead?
Extraordinary... there has been an avalanche of condolences from across India, across the world...all of today. I knew Gautam was loved and admired. But even I didn't realise just how much.I received calls from people I haven't been in touch with for years. People who may have met Gautam once... twice. But he had touched their lives and left a lasting impact. If you ask me, it was his innate goodness as much as his huge talent that people responded to. As I was framing the obituary for the Times of India , I asked Virginia, a mutual friend, to locate appropriate lines from Puccini's 'Tosca' ( Gautam's favourite opera). She found them swiftly (google, zindabad!)... and here they are : "I lived for my art... I lived for love...I never did harm to a living soul..." . Perhaps, Gautam is singing the same aria for the angels right now...

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This appeared in The Hindu today....

The Man with the Magic Lens….

Gautam Rajadhyaksha was an accidental photographer. For a man who started his career as a lecturer in chemistry, and then went on to become one of the most celebrated photographers of our time, Gautam’s love affair with the camera could well be described as a guilty passion! But once he was up and running, after a stint at Lintas, Gautam rapidly established himself as The Chosen One. From Rekha to Amitabh Bachchan, from J.R.D.Tata to Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam captured them all. And did so with such simplicity and elegance! This was really his signature – the uncomplicated, divinely lit, perfectly framed portrait that went beyond a mere ‘ ‘pretty picture’ and managed to steal an elusive aspect of his subject’s personality. Astonished editors would often wonder what it was about Gautam… what was Gautam’s ‘jadoo’? How come he made everybody look so damned gorgeous? The truth is, there was nothing more complicated behind his artistry than enormous sensitivity and high intelligence. Gautam instinctively decoded his subjects. He was the quintessential people person. To be in his warm and homely studio was to feel you were at home – and indeed his studio was also is home! Most professional photographers treat their subjects as objects. Like it is a job that has to be done, and done quickly. Gautam gave each and every person in front of his lens, the same level of leisurely attention and utmost respect. He’d be the reassuring uncle with a nervous model, and a firm grandpa with a child artist. And when it came to movie stars, Gautam would switch between a fastidious school teacher demanding good grades to a conspiratorial best friend, relaxing everybody in the studio with dollops of harmless gossip. This ability to disarm even the high and mighty, led to some brilliant photo shoots which caught the celebrity off guard. And yet, these were not candid shots! These were carefully calibrated images, which Gautam had visualized inside his head much before the celebrity’s arrival.
We were close. Gautam was a confidante and friend before he was a cousin. I had pushed him into a career in photography at a time when he was a little diffident about his ability to make it in a fairly competitive and uncertain profession. We would both laugh about our middle class hang–ups and insecurities. Appreciation was very important to him and he valued feedback from those whose opinions counted. His scholarship and knowledge remain unparalleled in the world of Indian photography. Watching the new breed of what he termed, “digital photographers’, he’d analyse gimmicky, stylised images in the glossies and immediately point out the technical flaws. And yet, there was zero resentment. If anything, Gautam had grown into a benign father figure who willingly extended support and help to anybody who approached him. As the Guru of Portraiture, Gautam has no equal. It’s such a pity he passed away three days before a very significant date – Gautam was to turn 61 on the 16th of September, and the occasion was to be marked by the opening of the Faculty of Photography at Symbiosis, Pune. He had been working tirelessly for the past two years on setting up this ambitious project. It was a dream that remained unfulfilled for a man who made the dreams of countless people come true when he turned them into stars through the magic of his lens.

24 comments:

Chintan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chintan said...

May Gautam rests in peace...it's a shame god couldn't be kind enough to give him few more days to fulfill his dream....

May god give you strength to fight the gap that remains...

Sameer said...

It's very hard to believe this news.. Rest in peace Gautamji.... Miss you... He was a big support to me and my partner and always encouraged us to give our best in whatever we were doing... I share your pain Shobhaa...

Sidhartha said...

My condolence to gautam ji..

Another Kiran In NYC said...

Our prayers are with you and Gautam's extended family. My condolences. It is hard indeed to lose one's confidant.
I looked at some of his portraits on the web today. His luminesent pictures make it so clear that he molded the photographic image of his subjects with loving hands. He showed them all as beautiful as he obviously percieved them. He must have been a good friend to so many. Even as an average Jane, I would have loved to have been photographed by him.

Sameer said...

Kiran, he was gem of a person...totally down to earth and very 'rasik' in all facets of life...I am so much in shock because I am based here in US and so could not even see him one last time...we had spoken on facebook just couple of days back before his death. Amit (my partner) and I have lost a great friend, philosopher and guide. Gautam ji, wherever you are, rest in peace...miss you...

Sameer said...

my profile pic. here is one that he had clicked...

teju said...

This lady who appeared in designer , neatly ironed kurta and had matching accessories for mourning is one hell of a slut. do you guys seriously think she mourned his death. she wanted to look glamourous (only she ain't with dirty buck teeth and slut mind)and magar machi ki asoon. lalath he tuj jaisi aurath per.
Sharam karo bhai sharam karo

Enigmatic Libran said...

Gautam Rajadhyaksha is someone I admired. I didn't know him but I can still identify his art from the magic of his pictures. RIP Gautam. We loved you and your work!

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चंद्रमौलेश्वर प्रसाद said...

Nice tribute and it was worth losing some sleep.

Madhu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Madhu said...

RIP...

Ms De, hope you are feeling OK. I am sure you have his memories to help you with your loss.

And teju (the one who posted a comment above), Shut The Fuck Up! Who the hell are you to judge who is a slut and who is not? If you have anything kind to say to someone who has just lost a relative, say it. If not, like I said, Shut The Fuck Up!

Aaina said...

Where is the like button? I want to lie Madhu's comment.
And Yes Teju please STFU and go F*** yourself or a blowup doll.
thank you.

Shwetha said...

Beautifully written Shobhaa. Much like his pictures (I call it pictures than photos, because thats how beautiful his work is) your article was poetry to the eyes, albeit a grief laden one, straight from the heart. We feel your sincerity and pain..

May he RIP.
Shwetha

Samantha said...

RIP :(

technophilo said...

RIP Gautam...

Death is not to soul, only to the physical body...

Rama said...

I know of many great photographers. I know of many great writers. But none who could do both in an equal measure of brilliance; Gautam was the ONLY one.

RIP Gautam Rajadhyaksha. RIP. So deeply grateful Shobhs that you introduced us. He illuminated my world with his inner light and brilliance. What I - and countless others - will remember most is his humour, wit and kindness. Was there a limit to his generosity? Nein! And that spool of seemingly endless knowledge on the finer things in life; music, politics, film, stars, literature, history... He was so much more than the sum of his parts.

A gentle soul who went quietly in the night...

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