Monday, September 19, 2011

There is beauty in everyone....

This is a self portrait shot by Gautam when he was just nineteen.He taught himself photography by shooting himself in the mirror of his armoire, which was - and remains - next to a window through which natural light streams in. Some of my best pictures have also been shot in this exact spot by him.
I swear Gautam would have found beauty within Narendra Modi, India's prime ministerial aspirant, too ! He was that generous!!
I have written this tribute for Forbes...

A few weeks ago, I was being photographed by one of today’s hot shot lensmen. The new breed. The guys in designer gear who arrive with an entourage of more than eight assistants and demand star treatment from magazine editors who hire them. At the end of the impersonal, brisk shoot with hardly a single meaningful exchange of words between the moody, scruffy photographer and moi, I turned to the stylist on the shoot and said, “That’s it? Are we done?” I didn’t want to linger for a single extra moment or even ask to see the images on the computer. I could as well have been shot by a robot. I don’t remember the man’s name. I wonder if mine registered with him. It was a job. We’d got it done. Finished. No time for small talk. No time for gup-shup. No time for something as basic as politeness. Time most certainly is money for this lot. Pack up was announced. The assistants fluttered around, putting away reflectors and lights that weren’t used (but paid for).
And I thought of Gautam.
Invariably dressed in a simple, comfortable white kurta-pyjama. Never rushed. Always chatty and cheerful. Unfailingly courteous to one and all — be it a gawky , desperately young first time model, or a Forbes’ List billionaire. No wonder he retained his position as an ace portraitist. No wonder people lined up to get themselves photographed by him. No wonder Gautam was a legend.
In a way, I bullied my cousin into getting ‘professional’ about his hobby. “Start charging for your pictures,” I suggested. That was over twenty-five years ago. He looked aghast. He was genuinely horrified. This was when he was working at Lintas, after a short stint as a lecturer of chemistry, and shooting for fun.
At the time, there were three or four outstanding, world class commercial photographers working in Mumbai. There was the cerebral snob, Jehangir Gazdar, who flew his own plane. Mitter Bedi, who specialised in industrial photography, Ashwin Gatha who went overseas and did very well as a fashion photographer, ‘Balsi’ (Balsara) who died young, and ‘Obi’ (Oberoi), who disappeared into the Lonavala hills and took to horticulture.
Gautam soon joined the Big Boys, but instead of picking the far more lucrative route via advertising campaigns, he decided to concentrate on magazine work, especially shoots involving movie stars. There was a time when a cover shot for top film glossies could not be assigned to anybody but Gautam. Stars were prepared to wait, take flights, change their schedules, change their entire personality if needed, to be photographed by Gautam. This was especially true of newbies in Bollywood, who believed a portfolio shot by Gautam was as good as a passport to instant fame. Many times, it was! Gautam’s reputation as a star maker was firmly established by then.
His early shoots with Smita Patil, Shabana Azmi, Sridevi, Rekha, Kaajol, Aishwarya Rai and most famously, Madhuri Dixit, did not just accelerate Gautam’s career but created a big buzz around his lovely leading ladies as well. He was crowned the Pharaoh of Faces!
A few years down the line, Gautam graduated from shooting movie stars and models, to photographing personalities. From J.R.D. Tata to Lata Mangeshkar, he managed to cover an impressive gamut of celebrities, including a few famously reticent individuals. How Gautam managed to relax these mighty individuals is another story. And this is where his genius comes in. Gautam was a remarkably intuitive person, who knew exactly which buttons to press, especially when he sensed his subject’s shyness or self-consciousness.
Gautam’s greatest gift as a photographer was that he saw beauty in everybody he photographed. And so genuine was this attribute, he made each and every one of his countless subjects feel beautiful… look beautiful. Momentarily, people forgot their flaws, big and small, and lulled themselves into believing they were indeed special… alluring… attractive. Or at any rate, worth a second look. What may have started out as a mere technique to relax those in front of his lens, soon became an intrinsic part of Gautam’s character.
From the hundreds of mails I have received since he passed away, most have been from regular people narrating a sweet, touching incident with Gautam playing a stellar role. Almost without an exception, these spontaneous mails talk about how he made people feel, not just look.
Everybody left his studio with a big smile, convinced they were indeed stars, if not in the movies, than in their own eyes. How absolutely wonderful!


चंद्रमौलेश्वर प्रसाद said...

The portrait is known by the model but not the photographer. Gautam is rare species to be known by his name> May his soul rest in peace.

RAJ47 said...

Hi Shobhaa,
I have very high regards for your style of writing.
But this one was slightly off the rocker.
Please don't try to settle your personal scores of political vendetta by calling in the dead to fight on your side.

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I liked the line when" celeb shaadis go phut" from the line itself it is clear what your post is about,simple, good english-hindi mix -kind of punchy line-whereas the other one is ambigious and kind of mystery(we have to find out after we read the post) i liked the post straight,factual and you have put the matter very well keeping the reality in mind.
I liked the self portrait nice picture -natural yet flawless(Mr gautam a virgo by sun sign no doubt a perfectionist.)
Those who love their work they are different ..effortless in their work and the way they deal with whatever that comes with the work and those who do it for the sake of it shows ,the former makes it to the top but also makes a place in the heart of the people he comes in contact via his work and the latter come and go ...they are mortals Mr gautam immortal!

*Aham* said...

like in life we usually forget the creator, we remember what we see...
i had never known that the pictures of bollywood divas that i admired were actually clicked by gautam.

and sad that i had to know this after he went on an other journey.

i dont know much about photography, but i know about life.

there is so much life in the pics he created.

besides narendra modi... i feel
he could also make deepika padhukone look hot and sexy.
and bahu bachchan look real.

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Pratap said...

What's with the nasty comment on Narendra Modi right below that amazing photograph?!!
It was completely out of context with the tribute you wrote for Forbes.

I have been reading your tributes and feeling very sad at such a nice person and wonderful talent being taken away from us so soon.

That ding on Modi kind of ruined this one.

C'mon - you can write a whole blog about your opiniomns of Modi's 3-day fast - I for one am looking forward to reading it.

varsha rao said...

l loved your article shobhaa de.. it really brought out the lesser known part of mr gautam..heartfelt...

varsha rao said...

also, i have request ..would you please take out some time from your busy schedule and read my blog? its i would be really grateful if you do.. just a humble request from a girl!! thankyou...

Tsomo85 said...

I'm speechless! Wonderful man & looks adorable & hunk in his youth as well! Wonderful soul!

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Divya Virmani said...

Saddened by this loss in the industry. Was amazed to see how everyone was tweeting about this man and then found out who this personality was. Infact, your blog addressed a lot more about this man than a mere photographer who passed away... well written!

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Isn't Modi a low lying scumbag who was responsible for the Gujarat mass killing/riots? I remember being the only Christian girl in my boarding school when it happened.Oh the horror and the terror!!
I don't understand why people are so offended when you speak the truth about a religious fanatic. How can a secular country like India be ruled by him?

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