Raja Deen Dayal's works were recently showcased in the city as a part of the United Art Fair 2012, giving a chance to the audience to peep into the 19th century setting in India. The master's 5th generation, Priya Singhal spoke to Subuhi Parvez about the life and times of the father of photography.
Hindustan Times: Raja Deen Dayal has been the most celebrated photographer from 19th century. How do you feel exhibiting his work after so many years here?
Priya Singhal: I have been exhibiting his work earlier also. It is good to be associated with such a big fair. I am just carrying the legacy forward and my only purpose is to tell people about the father of photography.
Hindustan Times: What made you take this initiative?
Priya Singhal: Well, Anurag Sharma approached me for this exhibition. I thought it is a nice platform to showcase his work which he clicked in the 19th century.
Lord and Lady Curzon with their day's kill.
Hindustan Times: The maximum space was given to the new artists in this fair. What do you have to say about that?
Priya Singhal: See, the masters are already established, they anyway don't need any such platform to promote their work. Bringing the newbies is a very good thought.
Hindustan Times: Do you agree not mentioning the artists' names at the event was a fair thing?
Priya Singhal: I think, an artist should be named. One can anyway identify the big names by looking at their works. So there is no point.
Hindustan Times: Do you think photography has come a long way as far as these new forms are concerned?
Priya Singhal: Definitely! 125 years back he (Raja Deen Dayal) was using cumbersome cameras. The instrument was so difficult to carry at that time. If you think about it, he clicked such wide shots of Hyderabad, which is commendable.
He attended a court session of Nizam of Hyderabad (Mahbub Ali Khan) and clicked his picture. Later, he gave the picture to the Nizam as a good gesture. The Nizam liked it so much that he immediately appointed Raja Deen Dayal as the court photographer.
He even gave him the name 'Raja', before that he was Lala Deen Dayal.
Hindustan Times: How satisfied were you with the kind of space he got at the fair?
Priya Singhal: I was very happy. Just that I had written an article on him and I wanted that write up to be there, for people to read. I wish it could be there.
Hindustan Times: You have seen India in the 19th century and later through his eyes. What is it that you saw?
Priya Singhal: I could see that his work depicted innocence of the country with the balance of lights and shades. His photographs show how satisfied people were with their lives at that time.
The Charminar in Hyderabad
Hindustan Times: Who was Raja Deen Dayal's inspiration and best subject?
Priya Singhal: The Nizam of course! Apart from clicking the monuments, he was fond of clicking Nizam. And even the Nizam would sit all dressed up with all his wives to get snapped. Nizam had the largest wardrobe and he would never repeat any clothes.
The VI Nizam leading the procession of Indian Rulers at Delhi Durbar
Hindustan Times: What is the one thing that many people don't know about Raja Deen Dayal?
Priya Singhal: Well, there are lot of anecdotes which I have been told by my parents and grandparents. But I would like to share one couplet with you which the Nizam wrote for him. It goes like this: "Ajab ye karte hain, tasveer mein kamaal kamaal; ustaado ke hain ustaad Lala Deen Dayal" (In the art of picture making killed surpassing all, a master of masters is Lala Deen Dayal).
Hindustan Times: Are you a photographer yourself? Are you inspired by his work?
Priya Singhal: No I am not. I carry the legacy forward and want the new generation to get inspired by his work. Yes, of course I am inspired myself.
Hindustan Times: Are you happy with the kind of response you have been getting?
Priya Singhal: The response has been overwhelming and people really appreciated the works.
Hindustan Times: Were the photos for sale?
Priya Singhal: Yes, they were for sale.
Hindustan Times: What are your future plans as far as promoting his work is concerned?
Priya Singhal: I have taken permission from Sheila Dixit, Cheif Minister of Delhi, for a personal space for the legendary photographer in a museum that is yet to be made.
The 100 Seat dinning table at The Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad
Priya Singhal is settled in Delhi for the past 11 years and promotes Raja Deen Dayal's works.