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Stories behind faces

Photo-journalist Gautam Rajadhyaksha, whose Marathi coffee table book, Chehre, launches this Friday, shares some picture-perfect moments.

books Updated: Jun 17, 2010 13:06 IST
Roshmila Bhattacharya

In 1985, Gautam Rajadhyaksha started Chanderi, a Marathi-non-gossip magazine. Two years later, he came up with a coffee table book called Faces, a collection of Bollywood’s most celebrated faces.

In 2000, he unveiled his first exhibition of 650 prints, Chehre, in Pune. He toured with it to Kolhapur, Goa and back to Pune. On June 18, he will launch a coffee table book in Marathi.

Chehre is a medley of personalities from different fields whom I’ve encountered,” says Rajadhyaksha.

It has some photos from Faces, and others like Sunil Gavaskar, who was a year older than Rajadhyaksha in school and protected the small, timid kid from bullies by taking the seat next to him in the school bus. And an 80-plus JRD Tata, on whom he experimented with soft focus lenses for the first time to blur out age spots that had shown up in an earlier photo-shoot. “JRD told him he was glad I didn’t make people look like a thermophile,” laughs Rajadhyaksha.

Flipping through the pages, you’ll also come across Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, legendary filmmaker V Shantaram, Vilas Bhende, the guru of photography, make-up whiz Mickey Contractor, classical music maestro Bhimsen Joshi, another Tata, Ratan, among others.

Of course, there are also the movie stars that Rajadhyaksha has immortalised on print, ranging from Tragedy King Dilip Kumar, who admitted to him that he’d said “no” to Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa because he had been ordered by his doctor and psychiatrist to stay away from “depressing” films, to Kajol “who’s like a daughter and it’s lovely now to see her with her own daughter and carrying another child”.

The book will be launched by “didi” Lata Mangeshkar who “represents the arts”, Amitabh Bachchan “who broke his eight-year-press ban with me” and theatre personality Vijaya Mehta “an orator I’ve always admired”.

Rajadhyaksha on some of his famous models

Rekha
‘She burst into tears and ran down the stairs…’
We’ve known each other for almost 30 years now. She’s come home often and knew my staff well. In 1998, Kashinath, who doubled as a household help and a cook, passed away. When Rekha heard the news, she stopped by the next evening to pay her condolences.

On her way out, she peeped into the kitchen to say “bye” to Kashinath and suddenly realised she’d never see him again. Bursting into tears, she ran down the stairs, and with a muttered, “I’ll call you later,” drove away. I’ll never forget that instance of genuine human warmth.

Ranbir Kapoor
‘He’ll make a great director like his grandfather’
I first shot Ranbir when he was eight years old for a family portrait. His parents, Rishi and Neetu Kapoor, are dear friends and Ranbir has grow up in front of me.

Then he went off to New York for three years. I thought he was doing was regular college but he was actually taking acting and filmmaking classes. In 2002, he made a small film for Chintu’s (Rishi Kapoor) 50th birthday. I was impressed and told him he should study filmmaking. “Gautam uncle, that’s what I’ve been doing,” he replied.

Ranbir is meant to make films. These are his salad days as an actor. Some day, I see him following in the footsteps of his grandfather, Raj Kapoor, one of our greatest filmmakers.

Dhirubhai Ambani
‘His room was so simple and middle-class’
I shot Dhirubhai on his 60th birthday. He had suffered a slight paralytic stroke, yet his energy was boundless. His home, Sea Wind, was opulent. But when his wife, Kokilaben, took me to their room, I was stunned. There were just an iron cot, a table beside it and a glass of water on it. So simple, ordinary and middle-class!

Madhuri Dixit
‘Temperament and talent made her a superstar’
I have shot close to 2000 faces, Madhuri’s is one of the best faces in my portfolio. She is like malleable clay. You just have to tell her what you want and she becomes that person.

Temperament and talent made her the super star she was. I’ve had the opportunity to shoot her many times, from pre-Tezaab to pre-Aaja Nachle. There’s never been another Madhuri Dixit.