The only expectation my dad had about me was that I should follow the path of kindness and humanity. He instilled in me a passion for reading. And by the time I finished school, I had read quite a few books on world history and literature.
Later, I went to St Stephen’s College for BA (English) followed by a diploma course in cinema studies from the FTII, Pune — I wanted to become a documentary filmmaker.
The reason was simple. I wanted to keep learning with time and a career in documentary films gives this opportunity.
Work and passion
In 1991, a series of photographs of the famous Ajanta caves, which I clicked without artificial lights, were appreciated by art connoisseurs the world over. This pushed me to pursue my interest in art and heritage. I love clicking pictures and exploring art and heritage. So I became a photographer, documentary filmmaker, art historian and author.
I want to prove that the marvel of Indian art existed even in the ancient period of history and didn’t germinate in the medieval era, as is the popular but incorrect notion globally.
It required patience to shoot the Ajanta paintings in meticulous detail. These were later showcased in several exhibitions around the globe.
Many would pass this as an inherent skill, but I don’t believe in these so-called special talents. I have worked hard to excel in areas of photography and documentation.
I am making a documentary movie on Buddhist heritage around the world.
The key to success
Though I am known around the world for my contribution to Indian art and heritage and have been written about in the international press extensively, I have never worked for fame or for making money. It was pure devotion and passion for work and I have always enjoyed my work.
Besides hard work, one should have ethics. I have a couple of trainees working with me. They accompany me on exploratory trips and I always tell them to behave ethically and say this will never hamper their success.
It reminds me of the fifth-century inscription on the Ajnata caves that reads: “The joy of giving filled him so much that it left no space for the feeling of pain.”
My name was entered in the Limca Book of Records for having travelled extensively in far-flung areas in India. While travelling, especially on foreign land, I have encountered quite a few challenges.
My biggest challenge is to understand languages other than English. In China, I found it hard to communicate with the locals but somehow I managed.
On another occasion in Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, we got stranded at a place as a stream had blocked our way. We had to make a makeshift bridge with the help of 80 people around. In one day, the bridge was ready and we plied 21 vehicles over it.
Nothing comes easy. All of us have every thing — courage, intelligence, energy and power but we must be ready to delve deeper to optimise them.
Benoy K Behl, photographer and documentary filmmaker As told to Vimal Chander Joshi