Photojournalist Pablo Bartholomew reflects on Prabuddha Dasgupta, who passed away on Sunday.
56 is no age to die.
It was a lazy Sunday afternoon. I had just woken up from a nap, was trying to figure out when I should go and meet friends when my scriptwriter and photographer friend Sooni Taraporevala called me at at 3.47 pm. "Do you know that Prabuddha had passed away… had a sudden heart attack on the way to the airport from Alibag." It jolted me out of my skin. Numbness was what took over. Snapshots of our encounters, meetings whizzed through my mind.
Recollecting myself, I posted on Facebook so that a larger group of his friends, family, and followers could learn about this terrible tragedy. A man so young, in the prime of his creative life, had so suddenly gone.
Half an hour later photographer Swapan Parekh called. He too was stunned and shocked and in our brief exchange he remarked that the 50s is a dangerous period in our lives. His mother used to say that it was the critical years of the “Van Pravesh” like Ikyavan (51) Baavan (52). How his father the legendary Kishore Parekh died young, how it took away other photographers like Raghubir Singh and my father Richard Bartholomew at 58.
Fifty-six was Prabuddha. Not an age to leave this world. Our world tangoed in many ways. His father was a Sculptor, mine was an Art Critic. They moved into the same house as we left it in Jangpura Extension, a well-known artists’ colony in the 70s. I used to hang out with what one called the Nizamuddin gang in the mid 70s and used to hang at a particular Barsati there and a decade after Prabuddha lived with his wife in that same space.
We became close in the late 90s when he had shot the ad with Madhu Sapre and Milind Soman in their birthday suits and keds with a python between them. Someone made a police complaint and the police were after the models, advertising agency and the photographer. Strangely, as it happened, Prabuddha felt abandoned. Many people he knew just vanished. He was dropped like a hot potato. And he was fearful that the police might raid his house and want to get hold of the images in question. I offered to take all his negatives and hold them with me till the danger passed and this act of camaraderie made us closer as friends. This was an anecdote that he used to tell as a funny story amongst groups of friends.
Being the Epson evangelist for their high-end art printers, he handed me down his old one when he got his new upgrade. There were so many other incidents and situations where we intertwined even though we never actually physically engaged face to face. It was that phone call or a chance meeting in Delhi, Bombay, and Bangalore that kept happening over the years.
But there was this dictat, I could not enter Goa if I wasn’t going to stay with him. And I did, several times and so not having him around will not be easy. That low slow voice, always calm with a slight naughty edge to it, will be missed.