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Sooni Taraporevala says salaam to Bombay through new photos

Images from Home In The City: Bombay 1977-Mumbai 2017 will be on display at Chemould Prescott Road Gallery this October.

mumbai Updated: Oct 13, 2017 20:30 IST
Amanda D’Souza
Nurse and poster of Indira Gandhi at the Congress Centenary Session, Bombay 1985
Nurse and poster of Indira Gandhi at the Congress Centenary Session, Bombay 1985(Sooni Taraporevala; Courtesy: Sunaparanta)
Home In The City, Bombay 1977-Mumbai 2017: Photographs by Sooni Taraporewala
  • When: October 14-31, 11am-7pm
  • Where: Chemould Prescott Road Gallery, Fort, Mumbai
  • Contact: 2200-0211 / 2
  • Entry is free

In 1985, the Indian National Congress celebrated its 100th year at Gowalia Tank (now August Kranti Maidan) at Grant Road. It attracted a large audience, mostly Parsis, eager to catch a glimpse of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi who had some Parsi ancestry. Unmindful of the event, a nurse sat in an ambulance outside the maidan, seemingly apathetic, but captured forever in a photograph by Sooni Taraporevala. The image frames both the personal and the political, fusing history with the nurse’s story.

Through 99 such images, Taraporevala opens up a gateway into the city’s past. Home In The City: Bombay 1977-Mumbai 2017 covers the Bombay that metamorphosed into Mumbai. It’s a popular muse, over the last few years, Dinodia Gallery’s From Mumbai to Bombay and Robert D. Stephens’ Mumbai North have also documented the changing metropolis.

Taraporevala offers a refreshing look at the subject by focusing on the humanity more than the landscape. On view are images of young people, old people and actors. “Mumbai has always been a diverse city and I have tried to reflect that diversity in my images,” says the photographer.

Gun battle at Cusrow Baug, Bombay 1985 (Sooni Taraporevala; Courtesy: Sunaparanta)

The photos will also be bound into a book. Pico Iyer, whose essays are featured in it, calls Taraporevala “a connoisseur of intimacy”. And she is. Taraporevala’s eye is that of a confidante, privy to the secrets shared between the subjects of her photos.

Take for instance the portrait of two blindfolded boys, enjoying a moment of camaraderie. She shot it on the sets of her 1988 film Salaam Bombay!. The older boy is Irrfan Khan. Some of the images from her previously exhibited portraits of Parsis make a re-appearance.

Sarfu and Irrfan Khan, Salaam Bombay! workshop, Bombay 1987 (Sooni Taraporevala; Courtesy: Sunaparanta)

Though the title suggests a documentation stretching across three decades, 80 of the 99 photos belong to an era prior to 2004. “I didn’t have a particular time frame or agenda in mind while capturing these photos. I merely tried to capture a city I called home,” says Taraporevala.

Home in the City functions as a mirror to Bombay/Mumbai, by capturing both what has vanished and what has endured. Look closely, and you can almost see Sooni’s own reflection in the corner.