The camera is not just a tool at the HT Kala Ghoda Arts Festival; it is also a paintbrush. Along Rampant Row and at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj museum, photographic vignettes are drawing crowds. Some of these artistic images show the woman on the street through the eyes of German photographer Helena Schätzle, others explore the essence of India through Sandeep Dhopate’s colourful snapshots.
“I love how her photographs capture happiness and the beauty of life. Looking at this woman, one realises that beauty is about happiness,” says 20-year-old St Xavier’s student Vidhi Lohia, admiring Schatzle’s series titled Life is Real, portraying a woman hawker as poet, mother and dreamer, in various shades.
Also on Rampart Row, as part of an interactive exhibit called Beautyfull, photographer Sahil Mane was offering volunteers a free makeover, if he could photograph them at the end. “This project is a comment on how intricate we expect a woman’s beauty regimen to be, with no such expectations from most men. It is also a comment on our preconceived notions of beauty, particularly in India, where skin tone often defines beauty.”
For the men who volunteer, Mane adds, the exercise will hopefully make them aware of what it feels like to have one’s appearance constantly scrutinised.
Film buffs, meanwhile, were heading into the museum to admire 40 rare, hand-painted posters and lobby cards from the Osianama collection, for iconic films such as Mughal-e-Azam (1960), Citizen Kane (1941), The Godfather (1972), Casino Royale (1967), and publicity material for magic shows such as Houdini’s. “Each piece is a vintage cinematic gem of design,” said Osian Group chairman Neville Tuli. “The Bond posters seem ahead of their time in their design and the way the women are standing,” said Shravani Bishnu, 20, transfixed by the ‘Bond wall’. “Today’s film posters feel so predictable in comparison, with the cast standing in a line.”
There are two children’s exhibitions too, featuring pictures taken by youngsters from slums in Kalyan, Malwani and Dharavi. “My favourite photograph is up there — it shows a boy smiling at the camera, wearing dark glasses as he stands in a pile of garbage,” says a 17-year-old from Malwani whose pictures are among the 72 images on display. “At the festival, a photographer met me and said that the composition was very good. He said, ‘This photo says a lot about life in a basti’. There was also a fire brigade officer who told me that the photo reminds him of the real Mumbai.”