Dabboo Ratnani recalls meeting Shah Rukh Khan before his debut: I knew he was going to be a big star
In an interview with Hindustan Times, ace celebrity photographer Dabboo Ratnani shared fun anecdotes with Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar and more.
Having over two decades of experience in the film industry, Dabboo Ratnani has paved the way for film photography. He is a firm believer in making the most out of his hard work and has become a known name for celebrities when it comes to capturing them with the right kind of aesthetics. From Amitabh Bachchan to Shah Rukh Khan to Hrithik Roshan, Dabboo has worked with most A-listers. Talking about what goes behind the scenes, the ace celebrity photographer shared anecdotes with Hindustan Times.
Also read: Dabboo Ratnani interview: Photographer recalls cops arriving during shoot with Varun Dhawan
How do you know Shah Rukh Khan?
Dabboo Ratnani: I knew SRK when he came from Delhi to become an actor. We had a common friend. This was even before his debut. I remember making him pose for an outdoor shoot, on the bonnet of my car. From the time I met him, I knew he was going to be a big star. From the kind of intelligence he has and his words, you can tell when the person has it in their eyes.
From the time I met Shah Rukh Khan, I knew he was going to be a big star. You can tell when the person has it in their eyes.
Any favourite memory with him?
Dabboo Ratnani: With Shah Rukh, I remember going to his house and making him wear a suit with a pinned-up bow tie. He was like ‘You tell me the idea first’. I told him that I will surprise him. I made him sit on a plastic chair. We did his makeup and hair. I borrowed his gardener’s bicycle and told him ‘to have to sit here’. He was fab!
One day we were shooting outside Mumbai. I told him to wear a suit and walk into a lake with waist-deep water. He quickly got up and went into the lake, without saying anything. These top actors trust me.
What about Amitabh Bachchan?
Dabboo Ratnani: I have made Mr Bachchan do crazy things in the middle of the street. Once I made him wear a jacket and put him in a flashy auto rickshaw. He was like ‘One day you will hang me out of a plane.’ They really enjoy being a part of my crazy shoots.
For example, we make Akshay Kumar do all kinds of crazy too. Once I made him sit on top of a metro train. Another time, I took him to a horse stable and shot him there. Later, I put him under a car and shot as if Superman was coming out, underneath the car. With Akshay the crazier the better, he likes to do it.
John Abraham is your close friend. He gives you the credit for his career. How did it happen?
Dabboo Ratnani: John was junior to me by one year in school. He started working in an ad agency and I became a photographer. One day we met and I told him ‘I think you should get into modelling’. He came to my house and asked me how much I would charge him for a portfolio. I said ‘Whatever you think’. He told me ‘I am spending so much money on a portfolio. Do you think I will get work?’ I said ‘Okay you wait for work and then pay me’. He said he won't do that and paid me before the shoot.
John Abraham still tells me ‘It’s all because of you. You pushed me in this direction otherwise I would have been working in some job somewhere.’
I gave him my honest advice if you are not sure (about modelling) then just don’t leave your job. I am sure in the first 1-2 months the amount of work you will get, you will automatically leave your job and start modelling.’ Rightly so, in 2-3 months he started modelling. We did another portfolio and he got a film. He still tells me ‘It’s all because of you. You pushed me in this direction otherwise I would have been working in some job somewhere.’ We are really close friends. I keep taking advice from John Abraham and Hrithik.
You and Hrithik were school friends too?
Dabboo Ratnani: Although he was junior to me in school, I got to know about his identity after he did a photoshoot with me. When I saw him through the lens for the first time, I was like ‘Boss this guy is a star.’ At that time I had no idea that he was Rakesh Roshan’s son. He just introduced himself as Hrithik. Later Rakesh Roshan called me and told me he loved the photos. When I asked him how he has seen the photos, Rakesh sir told me ‘You know he is my son.’
When I saw Hrithik Roshan through the lens for the first time, I was like ‘Boss this guy is a star.’ At that time I had no idea that he was Rakesh Roshan’s son.
Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan’s love story began at your studio?
Dabboo Ratnani: Yes, they met for the first time in my studio. But, it didn’t happen then and there. It was a magazine shoot in 2006.