This image was taken at the Dasawamedh ghat (bank) in Varanasi. Every evening, pilgrims gather in their hundreds to pay reverence to the River Ganga at the spectacular puja that happens at this important Ghat. Once the evening puja is finished, the activity at this Ghat slows down, that is until Michael and his friends gather at the well-lit Ghat for their nightly game of cricket. For a couple of hours this most unlikely of sporting arenas becomes a cricketing amphitheatre. As is the case with tens of thousands of cricket games played in the streets of India, everything is improvised, starting from the ball they use to the boundaries of the field of play, the wickets and sometimes even their bats. Because they don’t have a lot of space to play with, they use a very light but tough plastic ball that does not travel a great distance despite the effort that Michael and his friends put into each swing. Also, playing by a riverbank means they need to come equipped with plenty of spare plastic balls, everyday they would lose a couple of them to the Ganga. This particular day however, they got lucky. One of their lusty blows conveniently landed in a nearby tethered boat. The same boats that ferry pilgrims and tourists to the various bank of the holy city during the day. I took this picture when Michael volunteered to retrieve that ball.
A couple of images I made for a workshop conducted by the British Council in 2013. We were mentored by the amazing British portrait photographer Suki Dhanda whose infectious energy fuelled the week-long workshop. The work culminated in an exhibition at 1 Shanti Road in Bangalore and later travelled to galleries at British Council venues in Delhi and Mumbai.
A couple of images that I shot in collaboration with blogger Smrithi Rao. The shoot was commissioned by Homegrown.in for Nike.
We met this multi-faceted lady in a small hamlet near Dindigul, TN. Shantamma used to be a handloom sari weaver by profession and spent over 8 hours on the loom, everyday for over 30 years.
Even in her childhood (she started weaving while she was still in school) she had a knack for weaving complicated designs that require a lot of effort and strength. She enjoyed challenging her male counterparts in this regard and she was entrusted to weave Sari designs that were traditionally woven by men. Diabetes has made it impossible for her to sit in one position for long hours and she is now retired from weaving.
Weaving is not the only thing that interests her. She also has a deep passion for politics and thinks that those in power should use the opportunity to perform social service and help the community. She herself stood for panchayat elections in the late 90's and won the election. It was during her term as Panchayat head that a tar road was built to connect her hamlet to the highway leading to Dindigul.
Another one of her accomplishments that she is really proud of , is helping fund the construction of the 'gopuram' or tower for the local temple. For many years the temple in her neighbourhood was without a gopuram. Shantamma and a few lady weavers from the village decided to do something about. Everyday, after they finished weaving, they would catch the bus to Dindigul town and walk from door to door collecting donations for construction of the gopuram. In 6 months, they had collected enough and their local temple now has a gopuram.
The following images were commissioned by a Chennai based fitness company called Movement Inc. Their website - 'MealMapper' generates personalized nutrition recommendations based on an individual's height, weight, activity levels and food preferences using the science of portion control.
The St+Art India team commissioned me to shoot the Bangalore edition of their adventure in October, 2016. The following pictures are a brief edit I put together from that exciting fortnight.
These images were commissioned by Subbacultcha - an alternative music magazine based in Belgium and were featured in their February, 2016 issue accompanying an interview of the artist Aïsha Devi. The images were made in Malleshwaram, considered one of the last vestiges of what is called the 'old-Bangalore' charm.
Purushottam came up to me on street and asked me to take his picture, I was sceptical. He invited me to his house, right by the side of the road we were standing on. His aunt was home, his mother’s older sister.
She is a sweeper, the BBMP pays her Rs. 1000 per month to sweep 2 streets from end to end. To augment her income she is the caretaker of a public bathroom which is the building adjacent to her house.
Their house could at best be described as a makeshift arrangement, haphazardly put together with loose and uneven brick. One strong push and the wall would have collapsed. When we entered the dingy room, she asked Purushottam to ‘get the bulb’ (they own one bulb that they interchange between different parts of their living area as the need arises). Once there was light, she told me a few stories of how she raised her 4 children in this house (more of a room) that was no more than 4 paces x 6. “When it rains, the roof leaks…we go across the street to sleep in the neighbor’s shop” she said.
We stepped outside into their 'backyard’ - a small tract of unoccupied government land, covered with weeds. A couple of his friends came by and saw Purushottam being photographed, he gave them a big grin. He said his favorite subject in school was Kannada and that he would like the opportunity to learn more languages. The whole time he was talking to me, he never stopped playing with his stole.
His Aunt hesitatingly asked Purushottam in Telegu to tell me to take a picture of her, holding a broom. When I asked her why, she said : “This is the source of my livelihood - we get to eat because of the broom, it helped me send my son to college.”
Purushottam asked me if I would like to see the Art School next door. On our way there, he informed me that he sweeps the school twice a day - before and after his own school timings. The art school pays his mother Rs. 3000/- for his work. I asked him what he wanted to be when he grows up - “a police officer, so that I can arrest everyone”, “Everyone ?” I asked him “people who do bad things” he added as an after-thought.
Seen on their visiting card
“New Bharath Music Brass Band & Mobile Orchestra
FILM SONGS & WESTERN MUSIC
Our band set often foreign countries like Paris, London, Switzerland, France, etc.,”
This series is about a 'Garadi mane' or mud-wrestling pit house/gymnasium in the city of Bangalore. Wrestling enthusiasts from the neighbourhood congregate here in the evenings to work-out. These are guys with day jobs that have grown up with the notion of a successful mud-wrestler or 'pailwan' as the epitome of hyper-masculinity.
Mud-wrestling or 'Kushti' in India has seen a steady decline in popularity over the past decades. Even though tournaments or a 'Dangal' are still popular in the countryside, in my city I was hard pressed to find a functioning 'Garadi Mane'. The sport is still practised and taught using century-old techniques, something the masters and the students alike take great pride in. Here are some pictures from a charmingly humorous anachronism.
These images were taken at Kudle beach in Gokarna in N. Karnataka. These men are employing a form of fishing called ‘yeluballe’ in Kannada (the local language spoken in Karnataka). This literally translates to pulling the net. The boat carries the net out into sea while two sets of fishermen hold either end of it, forming a semi circular arc that they gradually pull ashore over the course of a few hours. Once the catch is pulled in, the beach becomes a hive of activity. The first to arrive on the scene are the animals - kites and crows sense an easy meal and start hovering overhead, occasionally swooping down to scoop up a fish or two in their beak. The dogs are attracted by sheer curiosity, they don’t eat fish but I did catch one of them existentially staring at a jellyfish. Once the fishermen start segregating the different kinds of fish, customers arrive for fresh catch - these are inevitably people known to the fishermen and they buy in small quantities to run their household for a day or two. Soon, the fishermen start to pack the fish in preparation for a trip to the local market. Line fishing is a sustenance form of fishing, the yield is not great but it’s enough for these fishermen to take home some fresh fish and a bit of spending money.
Ashok Basthi or ‘Junior Rajkumar’ as his fans fondly refer to him is an impersonator of the late Kannada film star Rajkumar. He hails from Haveri district and has been making a living as a doppelgänger for over 25 years now, he informed me that he was recently felicitated for having completed 20,000 performances at a ceremony in his hometown.
Mr. Basthi performs at weddings, cultural and other religious functions. He told me that he is a regular at all the events conducted by the Rajkumar family ! At these events, the onus is on him not only to look the part but also mimic the superstar’s gestures, wardrobe and even voice - sometimes he is called upon to sing a line or two. His commitments take him all over Karnataka and he prefers to travel by road with his trusted team that consists of his personal assistant, make-up artist, musicians, other impersonators who play a supporting role and his son (whom he is molding to impersonate Rajkumar’s son Puneeth Rajkumar)
Growing up admiring his idol, Mr. Basthi had no idea that there was a career or money to be made as an impersonator - he sort of stumbled into it. A very special moment was when Mr. Rajkumar personally invited Mr. Basthi to his home and gave him his blessing to carry on the good work he had been doing. Being a path-breaker in his profession meant that Mr. Basthi did not have any support or mentor-ship to guide him. Because he does not want the next generation of junior artists to feel that void, he tries to be a role-model and guide in the industry and support them as best as he can.
These images were shot at a ‘Garadi mane’ or a mud wrestling pit near S.P road where 'pailwans’ or athletes practice the sport. 'Kushti’ has been a part of sporting life in India for the past 3000 years but the recent past has seen this tradition dying with the advent of modern sporting facilities, especially in the cities.
This particular 'garadi mane’, one of the few remaining functional ones in Bangalore, has a history dating back over a 100 years. It’s walls are adorned with pictures of famous 'pailwans’ in their glory days. Tales of their conquests still resonate within it’s walls through their children and grandchildren. I was given the tour by Madhu whose grandfather was one of the most revered 'pailwans’ in Mysore.