Bharath brass band

Seen on their visiting card

“New Bharath Music Brass Band & Mobile Orchestra
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.

Line fishing at Kudle beach, Gokarna

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.

Junior Rajkumar

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.

Garadi Mane 1

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.