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Picturing Bollywood like it is...

Monday, April 09, 2007
Picture this: Two legs suspended in the middle of a green water tank with the plumbing in silhouette. A lens splashed with water stares at an actor hung head downwards by a group of men. They pour water on him under pelting (most probably by hose pipes) rain which has formed a puddle below.
Picture this: Pretty maids in a row waiting anxiously their turn to be the chosen one. All their anxiety is featured in the one visible face. She clutches the ankle of her high-heeled foot in tension.

Picture this: A man holds a green revolver-like instrument against a group of chorus dancers in red, swirling out of focus. In another shot of chorus girls, the shoulder of a man in a check shirt covers a major part of the frame. A reflector partially conceals the gyrating girls in blue hot pants, with only their legs visible.

Picture this: Little boys painted silver to resemble androids.

This is how Fawzan Husain, a teacher of journalism, sees Bollywood and the grit and grime below the glitter. Though, like millions of Indians, he is under the magic spell of Mumbai movies. Is it just a coincidence that another Husain, M.F., now the biggest name to reckon with internationally in painting, started off as a hoarding painter of Bollywood films and is still under its spell.

Fawzan Husain is obviously at an advantage having an insider's knowledge of the film industry though he has also admitted that they made it really difficult for him to get candid and real. Surmounting the egos and suspicions of the industrywalas, Husain has managed to document the film industry known throughout the world as Bollywood, so his primary purpose is served in his exhibition of photographs. But it is the hallmark of a searching eye that it zooms in on the aesthetic angle even while documenting. This way, Husain shows an exceptional eye.

Add to that his ability to be at the right place at the right moment. An actor sits inside a train like a dummy. Husain's camera clicks at the same instance that a fan's flash finds its mark. Megastar Amitabh Bachchan is down on his knees on the grand staircase of the Bombay Town Hall, with make-believe blood splattered all around him. With the megastar looking enquiringly if he's got the take right.

The colours are often garish, and quite as stark as the Bollywood it seeks to capture. It is this extreme form of kitsch that gives Bollywood such a high visibility.

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