Monday, November 13, 2006
He is one of the oldest and the most talented photographers known in Bollywood. Jayesh Sheth is one name that can be associated with some of the best pictures of the Bollywood stars ever shot. In an exclusive interview to IndiaFM, Jayesh Sheth talks about his career in Bollywood, the 10 best pictures he shot till date and his future plans in the area of filmmaking. Over to the ace lensman...
How did you begin with photography?
I was a science student and confused about what I wanted to do in life. But I was always interested in visuals, I used to read and see lot of pictures and editorials. Photography was always magical for me, the concept of clicking a button and capturing an image seemed very fascinating to me. My uncle had a typical passport photo studio and I was very inquisitive about the whole process of photography that I used to watch there. So this was one major positive drive for me. Even when I used to read books or watch movies, the visuals used to hit me. That was when I thought of moving towards cinema, direction and photography. And there was also a confusion as to what exactly from this did I want to do. That was when I read this book by Philip Halsman and Richard Avedon of fashion photographers in those years and I understood how one could talk through a photograph and communicate ones feelings on that piece of paper. And that was when I went 'wow, this is the very big medium of communication where I can explore a lot'.
Did you take any professional training before getting into photography?
Yes, I did because just the knowledge in the studio wasn't sufficient enough for me. I joined the J.J. School of Arts for a one-year certificate course that helped me a lot in terms of the technique to apply for the light conditions, the lenses and so many other technical aspects. The institute helped me a lot in becoming technically sound.
Who was the celebrity you started with when you turned towards Bollywood?
I was always fascinated by Bollywood and the filmstars. I always wanted to know their lifestyle, what kind of clothes they wear, what cars they drive etc. It was very accidental when once I went for a relief fund gathering happening at Shivaji Park in 1976 and all the stars were in a truck asking people to donate. I went there with my normal lens camera and I could see all the stars dressed in white outfits and I was so excited. At that time I managed to shoot stars like Vinod Mehra, Bindiya Goswami, Kiran Kumar, Raj Kumar and Dharmendra etc. And that was when the whole Bollywood journey started. Then I started going to the film sets to capture the images but even that wasn't easy because once the shot was ready you cant click as the star might just get disturbed. Besides, I was told that stars were very temperamental, so I had to be very careful.
My first proper photo shoot was with Parveen Babi on the sets of Suhaag. Luckily, I also met Sanjeev Kumar and Shabana Azmi the same day. After watching my pictures, Shobha De who was the editor of 'Stardust' then was very impressed and she said that to Uma Rao who was the next editor of Stardust who offered me the photo shoot of Jeetendra. I went to his place and selected the wardrobe. So, I was shooting a very established star. The pictures of Jeetendra that I shot were highly appreciated by the media and from then on my pics started coming in magazines.
One face that you always wanted to capture in your camera...
I always wanted to shoot Mother Teresa. She was like an ideal photo image for me, which has remained an unfulfilled wish. Whenever I see her image, it inspires me a lot in terms of the depth in her eyes and wrinkles on her face. That was one wrinkled face with beauty.
Top five photogenic faces in the industry according to you.
Madhuri is very Photogenic, I would say. She is a perfect face for a portrait. Rani Mukherjee is very photogenic. Even if she comes without make up, she starts talking to you through the camera. She starts interacting with the lens instantly without any efforts. Then of course Late Smita Patil who was my ultimate motivation when we talk about photogenic faces. Rekhaji obviously is again very photogenic.
Among male actors, Vinod Khanna is my all time favourite, Jackie Shroff and Sanjay Dutt to follow. I always like men with chiseled jaw line and depth in their eyes. The Marlboro man look or the cow-boy look seemed very inspiring to me. In today's times I would say Akshay and John are two actors who fit that image.
Do you have a pre decided theme in mind before going forward with the photo shoot?
Generally, yes. Many meetings take place with the stars, the stylists, the make up people, and other technical teams; sometimes even with the producers and directors. We do many brain storming sessions. Earlier I used to feel that these meetings help a lot but being very frank, I would say that most of my best shots have been unplanned - they just happen. The planned shots do look great but just great, not beyond that. However the unplanned shots work like a miracle. Those pictures speak volumes and even after years they have a strong recall value.
What is the reason that Rekhaji shoots only with you?
I think we have a great Photographer - Model chemistry. Even if I have to shoot with her at the eleventh hour, I could pick up my cam and imagine the kind of shots I would want to take and shoot them comfortably with her. It happens because if your life gets influenced by the image of some person, you kind of understand and come close to the image and it becomes easier to visualize that person. I always told Rekhaji that industry has not justified you since you have so much of variations in terms of looks and expressions. I visualize her as a 16 yr old girl to a 60 yr old woman, thus maintaining her grace and beauty. This is because since the time I began learning photography, I used to study her pictures because of her looks, her command, and her dressing sense, which is amazing.
What is that one important characteristic that a photographer should have?
Patience and Passion are the two things that are very important. The patience for the right moment to come and maintaining the passion till that time rather than letting it fade out. Many times you get excited and commit. But one should do all the pre production well, study the danger areas and only then get into it.
You shot stills of Kaho Na Pyar Hai. Tell us about that experience.
The film was Hrithik's debut. The first two days they were shooting the song 'pyar ki kashti mein'. That was the time when I met Hrithik as Rakeshji had requested me to come and take some shots. Then I went and started interacting with Hrithik. I was bowled looking at the level of enthusiasm that he had. He had so much of energy and dedication which was very impressive. Generally, when I shoot newcomers, I don't do tight close-ups. But with Hrithik, I thought that this man has great magnetism and charisma with his eyes and jaw line. He can change his facial expressions in seconds. So I started with extreme tights shots, but Hrithik himself was apprehensive about it as one has to be very experienced and confident for those kind of shots. And well, the pictures came out very well.
We heard that many celebrities shot their portfolio from you in the beginning of their career.
Yes, before their career took of, Akshay Kumar and Rani Mukherjee shot their first portfolio from me. Also, some TV artists like Smriti Irani and Nausheen Ali shot their first portfolio from me. They still talk about it. And now I plan to move on to make films soon and even for that, I want to bridge with the international market, especially places like Sydney and Toronto and discover some new talents. Who knows, in future they might become a big star in Bollywood.
In fact, I can recollect one incident related to this. There was this one young girl who came to me from UK and she wanted me to shoot her pictures. I shot some pictures of hers and Mahesh Bhatt offered her a role in his film. Unfortunately, she couldn't complete that film but then she got a film offer from Ram Gopal Varma. That film was Nishabd and she was offered a role opposite Amitabh Bachchan. The girl I am talking about is Jiah Khan. So, I'll make an attempt to support new talent.