Wanted Women in Dress Circle

March 19, 2010


Photography is certainly coming of age and art in India, in recent weeks there has been a spate of high caliber fine art shows, Dress Circle, a black and white photo essay on at the Jehangir Nicholson gallery adds to the list.

Shahid Dattawala explores Delhi Cinema houses where two-dimensional hoardings seem prophetic of the three-dimensional real world around them, becoming animated themselves in the process. A fallen cut-out of Ajay Devgan in Lonely Stars is aware of the presence of the intruding lens while Urmilla tries to cuddle up to him, the irony and truth are not lost.  A busty torso from one poster, voyeurs into Jism setting up their own competitive, jealous conversation. On a rolling shutter a job opportunity poster solicits – Wanted Women with pleasing personality, all ambiguity of what that might constitute is diminished with the midriff bearing, navel showing nach girl in the adjoining hoarding, the recruiting agency might never have anticipated such a slew of raunchy applicants. Purdah Ladies step past Bikini Island but this kind of image has been seen and done before, Steve McCurry / Pamela Singh Bordes did their own ‘me too’, colour/bw women in burkha marching past the shiv sena tiger hoardings at churchgate. Juxtapositions offer a quick and immediate, hole-in-one irony, the photographer has to locate a catchy poster (not too uncommon with C grade cinema houses showing A or XX rated films) and then lie is ambush till the ‘appropriate’ quarry falls between his cross hairs. This is not to take away from the exquisite quality, beautifully composed, full toned, rich black and white, archival injets.

Interspersed are graphic architectural images of seedy, decrepit, art deco in low esteem cinema houses, the three print sizes too break the visual geometry creating interest and makes use of the gallery space intelligently. The show is well curated and tight, with not a single loose or careless image.

Shahid moves away from the crowded, does not show the predictable, instead chooses off hours, intermission, holidays or after shows, most of the images are devoid of recognizable humans, they are mostly put through the meat grinder of camera obscura, they appear with their backs to the camera or as ghostly blurs being preyed upon by Bhoot.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: