March 19, 2010



And such a stock of custardapples. And so many thoughts of you.

And hoping that the season holds till Diwali. And hopefully I will

bring some home. And the guruji has given me a hell of a lot of monkey

nuts. And I am wondering where the monkey stores his nuts.

Like its the 30th of October and tomorrow will be the end of October.

Like when a boy comes home with a gigantic cucumber. And the other boys

descend on it. Like Vultures or Gidhades on a rotting carcass. Like flies are

buzzing around me. And its common property. Like unwritten laws and tradition.

Like I gave some boy some monkey nuts. And he ran away immediately.

And all the boys are calling after him. And he is not within sight or

sound. And I know where he has gone. Like hide and seek. And eat

before they get you. Like vultures or Gidhade. And I’m not talking about

Vijay Tendulkar. And I’m not talking about Alyque Padamsee.

Like the boys have their own ruling. And no one ever cries. And the

law is that of the jungle. And there is a slight difference. Like there are

forty five muleteers. And its all for one and one for all. And there are

exceptions to every rule. And the exception is monkey nuts.

And its not the lusty month of May. And still there are lusty cocks. Like they

are chasing the hens. And one hears a clucking and a running. Like catch

me if you can. And its a man’s world. And the clucking stops. And you see

the cock looking very pleased with himself. See. And its not Camelot.

And our cocks are evergreen. And the dogs are feeling left out. And

decide to get in on the act. And you hear a clucking and a running and

there is a slight difference. And our dogs have a hang dog look.

Like I just see a flock of birds floating outside my door. And I

hastily get out the trusted Minolta. And run out of doors. And by the time I

set the exposure the birds too have flown away. Like its the same attitude

everywhere. Like catch me if you can. And I sometimes feel the best thing

is a box camera or R.K. Laxman. And I’m afraid that I wont be able to

classify the birds. Like I’m not Salim Ali. And I don’t think these were the

Grey Lag geese. Like this is L’Ambatha not Ladakh.

And so it is. And my thoughts and feelings have been here. And they have

remained here from January to October. And I cannot write about

them. Like one thinks thoughts and feels feelings. And so it is that I

am in the whereabouts of Aubrey Menen’s Dang forest trip. And I

haven’t yet found ‘the space within the heart’. And I keep at the

Chandogya and Brihadaranyka Upanishad. And the magic does not get

me. And so it is. And I’m having déja vu. And I’m not talking about the

Crosby, Stills Nash and Young LP. And I have a mood indigo and its got

nothing to do with the IIT.

Like one feels so useless in a rural setting. And one knows one can’t

change the world. And one knows the world changes one. And one likes

change. Like Bob Dylan. And ‘the times they are a changin’’. And I do not

like to leave my heart in San Francisco. And the Indian government does

not encourage people to go to the US. And its brain drain. And I don’t want

to leave my heart nor my brain there. Like Schizophrenia. And I’m Indian.

Like I hope I am. And I want wherever I’m buried that corner to be forever

India. Like Rupert Brooke and England. Like I’m attempting poetry. And I’m

making no headway. And that’s my life’s story. And I’m absurdly happy.

Like Sisyphus and the myth.


March 19, 2010



When corporate MTV with its hard-bitten bottom line wanted to Indianise the channel what exactly did we get, some very exciting, clever, creative and cool promos that show we are like this only. Then we got Club MTV and the Grind, we got V’s Close-Up Close Encounters and its Singled Out inspiration with the uninhibited, sex bomb Jenny McCarthy, virtual or real accoutrements intact, pouring herself into a body sock. Isn’t this Indianising thing a bit of a mask, a chimera, a carrot, a snakes and sadhu wrapper, a smoke screen for the contents, a prophylactic drug that like Prozac gives us a feeling of stability, of Okness especially when we are reeling from post colonial hang ups.

Close-Up Close Encounter is a bit too much. Firstly I have not figured out why these NRI gorgeous bimbettes with surrogate or wannabe accents are chosen as Vjs. Or rather I think I cracked it (and get a PhD in one fell swoop). Its all got to do with the Grind and its Indian avatar Club MTV. The grind (circa 1996) is where we want to be at, Club MTV is where we are at. I watch Club MTV as a barometer (yeah…Yeah….) to indicate just how far we can push the de´colletage of our mores that surround our traditional/modern conflicts. I too have Pepsi bets of my own, see. Somehow the mask of okness seems to be to dance, gyrate, grind into crotches in the daytime. Yes its ok if your mom can see you.

Laila Rouass and Malaika bore-e-alis are the two principal contributors in this I’m bimbetter-than-thou. I find that the TQ (taste quotient) that ephemeral, nethi nethiness , that who-makes-the-rules, sometimes hierarchical, sometimes elitist, hard to define thing, The Thing. Most often you drink it in with your mother’s milk and then go to finishing school wherever that place in your head is, and bone up. You either got it or you don’t. Its that quality that uplifts. I use the ‘u’ word a lot these days only because there is so little of it around. I’d like to see MTV and V and Zee and Zed put the uh , buh ,  cuh ,  back into anth-akshari, use its reach and its ever widening foot print, its umbra and wonderbra, back into uplifting (oops) , with the most cross cultural, slam dunking, death defying, head banging, unifying phenomenon in the universe, music.

There I’ve come Out Of The Box and done a fillip and shown you my empty V. Can you handle it? Is the Flicks team out there? I got brief but I no got money. I am like this only……temporarily.


March 19, 2010


Life is sometimes so preoccupied with imitating art that the obvious, taken for granted, lowly truths go unnoticed. Until the cobwebs of time and disuse hide them forever like sand dunes waiting for a storm to move them, disclosing the treasures that may lie buried. Sometimes the moving force is Time, again. Most times its our apathy that overrides Time, manually clutching us into low low gear, even occasionally reversing Time where we look at ourselves and feel old and degenerate. Many times I feel that we live in abysmally degenerate times. I don’t have to look far, just examine myself. Generally though I am not pessimistic for the human herd. Evolution, the physics and chemistry of which coupled with a bit of soul and sanctity that it picked along the way, happily has an impetus and direction. We are told that if you point this idiot machine in the right direction, the second law of thermodynamics (Thank God for Newton) will terminate this omnibus at the depot called the omega point (naturally). The thought is reassuring and hopeful. The problem does convolute with serpentine calisthenics back on itself. For it is impossible to lift the bucket and stand in it simultaneously (thermodynamics to the offense). But we can rave and rant, jump and stomp about, turning, pointing this overpopulated bucket in the right direction.

There will be dropouts and abortions, sex, violence, murder and rape until the jumping and stomping rattle the little pebbles of our discontent to a stable settling point (entropy to the rescue) of our cosmic order. With the vibrations of wow and flutter subsiding to base line values, the rate of change of motion will accelerate from disaster to realisation, exponentially.

When will entropy and enthalpy, thermodynamics, physics and electronic chemistry work for us? Which really is the ‘right direction’? Do I sound like Sagan? If I do, it will only have one reason. Gradually we are getting a view of the hill beyond, it beckons.

When will the catalytic moment hit us? Will it be on the road to Damascus or to Sawantwadi? Sometimes I feel like the Zionists, the need to invent the Messiah. Inventions, however, need to be recognized before they become inventions. I’m sure millions of marvelous things accidentally happened in Time but there was no one around smart enough to seize the moment, attribute cause, effect and application. Perhaps Christ was one such.

So many things are seeing the light of day today even though they were invented 40years ago. The materials and technology weren’t available at that time to make them domestic realities. Look at solar energy or the fact that water; common water is made up of Hydrogen and Oxygen. There is enough Hydrogen in water to work every single machine created, with some left over to form a few bombs too and in the process forming more water. Yet the technology does not exist today to utilize the fact.

The technology of thought and philosophy tries to empty the ocean into a tiny hole. If Christ was invented in the year zero, maybe my hope is someday on this alpha/omega calendar the technology of Tan, Man, and Shakti leads its kindly light towards THE application. Like Sissyphus I live on Hope, till the Boulder, our cross defeats tradition and the grave.


Most futurologists generally will consult paleontologists. To know where we might go it would be worthy to note where we came from. Photography as we know it is the one of the newest kids on the block, Fox Talbot and Daguerre might have thrown a googly to Van Gogh who responded to the ‘threat’ in his own inimitable style. Painters like Caravaggio were secretly using optical (photo) devices in their ateliers to give them their own USP. That cycle is constantly remixing in a post postmodern feedback loop. Photorealism in painting and Abstractism in photography are modern currency.

The lines between painting and photography are no longer sharp.

What will the photographic digital democracy look like 100 years from now? To say that everyone will have access to image making via good, inexpensive camera phones is to state the obvious, everyone has and will have access to a voice, yet how many Bhimsens or Parveena Sultanas are there. That the besur might be able to produce a track that is melodious will be possible via intelligent digital software, will it sell? Will it endure? will it be art ? Is contingent upon all the existing, subjective parameters. There will still be the divide between the good, the better and the best till morality, ethics and aesthetics are not digitized.

But glimpses of the real future live with us in the virtual world. 20 years ago holography was already out there but expensive and temperamental, with processing power and the ability to collect more information on smaller capturing devices it is not too far away that 3D holography will be de rigueur. Printing on paper will be there for as long as people are tactile and like the sensation, but from a small source on your desktop, laser will spray out the RGB scene as you saw it in 3D, you will be able to project this into your living room and it would look real enough except that you will be able to walk right through your granny and the meter thick walls of Shaniwarwada. While Space-Time in a very Einsteinian way will come together, there will be no Mass.

Plasma screens and anything 2D will be quite obsolete as a result, but obsolescence will lead to exoticism, just as today dye transfer imaging is considered an art in itself. Movie halls of the future and home theatre will not have a screen at the far end and the seats or couch at the other, but will have a floating plasma that can move anywhere in space in a 3D cuboid way like the Aurora Borealis.

Canon are working on something called OCIS (Optical Cerebral Interface Systems) where in effect you wont have to carry and check in your camera and heavy lenses, it will all be in the form of a bionic implant into your ‘seeing’ eye, you will be able to blink and make an image with an intraocular zoom lens, press a button if you are cheap, or say ‘send’ if you some loose change, or think, ‘send’ if you are fully loaded and slam bam thank you maam your high res 3D holographic shot gets transmitted to the 62,000  de-constructed news gathering organizations. But when to blink will remain, as has been in the past, a Cartier Bresson decisive moment which no amount of digitizing will dictate.

All that is left is human imagination, which is really not futuristic at all, but a creative way of fantasizing the past.


March 19, 2010


An orchid wafts over two oceans and drops onto

an asphalt floor.

Spores disseminate and are carried in a peristaltic

motion of omnibuses radially over Siam.

A repressed spore seeks fertilisation, discovers a location

that advertises in neon, thirst and lust quenchers.

The lights are dim, the music disco and synthetic.

Mirrors form walls. You see double.

Young gentle bodies gyrate. The music pulses.

Bikinis have plastic identities.

The faces have masks under which must lie flesh and blood

hopes and aspirations. The real world at fourteen.

Inebriated gringos enter followed by a harlot.

A ripple of artificial giggles.

One more swig and a stagger.

The mirrors reveal the truth, a reflection of oneself.

My Buddha!

A Lovely creature sidles up. She is warm. She is sweet.

Hesitancy multiplies her charm. Introductions are made.

The madam approves.

A rose vendor telepathetically senses the instant romance.

Shows a bloom. Sells a couple.

A photographer appears from nowhere.

Polaroids are squeegeed through whining rollers.

The temperature is not 68°C. The instants turn magenta.

Bahts turn to Buddhas.

Lager initiates a tentative engagement.

Paper is transacted.

Terms are simple, professional, efficient.

A wooden effigy goes through the ritual.

Around the doorpost, from under astride legs the tiny Buddha is hurled.

It touches every inhabitant.

Looks are exchanged. A brief display of fatalistic fear.

Just as quick normalcy is restored.

The gentle woman leads the man by the hand.

Outside is a feeling of embarrassment.

Everyone is watching even though they look the other way.

Tracks are made quickly.

The music fades into oblivion.

Everyone knows the relationship.

Tradition and the Buddha smile, wryly.

Dinner is served, the girl is nonchalant.

The Hong Kong made Samurai on TV is her Quixote.

Somewhere in the personage is a mind seeking freedom.

Unhappily preoccupied with the present.

The proceedings are tedious and unnatural.

Eventually lights are turned out.

Amorous introductions take over.

The woman is unconcerned. ‘So what’s new’

What has life not shown her yet!

Few excitements. Only a brooding prospect of supporting

a mama and a family in an impoverished village in Loei.

Love is made. Repression is removed.

Little Zen aphorisms singe the ear.

The reclining Buddha awakes.

The whore goes back to the magnet.

The spore begins a process of degeneration

A feeling of nothingness.

It’s strength has become its weakness.

It lies in utter helplessness buffeted by a raging storm.

Flashes of thunder and lightening are addressed

to it’s very miserable soul.

The turmoil walks into the crowded, pungent streets.

The waterways are contaminated. The air is polluted.

Poverty is everywhere.

The Grand Hall of Budhhas seem speechless.

The Standing Buddha opens his mouth to say something.

Only a tired yawn emanates.

The tall figure crumples, reclines, attempts to sleep.

The spore rolls over to the giant ear lobe to whisper into it.

A huge tear rolls down the cheek

Of the Reclining Buddha. It swamps the spore.

The salt rubs into its wound and causes great agony.

Gradually the moisture induces germination.

A Zen process unfolds.


March 19, 2010


I write this form a place 100 kilometers from Nasik city and two kilometers from the Gujarat border. Surganna is in the famous Dang teak and bamboo forests. I am sitting in a ‘hotle’ called Guru Krupa. In description this is three star splash for it has six cups and saucers, most others have three or four. In the corner there is a pathela with a constantly smoldering  ……… (chaha). I write it in Devnagri because in English one finds it hard to spell this beautiful word. I don’t like       (chai), it sounds too much like chaila , a condensation of tuja aaiee la . Mind you I like the abuse as abuse. To abuse …….(chaha) is a heinous crime.

The ‘hotle’ hangs a kind of cactus to keep away the mosquitos. when I pointed out to the proprietor that there were some mosquitos even sitting on the plant, the man looked pained just raised his eyebrow a bit and said ‘stupid mosquitos’. So I gather that the cactus is only meant for the intelligent ones.

The menu though devoid of lobster, salmon, asparagus and anchovies has that famous hors d’oeuvre, shev gatya and salted chilies. Of course you have the cup that cheers as ‘chalu’ (plain) 20p., ‘peshal (special) 40p and ‘takkar’ chaha 70p. Takkar as the name might suggest is a bang between a chalu and a peshal. I tried to tell the owner that from simple arithmetic that would be 20 + 40 = 60p. ‘No , no’, and the same pained raised eyebrow look, takkar is 70 p. I told him that he was cheating the public and that if I wanted a takkar I would order a chalu and a peshal and bang them myself. He made an exasperated head scratching gesture, ‘but sahib, you must know how’. In that case he wins, but then again he loses because I’m a chalu man anyway.

I have the notion while reading this through that I’m sounding just a trifle like Busy Bee. But there is only one Busy Bee like the one that coulumnises at the backside of the Evening News. Like I guess I’ll have to call myself lazy Larva or something with that sort of alliteration.

There is a small chap here running this three star splash in this one horse town. Every time he passes the shev ghatia he involuntarily pops some into his mouth. You can’t really blame him. Like man this is a hors d’oeuvre. Like the dust in Surganna is bad this place is good with its Liptons Ruby dust chalus and tea stained tables and its flies and pictures of Ganesh, Shiva, and Laxmi. All that’s missing is Anuradha (an ex girl-friend). But she’s safe on Shoellar paper in my closet in Bombay, like skeletons in the cupboard which I am happy to take out and love again.


March 19, 2010



Dhurries in the shop window read ‘Kismet at reduced rates.’

In the Algerian marketplace the little people are rummaging the left-overs.

The punk has her hair and elders shocked by the green and fluorescent dyes.

The pansy in the café says he’s a coiffeur.

The name itself induces a hair cut.

The sparrow is among the pigeons and gets the better of the battled over French fry  – the arch de triomph.

It’s 9:59 and the muezzin is calling in very familiar strains that the sun has set.

The mirror mirror on the wall shivers with the rumble of the trains in the Metro trying almost to predict the way of all flesh.

While in the Metro the trains earthworm their way subterraneously across each other, over and under the Seine in an amazing labyrinth.

The ghastly/lovely center for modern art stands controversially among staid copyrighted Parisian homes a sculpture in tubes.

Futuristic glass domed escalators move immobile people along its caterpillar tracts to observe a George Segal plaster-of-paris woman  selling tickets.

Some stiff upper lipper reads first the plastic tag and then goes into paroxysms of delight – ‘Its a Chagall not quite his usual’.

Then gentlemen and lady in hot pursuit chance upon another canvass and in the same unmistakable knowingness remark upon seeing and utterly chauvinistic albeit real depiction of a tribal woman carrying a tribal man,   ‘How ingenious, a lady carrying a gentleman’.

People are scurrying towards the Louvre. It’s Sunday, it’s free.

All beat a path to the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo and return panting to the cafeteria to satiate the greatly developed hunger.

The magic does not get me.

Outside the Notre Dame is playing a harpist in the shade of the park’s trees.

A small cardboard box collects my franc.

The TGV regurgitates a backpacking crowd all brandishing – Europe on $25 a day – and a Givenchy catalogue.

On the trôiseme étage of the Eiffel tower a woman’s false eyelash flutters to earth.

The woman has lost her wink.

The blacks selling the wind-up pigeons are the most honest-to goodness artists around.

The pigeons do fly,

Right brother?

Half way across the zebra-crossing the couple in embrace decide its time for the five minute kiss.

Lips purse, eyes close and the lights change.

The Hondas and the Porches and the Pandas and the Peugots race on leaving a new tomb to the unknown kissers.

The machines collect the money.

The Mona Lisa postcard is a Leonardo.

The one encased in bullet proof glass – NO FLASH PLEASE isn’t.

Art is for the people.

A red handkerchief attempts to sponge a tear.

The Aeroflot bureau is under perpetual guard just in case all the people voicing – art is for the people   – want to defect.

The Electric Boogie does have a defect.

It’s making a scene in the Metro. This train however does not get you far.

Michael Jackson is alongside Marilyn Monroe while the rain forms tears on the Pinochet poster.

A photographer is expostulating on line, texture, form and his concern for faces along a horizon.

The beer falls over and embarrasses his pants.

No orgasm.

In Pigalle the whore has her breasts pinched together by a clothes peg.

While in the bar the pimp has another peg on the best whore house in town.

The street artist’s guild is having an intermission while the emission from the Saab turbo engulfs the gilded statues.

The Italian magician’s assistant has a face painted on his knee.

A Flex draws a smile across his patella while a genuflection can evoke a tear.

The woman’s face is falling like the summer end of a glacier.

Paris is a marvelous stage where everyone has a role.

The performance is a celebration.


Feminism, the bad good word of the 60’s, is symbolized in the burning of bras, mythic or otherwise. Bra burning was considered a protest against the Miss America pageants, just as burning the draft card was a protest against the war in Viet Nam.  But all that has changed, reflecting that, is the bra, an enduring symbol of upliftment of the down trodden. From burning of the bra to the wonderbra the Victoria secret’s out. Mammalians of the world unite, stay abreast of the times.

As a photographer who in recent times has had the good fortune of photographing women, the bra becomes an important consideration. Many times after humming and hawing you muster up enough courage to venture into the territory of the undergarment, and sort of let slip, ‘casually’ that a well fitting bra could be as essential as mascara. For a male photographer you would think that having to make this ‘salacious’ comment would be unnecessary. Truth be told the woman and the bra could not be more mismatched. Boudoir London, an up-market lingerie store in Mumbai run by two Punjabi NRI sisters has identified this niche or gaping hole and has success plugging it with bras of every flavour ranging from the matronly to the downright kinky, pink fur, union jack, stars and stripes signifying patriotism albeit to a wrong country, leather and studs and even edible lingerie. Needless to say feminists knee jerk their belans and poll paats protesting the male gaze and use other, “my culture/your culture” jargon, yawn, sigh, ho hum.

And then on Hill Road are Chinese knock offs offering all that and heaven too with voluptuous Rakhee Sawant cut outs, the sales girls, astonishingly, invariably are men generally marwari or Muslim. The misfit continues. The middle class is buying.

And in Bhuleshwar alongside puja material are roadside bra vendors with swishing scarlet and thongie lingerie that fill up like windsocks, traditional women in saris make the purchase with a most interesting ploy, they feel a handkerchief or some very ‘appropriate’ white, or skin coloured bra on the table and ask for the lacey sexy number that’s gyrating in the wind, not letting on by pointing.

There were times where the panty line seen through a pair of tight well fitting trousers was considered so déclassé. It became mandatory that the bra strap or the thing itself should never peek. Lycra was borne and became a household name. Gwen Steffani turned the inside out, the construction of the bra has to be visible through the tee or whatever top you are wearing, it has become like a uniform. The padded bra has become like the stock market, over inflated, needing correction. Thin anorexic chicks walk around with these balloons popping out, the guys have their eyes on stalks and comments like ‘falsies’ were heard in bandra many years before silicone and Pamela Anderson.

Madonna’s metallic cones and Thiery Mugler’s tribute to the tit are all in the hall of fame.

These days in what might be considered daring, the nipple is beginning to dimple the spheres, air-conditioning also gets turned up resultantly while at Fashion week in the event of garment malfunction, nipple tape was prescribed.

The eternal transcendental question of why would a woman wear a black bra under a thin white mul mul kurtha, was it to be considered so sexy? My wife’s sweet, simplistic response was that the white ones were probably in the wash.

And then there is the supreme issue of braless ness, a blatant disregard for convention, slipping into another convention of anti-conventional be bop a loola people and your granny. But just so that the effort and the statement did not go unnoticed, the gait gets galumphing so that miss bouncy is recognized from a kilometer away.

Have you ever marveled at B & P (bra and panty) shops in the most conservative of areas flaunting, satiny, silky, sheer, downright outrageous bras and ever wondered of who would actually buy and wear those things, well they would not have them and change window displays so often if they did not sell, the imagination is doing cartwheels. Concealed under those ubiquitous ‘nighties’ lies an Umrao Jaan.

Ever traveled on a BEST and marveled at a seated middle aged women in thin georgette saris with scooped necklines, the pullow would also slip more occasionally than gravity would otherwise ordain. Nothing more day making than seeing a pair of full breasts. For a country on the one hand that has had bare breasted tribals a mere 50 km from Mumbai 30 years ago and has celebrated sacred sculpture exemplifying fertile, fecund, abundant, topless goddess torsos, and where breasts are popped out in public with impunity to feed infants long past the age, the duality of not showing cleavage continues.

The paan chewing vegetable vendor and kohli woman will delve deep into cleavage land to produce change from a secure wallet stuck in fort knockers.

Women who wear revealing clothes sometimes do it with selectiveness; a shawl or a denim jacket for ‘modesty’ in the street, then at the work place or at the selected destination the peel begins. Most women complain that the male gaze hovers directly on to her breasts, it is a kind of mismatch again, and wanting/not-wanting is the game that is being played. There is a certain kind of look that women don’t like and another that they encourage. It’s the same with touch, every women swears that they know the difference. The act of concealment and revelation is the adult version of hide and seek.

Early on when I was just beginning to photograph women and mentioning bras was unmentionable and personal, it used to amaze me that the ‘models’ all of them regular women, some young and others getting on, would take out from their bags, gingerly, the slinkiest, cleavage revealing garment they could find much to my delight.  Women who have it flaunt it.

And beyond the bra is nudity itself. Women who think they are beautiful want to be photographed in the pink, it’s a coming out statement of sorts, it’s a private, personal way of saying, and I am free. The onus is on the photographer to take this trust and become free himself too of the stereotypes. Other women, who can’t or wont yet take the plunge will enjoy revealing cleavage, push up bras, transparent lacey widgets that do all but come off. Straps fall limp off the shoulder and the hooks even get undone seductively.

Then there is the woman who thinks that topless ness is ok but pubic nudity is not, the combinations are endless and fascinating.

These days women talk of the breast hug, a full frontal ness that engages chests leaving no space within. It’s a contact sport and the bruises are pleasure filled.

A young professional woman who seemed very straight laced, used to wearing black, masculine, un flattering suits, a Tam Bram called up once to ask if I would make her look sexy, a bit taken aback at the ‘sexy’ part, above line notwithstanding, I gladly volunteered to make portraits and dithered on the promise of ‘sexiness’. Then I get a call to say that she has finished work early and is ready to come to be photographed and I began stuttering to say it did not work like that and that we would have to decide a look and ‘co-ordinate’ garments, accoutrements etc. All she said was, “ I’m wearing a beautiful, pink, lacey bra”.  She came by and beneath all that external un-sexiness was a full creamy body, gorgeous clavicles and fabulous cleavage. She made the most stunning ode to the pink bra pictures that even her mother approved of.

We are definitely a boob nation, whereas Brazil is ass oriented. Bikini destination, Baywatch, Sports Illustrated and Pirelli join the b rated posters in Beer bars, all heralding a bigger brighter future.

A kind of crude bandra schoolboy phrase of the 60’s was small tree, big fruit; I shudder to think how that translates to the more explicit 21 century. Students of mine have done interesting projects shot with spy camera type of scenarios in lifts, of college girls on their way to meet their dates, adjusting their cups in the elevator mirror.

I remember once driving across Rajasthan with a maharashtrian friend who was singing a lavni song about the fox having gone into the sugar cane patch and referring to ‘Khule Aam’, replete with innuendo and double entendre every time we passed rajasthani women with décolletage. Then late at night we pulled into Jaipur and there in a small theatre opposite a dhaba where we were going to eat was Khule Aam showing with dancing lights around the hoarding, the coincidence was hilarious.

The united colour of Benneton ads have shown a black woman breast-feeding a white child and Tocani’s attempts at voyeurism were attacked.

Lascelle Simmon’s specializes in designing the corset his wife Pallavi said that a good corset is one where a woman can kiss her own breasts. Women have fainted with asphyxiation from over tightening their whalebone corsets.


Sheetal Gattani’s paintings at first make you wonder where the painting is. They are subdued, reticent, squares of texture in the true abstract mold.

When the figurative moved to the abstract, it was in fact rendering form and function to its essence without the intervention of the recognizable to make us feel comfortable. It sets  the viewer, you, with as many questions as does the painting provide answers.

It is in the nature of the viewer to ask the work of art a question; and the author – the painter despite trying to stay invisible begins unhesitatingly to be the oracle. The politics of art might suggest that there is an assumed hierarchy between the viewer and the Artist all the more orchestrated by the hushed, forbidding, white cubic interiors of galleries that have become cathedrals or mausoleums. To view a Sheetal is to be asked questions and the viewer then is empowered with the ability to find a response, enabling a reverse polemic.

Sheetal’s works are discreet and in some sense, self effacing, to provide a brush stroke could enable forensic researchers enough study material to determine, age, gender, strength of character and indeed your romantic inclinations. The process gets    harder when the criminal wipes off the fingerprints or any trace of their intervention. Sheetal uses a brush but there are no brush strokes, the paintings almost paint themselves, she merely is the handmaiden providing light, space and passion. There is a bit of unspoken comedy and drama that happens too while painting and mythic heros of constellated spots and supporting casts compete for orchestration, the brush then decides whimsically whom to amplify and which tiny recess of colour to soprano.

They used to start out on black chart paper with watercolor used like oils, thick and viscous till practically no background was visible, paint would flake off and a second run would happen, changing, shifting, the strengths to a corner maybe, more and more paint would be applied till the painting itself determined it was done in a completely, spontaneous, self fulfilling, prophetic mode . Sheetal then frames and signs it at the back so as not to desecrate that space with anything that can be referenced nor reverenced.

Some might call her work minimalism, but it could be seen as maximalist too, the layers upon layers of treatment sometimes completely hiding the layer below might indicate extravagance, with only a hint of the undercoat visible as a clue to the process.

You can tell that Sheetal is a quiet, reserved person, her ‘breakthroughs’ are when the canvasses, now, tear themselves slightly at neat right angles, then they repair the wound surgically, leaving a hint of a keloid scar upon which paint builds creating an altered, textured look. it appears that light and shade flow through the cuts making the planes sculptural. If you squint at some of the works you can swear that you can see a different colour, it can be as illusionary as real, light turns to gradation ever so subtly. Her latest breakthrough is in 16 bit mode.

The works are never titled so as to restrict their significance to a name, but it is entirely possible that when you live with them, they could be family.

In the gallery the works bounce off each other in concert where the bass and treble are attenuated to symphonic precision, and when you take one home to hang on your wall, you are possessed by the eternal Såå.

When you look at a Sheetal you are reminded of a lichen covered rock, a rusted pipe or a peeling wall only because we, not it, seek the familiar. It is the nature of Sheetal’s work that can take us back to cave paintings, the first expression of human graphic, visual communication, they have to ability to oscillate you back to the future.

If our DNA is a repository of all our histories then these works could be called Re-membrances – to make whole.


March 19, 2010



Photography is being accelerated to fine art heights and not a moment too soon. There are at least 4 photography shows going on concurrently. February is peak season and thetourists are on their charter planes.

Photography in India till now has largely been restricted to Advertising and here too the only ones that seem to be in the public domain are the fashion/glamour photographers.

Industrial and architectural photographers get slotted to annual reports and editorial work.

At the bottom of the heap are the wedding and event photographers and yet below them are the passport portraitists.

But when you consider that practically everyone has access to a camera these days even via a cell phone, then the algebra of the numbers of visuals being produced can be staggering. Content, a few years ago was all being mopped up by Corbis and Getty Images who are banks performing exactly the role that fiscal versions perform.

If you look up Flickr the largest photo blog on the net and if you browse through Facebook you will quickly see why most of the images there resemble the old slide shows that your geriatric uncle would subject you to from their trip to the Vatican or Tirupati, without edit and lingering long and lovingly at every overexposed image.

Photoshop the love/hate software that has the potential to move you out of the darkroom into the light is now in its 20th year but has there been a quantum leap in creativity, maybe its that fatigue that is being addressed in The Post Visual World. There is very little here in India that stands out, engages, surprises and ultimately challenges the stereotype. There is a sad sense of having been there done that. But that will change, the moment the whole food chain(student, artist, critic, editor, gallerist, curator, buyer, appreciator, agent) is in place. Automobile manufacturing here in India and Tatas in particular, might strangely provide a template. From the ubiquitous truck to the Nano with side tentacles into Jaguar,

supply, retailer, service, is a story of local becoming international.

At the moment photography as fine art seems, to extend the metaphor, like a used car dealer and in reverse gear, international, being borrowed into heavily locally. But there are signs that all that will change, it has to begin with education. There are no schools that teach photography in India. The only school for Photojournalism in the subcontinent is in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Is that telling enough. Then the seminars and workshops that expose indian talent to world options are so meagre, inadequate and consequently exclusive, the photography that makes it comes only out of three metros. Indian art and sport and just about everything else suffers from nepotism and not what you know, but who you know, how well you shmooze and whose booze you are drinking.

Photography and painting have had a long association. If Photographers are looking over their shoulders into other media and how painters are using photography, they might find some clues of how to leapfrog their visuals. The future however seems to be in the world of 3D and holography. There will always be a place for the straight honest uncomplicated image that will stop you in your tracks.

A few young people who have set out to the west to study art history, if they return then that should make a significant impression. BUt the lingering discontent will be that art history as Kenneth Clarke in Civilisation apologises for, will be almost exclusively a western story, How many periodicals do we have in this country that devote themselves to discussion of whatʼs going on around us. Curators are all multi-taskers, yesterdays critic is todays curator, artists turn curators, its all nebulous and ad hoc.

The old adage, ʻbuild roads, development followsʼ might easily be the mantra to follow.

Vision, a prerequisite to anything lasting and meaningful is endemic to photography. Will it be 20 20?