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  1. #1
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    Apr 2011


    Default Couldn’t smile without you

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    He wouldn't have liked either description - guru or boss. I can give him one or both now that he isn't within earshot. Or he would have winced, "Don't be silly. Let's get on with the photo-shoot!"

    His men Friday Parvez and Mangesh would spread the black canvas against his living room's library. Or lavender, crimson, white rolls would be scrolled down, the lights patted to precise place, some noting of technical points, a penultimate appraisal of the atmosphere. No chit-chattering allowed.

    And Gautam Rajadhyaksha would capture his object, speed-flattering the heroine du jour, "Beautiful! Outstanding…now chin up there…chin up, hold it, look to the left, now at me darling."

    For a newspaper reporter --- accustomed to fire outbreaks, house collapses and slum demolitions - photography was flash-bulbed images published in three-column-wide black-and-white.

    At Filmfare, Gautam Rajadhyaksha shot Madhuri Dixit in a blonde wig. The intention had been to upbeat her as Material Girl Madonna. Since it had been clicked before I was slalommed in the editor's chair, Gautam was wary. I was more than likely to nix it. After all, my first cover was a rather newsy pairing of Ajay Devgn-Karisma Kapoor garbed as politicians, with khadi, spectacles and folded hands.

    A conversation with Gautam later, I learnt I had to be receptive to beauty. Movie stars inspire dreams. He took my blinkers off, Madhuri as Madonna altered my life, ingraining in me fundamentals which would be absolutely invaluable years later in the course of film direction.

    The title song of Fiza was shot as a photo-session. The lighting, colours and the concentration on close-ups were imitative of Gautam: hyper-glamorous and yet disclosing a human connect between the face and camera.


    Gautam was adored. He hid blemishes, he could make Cruella da Ville look like an Angel of Mercy. Stars knew they were in safe hands. Those who thought they were beeswax, shifted allegiance to more submissive photographers.

    Yet they will acknowledge that no one else defined their personality accurately. Rekha is a control-freak when it comes to her images. She has been deified by Gautam, catching her most obvious quality: looking at herself in a mirror. Gautam would say that was an accidental shot.

    Kajol was his all-time favourite. She debuted in Bekhudi written by him. Madhuri was his Anjaam girl. Asha Bhosle has consistently said, "He made me look young because he never wanted me to grow old." Lata Mangeshkar trusted him to shoot her.

    Those who betrayed his trust didn't annoy him. He'd just shrug, "It's okay."

    Gautam shot several photos of Bachchan Sr and family for the book To B or Not to Be. When he saw the cover picture by a British photographer, he shrugged. It happens.

    To hide wrinkles, pimples, acne and facial fuzz, Gautam would go perilously soft-focus. "Please, it'll look too hazy!" I'd screech. To that, he'd huff, "Oh, you just have a thing against 'softies'."



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