Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Who shot the photographer?

Here's a photograph that came to me as part of a press release - it's from the Mumbai launch of the coffee-table book History in the Making: The Visual Archives of Kulwant Roy. On the left is photographer Aditya Arya, who inherited hundreds of photos from the late Kulwant Roy's collection, digitised and preserved them and helped put the book together; on the right is the actor Anupam Kher, who did the inauguration.


The book promises to be a fascinating collection of previously unpublished pictures of national leaders and historical events, and I look forward to it. However, the photo above - although of much less historical value - was of personal interest for another reason.

In 1982, the then 22-year-old Aditya Arya was the stills photographer on the Jaane bhi do Yaaro shoot. As trivia buffs - and devoted fans of the film - might know, Anupam Kher played a role that never made it to the final cut of that movie, a bumbling, short-sighted hired assassin known as the "Disco Killer". If his scenes hadn't been chopped, it would probably have been the actor's breakthrough part.
(Having read the original script, I was particularly amused by a scene where the Disco Killer explains that he prefers to shoot at his targets when they are in a crowd rather than when they are isolated, "because then I can dispatch the entire crowd at one go and your guys will be taken care of in the process”. Luis Bunuel, who said that the ultimate act of surrealism would be to shoot randomly into a crowd, would have approved.)

"The Disco Killer would have become enormously popular," Arya told me when I spoke with him about the film last year, "I could see him becoming a recurring character in later comedies."
Unfortunately there are no surviving stills from the Disco Killer's scenes - and what a pity, I think, as I watch these two men, now middle-aged, looking all serious at a photo exhibition.

However, Arya did send me a photograph from the JBDY shoot where, for once, he found himself on the wrong end of the camera. This picture was taken during a chaotic five-day location shoot in Alibaug, mention of which still causes the eyes of every JBDY unit member to widen in terror. Basic facilities weren't available, there were no sleeping arrangements, and people would take a bath in the open under the garden tap. Young Aditya was doing just this when the film's lead actor turned the lens on him:

Photo credit: Naseeruddin Shah who, as it happens, played a photographer in the film. (This picture was taken with Naseer's own Nikon camera, which was later stolen during the shoot.)

11 comments:

  1. Thanks for the wonderful trivia. Had no idea that Anupam Kher played a part in JBDY which was eventually cut. If only they had Director's Cut at that time..:-).

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  2. sweet! nice to get a behind the scene look at an old favourite.

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  3. Lovely, as always. However, and i ask purely out of academic curiosity, is "did the inauguration" native English usage or do you think it is an Indianism? Just wondering.

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  4. hi jai,

    would you be coming to the little meet, the commonwealth thing, at select city tonight (thursday, 8 april) - private terrace? would be great to finally meet you. And i'll make an offer that you can refuse!
    ta

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  5. life and its rewards: not sure if I'll come to the event but I'll probably be around Select in the evening. Mail me at jaiarjun@gmail.com

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  6. Apologies for the off-subject take. Just read your little piece on Realism in DB's LSD at Rediff. Methinks you have weakened your argument by using a technical counterpoint, a la one of the reviews of 'Look' ( Adam Rifkin ) at imdb - in fact, nearly the same point w.r.t the audio. Would it be possible to consider that when people talk of the 'real' in LSD, it has more to do with the characters and their motivations ( e.g the second segment ) as opposed to how the matter was presented or made accessible to the viewer.
    ...
    I guess I feel that a lot of critics ended up praising the director for bringing in voyeurism, which - is kind of a missed take I'd say. If it were the aspect of how your lives are no longer private that were being focussed on, then the movie is an epic-fail. It is fairly inconsequential. We'd be bemused but not shocked.
    ...
    However, if you were to take the same point of view as with which you approach OLLO - the movie hits its mark impeccably - A brilliant character study / observation. The characters seem 'real' - inasmuch as they evoke nervous and discomfited laughter/twitters in the audience at being presented a mirror when they least expected it.
    ...
    I do not have a problem with your perspective as such. Just that I felt that you could have done a better job with your side of the argument.
    :)

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  7. Anon: Just a clarification - the Rediff piece was from a film column I did for Business Standard; they have a content-sharing arrangement. (I had nothing to do with the atrocious paragraph breaks in the Rediff version, by the way.)

    The piece itself was a shorter version (it had to fit the BS word-count) of a longer piece I'm trying to do about notions of "realism" in cinema. As such, this condensed version was highly simplified - it isn't really a full-fledged argument, more like a scattered collection of ideas. Hope to do that extended version and put it up on the blog sometime.

    Would it be possible to consider that when people talk of the 'real' in LSD, it has more to do with the characters and their motivations.

    Fair enough, but this should equally apply to a lot of other movies that aren't labeled realistic - including fantasy/sci-fi/horror films that aren't "realistic" in any superficial sense, but which are internally consistent and believable.

    Part of my point (and the reason why I made that admittedly pedantic technical point about the audio) was that too many people reflexively conflate realism with such nitty-gritties: with the "stark" look of a film, or with believable performances by actors one has never seen before. But again, I accept that the column in general was rushed and not indepth enough.

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  8. Anon: also, once again, I think very, very highly of LSD - it's one of the most exciting films I've seen in a long while. And the piece was definitely not meant as a criticism of any sort. I'm not responsible for how Rediff presents it, or for the asinine messageboard comments by people who think it's an LSD put-down.

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  9. Fair enough, but this should equally apply to a lot of other movies that aren't labeled realistic - including fantasy/sci-fi/horror films that aren't "realistic" in any superficial sense, but which are internally consistent and believable.

    That's even-stevens.
    :)
    Cannot argue with that. More like what I would have said in any case.
    ...
    Was not questioning your regard for DB's work in any case. More like, the point that seems to have been highlighted (@ Rediff ) seemed a tad weak.
    ...
    I guess what I appreciate about DB is his sense of observation of the life around him. And the clarity with which he reflects it in his work.

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  11. Whoa that is *some* trivia! Thanks for sharing this!

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