QUEEN’S ROAD: In the 80s, when you opened a film magazine, you came across Gautam Rajadhyaksha’s name pretty often. I still remember one shot of Tina Munim curled up on a sunny window ledge with a cup of tea, smiling into the camera as if she had just woken up and found a friend. I remember cutting that picture out and trying to paint it. I could not. There was something about his work that went beyond the obvious. It was almost as if through the soft-focus lens of his camera, he was saying, “I see you.” Reassuringly, softly.
His photography was about capturing a moment, a click of the soul and not the white heat of in-your-face sensuality. I remember watching on TV his self-deprecating humour when he recalled how as a young photographer, he asked Nutan what was her “good angle” and she said something to the effect, “any.” It was later that he realised that she was perfect no matter which angle the camera saw her from. Recently, I read an article possibly excerpting his experiences while shooting some of his favourite stars for his celebrated coffee table book Faces. How he put Madhuri Dixit in the most challenging shoots to glimpse facets of her beauty that had not been seen before. How even the slightly imperfect face of Dimple Kapadia was glorious because her auburn hair and tawny eyes would capture light and dazzle the camera.
How Rekha would shoot for accessories abroad only to be able to use them in her shoots and was intensely aware of the unsparing truthfulness of the camera if she had slept on her face at night and it was puffy. And how perfect she was when she was ready.
He was the photographer who shot Kajol for the first time, was deeply respected and loved by Smita Patil, Shabana Azmi and almost all the stars from Pandit Bhimsen Joshi to Asha Bhosle whom he had captured insightfully, affectionately and without ever making them lose their essential character.
He was obviously an aesthete. A soft-spoken, highly-read man fond of beautiful kurtas, exquisite shawls and gentle humanity that animated his work but I was pleasantly surprised when I saw him in Brahmanand S Siingh’s emotional documentary Pancham Unmixed (Mujhe Chalte Jaana Hai), speaking passionately and knowledgeably about the minutiae of RD Burman’s music. This was not just the rambling of a fan but a critique by someone who understood all genres of music, Indian and classical. He also wrote films and was into a project he hoped to film someday soon.
With him passed an era of genteel, tasteful, indulgent photography. His work, like him, will never be forgotten.