There is a sense of uninhibited, open rumination in her works, with her observations distilled through carefully practised casual ease and then served up languidly through her photographs and films. But through her rather textured repertoire, photographer, screenwriter, and filmmaker, Sooni Taraporevala, of iconic fame, courtesy Mississippi Masala, The Namesake, Oscar-nominated Salaam Bombay, and the national award-winning Little Zizou, treasures her intrinsic connect to the sin city, Mumbai.
Of course, Mumbai is a city. Bombay is an emotion. So how has she harvested her emotional knit to the city through her career trajectory? “I am not sure my career has had a ‘trajectory’. It’s been unplanned, with things happening by chance,” she confesses. “I left Bombay in 1975 to attend Harvard as an undergraduate.
All those years, I was desperately homesick, which led me to explore the city in my work.”
In her recently concluded exhibition, ‘Home In The City: Bombay 1977-Mumbai 2017’, Sooni toasts the magnetism of black-and-whites. What drew the dilettante to the camera were the black and white works of greats, including Bresson, Brassai, Koudelka, Robert Frank, William Klein, Helen Levitt and Diane Arbus. “Anyone from my generation who took up photography seriously probably looked up to the same legendary photographers,” she says.
Her collection of black and white photographs spanning four decades unveils the quaint appeal and charm of the city and the people who make up its soul. Rivetting clicks in perfect frames abound. The slight scowl on the face of the old, wizened man sitting on a charpai near the wing of an aircraft. The Gateway of India telescoped through a window of the Taj Mahal Hotel at Apollo Bunder. A camel spanning the length of Marine Drive. Street-smart children on the road, some with a vacant expression, others with a searing look in their eyes... It is a slow, relaxed, organic pace at which the images emerge to chronicle the growth of the city.
Sooni has swung forth, in sync with the evolving social mediascape and has been a loyal Instagrammer. “I actually began more than five years ago when it was not as ubiquitous as it is now. I have posted 3,197 photos. I use Instagram like a visual diary. And because most of the stuff is personal, my profile is not public,” she says. In her works, there is a reflection of her persona and visceral fluidity. It has seeped in the making of every project gestated and manifested itself beautifully over the years. “I think whatever one does, and however much you disappear into the subject, there is always a part of you in the work. It’s inevitable,” she says.