Jitendra Arya at his home studio. Pics courtesy/Jitendra Arya Foundation
Among the many portraits of film personalities that will be on view at the National Gallery of Modern Art starting this Friday, one frame captures a turning point in the life of its creator. Featuring Guru Dutt, Waheeda Rehman, Meena Kumari and Chhaya Arya, the picture tells the story of how noted photographer Jitendra Arya moved to Bombay. "Guru Dutt had offered Arya's wife Chhaya the role of chhoti bahu [younger daughter-in-law] in Sahib, Bibi aur Ghulam when they were still in London. The plan didn't materialise and the memorable role was played by Meena Kumari eventually, but it brought him to Bombay," shares Sabeena Gadihoke, who, after two years of sifting through over 7,000 negatives with Arya's wife and son Dr Kavi Arya, has curated the retrospective, Light Works, presented by the Jitendra Arya Foundation.
Photo historian and professor of video and television production at Delhi's Jamia Millia Islamia, Gadihoke first came across Arya's treasure trove of photographs, spanning over half a century, in 2009. "I was working on a research project of photographs in film magazines, especially during the '50s and '60s, and many of his portraits had made it to magazine covers," she reveals, adding that his family approached her after they saw her retrospective of India's first woman photographer, Homai Vyarawalla.
"We discovered box after box of negatives. Time has taken its toll on the film, but we were also surprised to find some of it intact. But this is just a fraction of his oeuvre," says Kavi, a professor at IIT-Bombay. Gadihoke agrees, "Though he was known for staged portraiture, he was also a master in candid photography."
Kavi recalls how most of Arya's photographs were immortal moments executed in one go. "It baffled him how today's photographers shoot the same frame countless times," he says.
Arya wasn't known only for his portraits of the famous. "Many of his portraits, of Miss India contestants, for instance, helped put the spotlight on them," says Kavi. "People had this confidence that when they stood
before his lens, something would become of them."
From: September 1 to October 8, 11 am to 6 pm (curator's walks on September 2 and 3)
At: NGMA, Fort
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