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Bombay gave my roti, kapda and makan, says ace lensman Pablo Bartholomew

Having touched 60, ace lensman Pablo Bartholomew digs into his archives from the 1980s, portraying the dramatis personae in their unlikeliest moods, at a new exhibit

It is perhaps a photographer’s dream to capture the most interesting subjects of his time, at ease and unaware; not being who they are known to be. This could mean a bare torso Anand Patwardhan, a Maneka Gandhi acting on stage, a bit of shirtless Saeed Jaffrey at a pool and a very surprised ’80s Liril girl, Karen Lunel.

Maneka Gandhi performs in a play during her college days in Delhi. Pic courtesy/Pablo Bartholomew’s 60/60 collection
Maneka Gandhi performs in a play during her college days in Delhi. Pic courtesy/Pablo Bartholomew's 60/60 collection

This, however, isn’t a dream but Pablo Bartholomew’s collection 60/60, which he dug out from his archives. He had earlier exhibited the collections, The Outside In — A Tale of 3 Cities (2007), Bombay: Chronicles of a Past Life (2011) and The Calcutta Diaries, 2012, from these archives.

Documentary film-maker Anand Patwardhan. Pics courtesy/Pablo Bartholomew’s collection 60/60
Documentary film-maker Anand Patwardhan. Pics courtesy/Pablo Bartholomew’s collection 60/60

"There is no tight theme to this collection as such. It has people I have known, worked with, grew up with and possibly, even disliked. These are elements of them which people may have now forgotten," he says over the phone lines from Delhi.

Pablo Bartholomew. Pic courtesy/Olivia Bonnal Sansoni
Pablo Bartholomew. Pic courtesy/Olivia Bonnal Sansoni

Bartholomew says that he has capped the number of photos to 60 because otherwise it could have resulted in multiple photos of the same person. The other reason of the number is a way to acknowledge of his touching 60. Bartholomew, however, does not celebrate his birthday as such.

Model Karen Lunel and (background) actress and singer Sharon Prabhakar
Model Karen Lunel and (background) actress and singer Sharon Prabhakar

Mumbai muse
Talking about his subjects, like documentary maker Anand Patwardhan, Lillete Dubey, Saeed Jaffrey and many more, he reminisces his days in Mumbai.

Actor Sayeed Jaffrey relaxing at the Sea Rock Hotel in Mumbai during the shoot of the film Gandhi
Actor Sayeed Jaffrey relaxing at the Sea Rock Hotel in Mumbai during the shoot of the film Gandhi

"I was there in the city from the end of the 1970s to all of the ’80s, for roughly 15 years. Not just for me, but also for a lot of other young people who came to the city at the time, films were a big draw. Young people, some moderately talented and some very talented came to become actors. If they failed, they would take up whatever they would get and make a living," he recalled.

Painter and poet Gieve Patel in his studio with daughter Avaan
Painter and poet Gieve Patel in his studio with daughter Avaan

Another world, he said, that attracted youth of other cities to Mumbai was the world of advertising. "The advertising industry kept growing from the 1950s and has been growing steadily till recently. People came as copywriters or art directors and saw much growth," he says.

Film Director Kumar SahaniFilm Director Kumar Sahani

On his own migration from Delhi, Bartholomew says, "I came out from a dull bureaucratic city, which was rich in culture but did not provide enough scope to make money and grow as such. I started as a still photographer for films and even worked in advertising for a while. Bombay gave my roti, kapda and makan." It is this era that the collection has captured, "A snapshot of the era in a loose way," he says.

Poet Adil Jussawala
Poet Adil Jussawala

As things were
"These men and women of the arts; painters, film-makers, theatre directors, actors, writers and poets, some still alive, others now gone, form an important cultural grid of the nation looking back three decades," recalls Bartholomew.

About a surprising photo of Maneka Gandhi acting in her college days, he says that Gandhi used to be a part of Barry John’s Theatre Action Group in Delhi. Theatre Action Group, he says, was like a rite of passage for theatre enthusiasts in Delhi and anyone interested in theatre was a part.

Barry, who had mentored Shah Rukh Khan, had later moved to Mumbai and teaches acting here, he informs.

Bartholomew said he is trying to invite all the people in the pictures for the show.

"I am inviting everybody possible and also informing them that their images are being used. I hope this show will reignite their relevance," he signs off.

From: January 22
At: Sakshi Gallery, 6/19, Grants Building, second floor, Arthur Bunder Road, Colaba.
Call: 66103424

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