Photographer Fawzan Husain, who started his career with mid-day, shares what he clicked while lurking on Bollywood sets for 12 years, ahead of his book release
Fawzan Husain has had many loves. And we aren’t even talking women. He started out in the marketing department of mid-day, but his love for writing saw him pursue a course in journalism. The young reporter, disappointed at deskies butchering his copy, turned to photography (“a picture wasn’t always hacked as badly”). In 1989, he took up photography full-time with this paper, and later moved to a news magazine, but quit photo journalism in 2006 to focus on yet another love, Bollywood.
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It’s on Hindi films sets, he realised, that he had taken his best shots. From 2003 to 2015, Husain, 50, spent an average of eight hours on film sets to get the shot he wanted.
Dharmendra and Hema Malini on the sets of Shimla Mirchi (unreleased): “Dharmendra plays a politician who is wooing Hema Malini. The chemistry they share is amazing.”
Katrina Kaif on the sets of Phantom: “It took me four-and-a-half months to acquire permission to shoot on the sets of Phantom, and then I got two minutes and eight shots. After that, Kaif decided she didn’t want to be shot, and I was shooed away.”
The best of these have made it to a coffee table book that launches this week.
Sanjay Dutt during a smoke break on the sets of Munna Bhai MBBS “The light was great, so I had to take a shot, even though most stars don’t like themselves being photographed smoking. I got scolded by his assistant. The best thing to do in such situations is say, sorry, and move ahead.”
Om Puri and Amitabh Bachchan on the sets of Dev: “Om Puri kept goofing up his lines. Since they were shooting on film, every time he forgot his lines, they lost reel. In the end, even Bachchan said, ‘Oh God, when will this happen?’”
“Bollywood taught me patience. There, nothing is planned; you have to hang on, for however long it takes for that next best shot.” Husain says, often, it was the actress for whom he’d wait.
Fearless Nadia: “So, Nikhil Lakshman, my boss at mid-day had sent a photographer to shoot her [stuntwoman and actress Mary Evans Wadia], but she sent him off without a single picture. Without telling me this, he challenged me, ‘You are inexperienced, you can’t get it.’ I wanted to prove myself. I pretended to be a deaf and dumb when I reached her home. She was kind and took me in. Then I told her, if she posed for me, I’d earn R30. She agreed. God bless her soul.”
“Whoever it may be, a beauty always charges up a set. Right from the spot boy to the director, everyone is suddenly awake and raring to go.” It was imperative that he remain on the sidelines, of course.
Bipasha Basu and Nawazuddin Siddiqui shoot a bedroom scene in Aatma: “I had some really nice shots of her [Bipasha Basu] in the bath as well, but after a few shots, I was shooed away since she didn’t want anyone to see her either in bed or in the shower.”
Working on the periphery, he’d avoid the stars’ gaze. “They are uncomfortable with the presence of a camera other than the one that films them. I don’t think most of them noticed me. I was just another ‘still dada’.”
The gatekeeper eats lunch at Mehboob Studios: “Everyone leaves their work during lunch time, which is free on sets. This is the only man who can’t do that, as he is still working.”
Although publishing The Silver Screen and Beyond: Up Close and Personal with the Bollywood film industry (Magnate Publishing House), he calls a dream come true, he compares his fate to that of a beggar he once met.
Priyanka Chopra rehearses her lines on the sets of Fashion: “It’s the first time I saw Priyanka, and I was not impressed.”
“I asked him, how many people actually give you money every day? He said, ‘If I ask five people, one will’. In my case, I had to talk to eight people in every production house before one would offer me permission to shoot.”
Ketan Mehta and Deepa Sahi: “This is from a shoot I did for mid-day. I needed a prop, so I found a ladder from God knows where.”
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