In most countries abroad, the paparazzi form an integral part of the media, capturing celebrities through their lenses and freezing them in time. While in our country, the shutterbugs and the stars have been known to maintain a much cordial relationship compared to their Hollywood counterparts, with passing time, they are no longer shy of tailing stars back to their homes or clicking candid holiday shots.
Though some stars have reacted severely to their private space being encroached upon, most take it in their stride. Shah Rukh Khan recently even hosted a special screening of his latest blockbuster for photographers and camerapersons in the industry. A day after we celebrated World Photography Day, we catch up with six shutterbugs belonging to different generations to recount their experiences dealing with stars and their starry ways...
Active since: 1999
Best experience: So far, Aamir Khan and Deepika Padukone have been the ones whom I’ve found admirable for their cool attitude. Katrina Kaif used to be very media-friendly but now she seems too cautious. Her bodyguards too are hyperactive. Ranbir Kapoor too doesn’t appear very comfortable nowadays.
Amusing anecdotes: I once chased Tom Cruise from airport to a hotel in Colaba. He was travelling with Anil Kapoor and I was running parallel to his car. In the end, he got out at his destination and obliged to my photo request.
Challenge: Accessibility to stars is not an issue but our job could get tiring because you’re standing for hours and there’s this undeniable fear of losing moments. Competition is at its worst sometimes because you’re competing for the best shot.
For the record: Getting an exclusive picture at an event isn’t as big a challenge as to capture the stars in their casual best out on the street.
Active since: 1967
Best experience: In my experience, I’ve noticed that good artistes tend to be friendlier with photographers. For instance, Manoj Kumar and Shabhana Azmi. There were no airs of stardom when they were in front of us. Of the current lot, I like Shah Rukh and Anushka Sharma.
Amusing anecdotes: Raj Kapoor was once shooting at Azad Maidan and I was there too. I took liberty of shooting his pictures. Apparently, he wasn’t in a good mood and expressed his displeasure. They are humans too and they have every right to be in a bad mood too.
Challenge: As the famous line goes, being at the right place at the right time isn’t a mere coincidence. It applies to celeb photographers more than anybody else. Nothing is still in this line of business.
For the record: Actors don’t have that sort of respect photographers anymore. Yesteryears stars used to play card with photographers during breaks. That era is gone for good.
Ashish Rane, MiD DAY photographer
Active since: 1994
Best experience: Whenever I’ve shot Amitabh Bachchan, a sense of joy followed. His towering personality and his impeccable punctuality adds to the legend that he is. It has always been a pleasure to capture him in a picture.
Amusing anecdotes: I once caught Salman Khan on his bicycle at 16th Road, Khar. He stopped my bike and asked me to hand over my camera. There was this point where we were both holding the camera - me worrying that he’ll break it and he being at his scary best. In the end, he let me go and the photos appeared next day in our paper!
Challenge: The toughest part is the bhaag-daud (running around) related to our job. Unpredictability is the other name of our profession. You can’t plan anything. Anything can happen anywhere. You have to be on your toes.
For the record: Getting stuff done within the deadline is what keeps you going. We can’t take forever for the best shot.
Active since: 2005
Best experience: Although all stars are accommodating most of the time, my personal favourites are Shah Rukh Khan, Vidya Balan and Priyanka Chopra. There’s a certain level of ease in which they connect with the cameramen at work.
Amusing anecdotes: More often than not, the aura around Salman Khan could be intimidating but that’s also where the thrill lies. I’ve seldom shot him in a good mood. He’s usually very cautious and that makes my job far more interesting.
Challenge: The worst part about my kind of job is the ceaseless wait. No wonder there aren’t many willing celeb photographers around because working late into midnight with no assurance of photographs can be very discouraging.
For the record: The stars may not agree but they look far better without make-up. Even the fans like to see ‘real’ people.
Active since: 1973
Best experience: Akshay Kumar is another personal fave of mine. His level of professionalism is so high. Along with him, I’ll always rate Bachchan family highly. I recently received a message from Abhishek Bachchan asking me “Are you free tomorrow?” when it should be the other way around.
Amusing anecdotes: Dev Anand wasn’t very fond of the culture of having PAs and PRs. He was the kind of person who’d pick up the phone himself and expect you to pick up yours. Similarly, Shashi Kapoor was very elegant.
Challenge: As a photographer, you have to deal with the celebs’ mood swings. I remember Govinda once making me wait for seven hours and being friendly on finally meeting. It was as if only a star’s time is valuable - and nobody else’s.
For the record: Among the young actresses, Deepika Padukone has the most photogenic face in Bollywood right now.
Active since: 1977
Best experience: Of the current lot, I believe SRK, Aamir and Katrina are the finest to work with. Having said that, the yesteryear stars were easier to handle. Today, almost everybody is difficult. Very few try to be cooperative, as the number of photographers has increased.
Amusing anecdotes: I remember Rekha used to be the least media-friendly actress of her times. It was almost impossible to get a picture of her. Almost every single shot of her was a treasure to keep. The industry has become more streamlined today so that thrill is amiss presently.
Challenge: The challenge is to connect with the stars themselves and build a rapport. They don’t remember your name - there are too many stars and way too many shutterbugs around! Things were simpler once upon a time.
For the record: Thanks to Internet and overexposure on TV, Bollywood actors have gradually started receding into their cocoon…far from our camera.