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Calcutta through Raghu Rai’s eyes

He has been behind the lens for close to four decades now but you can still see the passion for his art twinkle in his eyes.

In town to announce the winners of N8 Photography Contest hosted by Nokia and inaugurate Kolkata In High Definition, a display of the shortlisted photographs, Raghu Rai (picture left by Rashbehari Das) engaged in a chat with t2 at South City Mall…

How was it judging the contest?

It was nice! Some were amateurish, some interesting and some were very good.

You come to Calcutta quite often. What is it about the city that you love?

Calcutta is a mad city! The energy is wonderful. It overflows with human expression. To come back here is like rejuvenation. You get the feeling that people still live and pulsate with that kind of energy.

You have extensively photographed Calcutta. What is it that you love about old Calcutta? And the new one?

I am not fond of changes. Most changes are expressionless. There are neat, straight-lined buildings with no distinct character. Look at the old architecture, so meaningful and interesting. So many styles… things happening in each detail. The Dalhousie Square is such a phenomenal place. The other area I love is the Maidan. When I used to shoot Calcutta, during weekends I only used to stay on the Maidan. Eat, drink my chai three-four times, take pictures, sleep there on the grass and go back…(laughs).

I did a book on Calcutta in 1990. I did my first book on Mother Teresa in 1970. I kept coming back to Mother and did another book. When she left, I did my final book.

Do you have a favourite photograph?

Nahin, aisa nahin hai. Today, I am a product of many experiences and moments — big and small, great, ordinary, simple, meaningful, not so meaningful. And if you ask which is the most important brick in the building, it is not fair. I have many favourites and many favourite photographers, painters and artists. I saw Anish Kapoor’s latest work. What a man and what he creates!

Why do you love taking black-and-white photographs?

In a colour picture of a serious or a sad situation, if the colours don’t blend, the picture doesn’t work. If you put a black-and-white filter, it silences the noise of all the colours.

What are you working on now?

I have just done the book on 150 years of portraits in India. I am coming out with a book on Varanasi and Mumbai.

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