| Lal Bahadur Shastri at the Chittaranjan Locomotive Works (top) and Tagore looks out of a railway coach
Barely a century ago, oxen and mules were used to draw trains in one part of India. Photographs of such milestones and moments are on display at an exhibition at the Academy of Fine Arts, marking the 160-year journey of Indian Railways, which started on April 16, 1853, in Bombay. The exhibition is on till August 18.
The above-mentioned spectacular photograph is of the Patiala Monorail, built under the rule of Maharaja Sir Bhupinder Singh of Patiala in 1907, which ran on the Sirhind-Morinda section. Another photograph that stands out is of the “refugee special” that reached Ambala from Pakistan with people occupying rooftops and hanging out of overcrowded wagons.
Cutting a pretty picture with their distinct architecture are the small rail stations of the princely states while those of the hill stations stand for serenity. In the pre-aeroplane days, icons like Tagore were frequent travellers on the railways. If Gandhi travelled third class of his own volition, one picture has a chained Bhagat Singh seated on a charpoy at Lahore station.
While the exhibition has the railways travelling on reverse gear, from being powered by electricity to coal and mules, transport on the road too has seen changes. Tongas awaited passengers outside stations in the days of yore. Did they refuse passengers too, like the taxis of today?
When Ray got angry
|Nemai Ghosh explains his frames at Harrington Street Arts Centre on Friday. Picture by Arnab Mondal
Satyajit Ray in his study, a stylish Sharmila Tagore with curlers on the sets of Aranyer Din Ratri, Smita Patil in Sadgati, Ray perfecting Soumitra Chatterjee’s make-up on the sets of Ghare Baire — around 170 such shots captured by photographer Nemai Ghosh are being displayed at the Harrington Street Arts Centre between August 16 and 31.
Presented by Delhi Art Gallery and curated by Pramod Kumar KG, the inauguration of the exhibition titled Nemai Ghosh: Satyatjit Ray and Beyond was followed by the release of a book that archives 250 of his pictures on cinema. “I had such a delightful experience working with Manikda that I was not too keen to work with anyone else after that. I had no fixed lens or fixed time of work. Sometimes I would walk home late at night but often Manikda would offer me a ride in his car,” remembered Ghosh, now in his late 70s. He was associated with Ray since 1968, biographing his work and life through his camera. The exhibition has Ghosh’s first shot of the filmmaker at work on the sets of Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne in 1968.
“I always tried to take a lot of production stills and I got full freedom to do as I liked. Often choosing the best shots from hundreds taken would be a problem. Ray would then scold me, ‘Eto chhobi keno tolo (why do you take so many pictures),’ Ghosh laughed.
Once, however, the reprimand was serious — during the shooting of Ganashatru — when a picture taken by Ghosh was printed in a foreign magazine without Ray’s permission. “Someone had taken a copy without asking me. I was just as startled as Manik-da. But he did get very angry with me that day,” Ghosh said.
The man who always stuck to analogue photography and never used extra lighting, did work with a few others. The exhibition includes shots of Paar and Harmonium, among others.
“We took three years to digitise 120,000 pictures taken by Ghosh. The book, priced at Rs 6,000, covers all his 250 on cinema. We plan to come out with his collection on theatre and tribals soon,” said Kishor Singh, head of exhibition and publication, Delhi Art Gallery.
The festival season is here. New Market was crowded in the run-up to Id and with Puja just two months away, tailoring shops were overflowing with angst-ridden women asking repeatedly if their orders would be delivered on time.
The intricacies are adding to their anxiety. As kurtas and blouses become more elaborately designed, catalogues grow in number and bling becomes blinding, it is time for tailors to be more resourceful.
At one tailoring shop in New Market, the following conversation was overheard. A young woman was distraught. She had with her a magenta net sari with a bling border and pallu and the same material for a blouse. The tailor was most reassuring.
“Go for Chammak Challo. It is a rage this year,” he said. “You will have a heart-shaped hole at the back, the border below, tassels hanging long from the top of the heart and extra sequinned panels on the sleeves and around the neck,” he told the young woman. “You will look like Kareena Kapoor.” The young woman considered this, but rejected it finally. They pored over some more designs without making much headway.
“If you don’t like Chammak Chalo, go for Oo La La. Instead of the heart shape, there will be a big, round hole, which will be held together at the bottom with a huge diamond, for which you will have to pay Rs 50 extra,” he announced. “This is also a rage. Priyanka Chopra,” he added. May be he meant Vidya Balan.
The young lady bought this. “And for your salwar kurta, go for the New Anarkali look.” The tailor was inexhaustible.
(Contributed by Sudeshna Banerjee, Chandreyee Ghose and Chandrima S. Bhattacharya)