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Bollywood, always in the picture

Millions of Indians are under the spell of Bollywood. Fawzan Husain, himself a teacher of journalism, is one of them but he has the ability to look under its tinsel skin.

Husain has an insiderís knowledge of the workings of filmdom. Documentation seems to the primary purpose of these photographs. But some shots are exceptional.

The most haunting image is that of two naked legs suspended in the middle of a Nile-green water tank with the plumbing in silhouette. A lens splashed with water stares at an actor hung head downwards by a group of men. They pour water on him under pelting (perhaps simulated) rain which has formed a puddle below. Pretty maids in a row wait to be called. The expectant face of only one of them is visible. She clutches the ankle of her high-heeled foot in tension.

Chorus girls form two striking images. In one, a man holds a green revolver-like instrument against a bevy of girls in red dancing out of focus. In the second, the shoulder of a man in a chequered shirt occupies a major part of the frame. The reflector partially conceals the gyrating girls in blue hot pants. Only their nether limbs are visible. Another fascinating image is that of the little boys painted silver to resemble, perhaps androids.

Husain has the ability to be at the right place at the right moment. An actor sits inside a train like a dummy at Madam Tussaudís. His shutter clicks the moment a fanís flash goes pop. The biggest superstar of them all is on his knees on the grand staircase of the Bombay Town Hall, make-believe blood splattered all around him.

The colours ó a grey or a black-and-white Bollywood does not exist any longer ó are often garish, quite as banal as the world it captures. It is this extreme form of kitsch that gives Bollywood such a high visibility.

And as the evergreen star of Bollywood realised long ago ó he is photographed in a quaint vehicle along with a corsage of roses ó one always has to be in the picture not to be forgotten forever.

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