The Telegraph
Tuesday , April 29 , 2014
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Mission Northeast

A man known to shoot from the mouth will be busy overseeing shoots and judging shots this season. Rajiv Lakshman, the identical twin of Raghu Ram, both of MTV Roadies fame, is the judge and producer of Nat Geo Covershot: Mission Northeast on the National Geographic Channel.

Under his eagle eye and that of award-winning photographer Lana Slezic, 10 amateur photographers from across the country embark on a journey across Assam and Meghalaya fighting for a chance to be featured on the cover of National Geographic Traveller India magazine. The show, hosted by Shibani Dandekar and aired from April 26, will bring out breathtaking views, survival instincts and edgy photography.

How was your experience in the Northeast?

I have been to the Northeast before and am fascinated with the area. I really feel it needs to be integrated more with the rest of our country. Ignorance breeds stupidity and stupidity breeds prejudice. So the more you know about a person or a culture, the more you respect it. We got some stunning images as all the places we went to in Assam and Meghalaya were stunning. The winning shot will make it to the cover of the National Geographic Traveller India Magazine.

When did the shooting take place?

We started in mid-January. It was extremely cold. We wanted to give the contestants an extreme experience. When there is a physical struggle, you get out of your comfort zone and viewers get to see the real you. If you are not a funny person in reality, when you are stretched you can’t crack a joke to make your way out of a situation.

Is that why you were chosen — to take people out of their comfort zone?

(Laughs) My coming on the show is not aimed to give people a tough time. I was in talks with Nat Geo for a long time looking for a good project to come on board. This show excited me as it combines photography, adventure and travel.

So is it a show that shows Rajiv Laxman in a non-intimidating avatar?

I have been myself every time I have been in front of the camera in a reality show. The focus of the show is on the contestants. I am just a byproduct. I have been a photographer for a while. And for me photography is not about camera angles, light and Photoshop but an expression of myself. My company is also producing the show.

What did the participants have to do?

In the Northeast, days are short and there was always a time crunch. We told the contestants what to do but not how to do it. We’ve not mandated any technique or even any camera make. Every task would take place in a new location. An activity would be planned and a theme given. They’d have to interpret the theme within the time given. For example for the first episode, we went to Mawlynnong in Meghalaya, said to be the cleanest village in Asia. Our advance recce team had worked out the sunrise and sunset timings, and came back with a lot of pictures of the place and its cultural activities. So by the time we reached we had the theme decided. It was Harmony.

Given that the participants were taking pictures themselves, was it a challenge to shoot them at the job as also the subject they were shooting?

You are absolutely right. Shooting the frontal shots of the contestants did turn out to be tricky. But we had a team of experts who figured out how to do that.

You had to shave your head to look identical to your twin Raghu Ram for Roadies. Do you fancy growing back your hair now?

Honestly, I have come to like this look. I think I will stay this way. People have come to distinguish between the two of us.

Given a free hand, what kind of shows would you produce?

I am in talks with Make A Wish Foundation for a show on wish fulfilment. Let’s see where it goes.