Mem­o­ries of a by­gone era

Or­nella D’Souza meets com­mer­cial pho­tog­ra­pher Karan Kapoor, who de­buts with his first pho­tog­ra­phy ex­hi­bi­tion in Mumbai

DNA Sunday (Mumbai) - - FRONT PAGE - Or­nella. dsouza@ dnain­dia. net, @_ oregano_

At 54, Karan Kapoor, the sec­ond child of ac­tors Shashi Kapoor and the late Jen­nifer Ken­dal, is the spit­ting im­age of his fa­ther — the same dash­ing looks and boy­ish charm, though mi­nus the act­ing flour­ish with for­get­table roles in Loha and Sul­tanat. But, un­like most of the Kapoor clan, act­ing was never his first love. Pho­tog­ra­phy was. And so this Kapoor is back in the lime­light with a de­but five- city ex­hi­bi­tion in In­dia.

Evoca­tively ti­tled Time and Tide, the ex­hi­bi­tion, on at Tarq gallery in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Tasveer, fea­tures 45 black- and- white, sil­ver gelatin prints of aged An­glo- In­di­ans in Cal­cutta and Bom­bay in the 1980s and the Catholic com­mu­nity and land­scape of Goa in the un­touched- by­commer­cial­i­sa­tion 90s.

Earthy in vary­ing tones of grey, th­ese im­ages are quite con­trary to the slick, glossy im­ages the Lon­don- based com­mer­cial pho­tog­ra­pher shoots on as­sign­ments with ad agen­cies and lifestyle brands. Ab­hishek Pod­dar of Tasveer chanced upon Kapoor’s pho­to­graphs and roped in cre­ative di­rec­tor Na­the­nial Gaskell to cu­rate and make this ex­hi­bi­tion pos­si­ble.

“This gen­er­a­tion and their homes are no more,” says Kapoor while dis­cussing his sub­jects. He shot the An­glo- In­dian se­ries dur­ing his vis­its to Cal­cutta to visit his An­glo- In­dian girl­friend when he was 18. Cu­rios­ity about his own An­glo- In­dian roots led him to the oc­cu­pants of the Tol­ly­gunge old age home who be­came his friends, their com­fort- level vis­i­ble in the can­did frames. “They spoke dif­fer­ently, knew what things were like be­fore in­de­pen­dence. It’s sad. Most of their kids had mi­grated and put them in the home,” he re­calls, point­ing to an en­dear­ing pho­to­graph of a Mr Car­pen­ter play­ing the banjo and his wife at­tempt­ing a dance. In Mumbai, Kapoor found more in­trigu­ing sub­jects at the Cheshire Home in And­heri – an old man, for in­stance, Stan­ley Peters who’d wear his wed­ding suit ev­ery­day af­ter his wife passed away. Did their sto­ries of lone­li­ness and de­pres­sion ever rub on him? “No. It was pure fas­ci­na­tion. But as An­glo- In­di­ans, they felt out of place in In­dia.” Did he feel like an out­sider? “No. Bom­bay al­ways felt home,” he quips.

The Goa se­ries un­veils an un­known side to the filmi Kapoors. Shashi and his wife Jen­nifer Ken­dal fell in love with Goa on their very first visit to Baga in 1970. It be­came their va­ca­tion spot ev­ery Christ­mas and New year. They’d rent the same bun­ga­low, called ‘ The Love house’, ev­ery year. It had a heart on its roof done by pre­vi­ous ten­ants who were hip­pies.

Kapoor and his sib­lings Ku­nal and San­jna would at­tend mass, burn the ‘ old man’, steal co­conuts, put some­one’s bed out to the field or mo­tor- cy­cle on a tree... “Then run be­fore the cops came.” On Jan­uary first, spicy clams and chick­peas curry and Por­tuguese songs filled the air. “Once Dad had too much beer and had to be car­ried home.”

His friends, the lo­cals, fea­ture in his pho­to­graphs – their Por­tuguese- styled homes, lives as brass mu­si­cians, semi- clad fish­er­men or solemn priests, cer­e­monies such as bless­ing the corn, con­fes­sion, wed­dings, and three kings feast. “That’s Shabin, my neigh­bour in Goa, quite the gunda ( gang­ster), now dead”; “That’s Dona Rosa, Mario Mi­randa’s neigh­bour from Loutolim, whose fish- curry was to die for. I spent a lot of time at his place.”

His par­al­lel life in 70s Bom­bay was sim­i­larly de­void of me­dia glare at Mal­abar Hill. “Mum used to take us to Breach Candy on the num­ber 63 bus. Af­ter school, we’d swim, ride horses, play rugby. Mum en­rolled us for gui­tar and pi­ano lessons, none of us had any tal­ent.... oh, Ku­nal could play the pi­ano well,” he chuck­les. From dad Shashi, he’s im­bibed punc­tu­al­ity, com­plete work com­mit­ments and ap­pre­ci­ate the arts and treat the help right. And quirks like the cham­cha room. “It was a guest room where we’d send all vis­i­tors, my friends or film in­dus­try peo­ple. It was the only air- con­di­tioned room at home,” he laughs. Kapoor’s last va­ca­tion in Goa was 2006. So­phis­ti­cated fish­ing gear and bar­rage of ho­tels put him off.

De­spite learn­ing film­mak­ing as Govind Ni­ha­lani’s ap­pren­tice, spo­radic act­ing and mod­el­ling as poster­boy for the Bom­bay Dye­ing ad, Kapoor al­ways re­turned to pho­to­jour­nal­ism. He spent hours holed up in English pho­tog­ra­pher Adrainne Stevens’ dark room at Breach Candy, de­vel­op­ing prints.” Kapoor took to com­mer­cial pho­tog­ra­phy in Lon­don on start­ing a fam­ily in the late 90s.

Again he’s back to black- and- white nar­ra­tives. More such mon­tages ex­pected? “I do have some ideas,” he af­firms.

Three Kings feast in Chan­dor, Goa, 1994

Karan Kapoor; ( be­low) Mr Car­pen­ter, Tol­ly­gunge, Cal­cutta 1981

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