Tuesday, September 2, 2008

'Chameli' by Nights....


Mumbai has its good side n the bad side and the in-betweens! I have often been amused at the sight of sex- workers hiring an auto-rickshaw n making rounds looking for prospective customers. Its neither good nor bad – but just a fact of life! They would stop for just about enough time, strike a deal n God knows where they go off within minutes. A friend of mine once remarked if there were no sex-workers- the world would be full of rapists’ n mentally deranged people. Perhaps!

But yet, a woman trading flesh for money is a strange idea to me, though not at all alien to the society we live in. A popular Bollywood film called ‘Chameli’ popularized this term for such women.
I just bounced the idea of shooting a pic like that to Mamta during a casual chit-chat- she absolutely freaked out! She can be quite stubborn once an idea goes to her head. She insisted upon shooting that pic that night itself.
It was quite an exercise to find a make-up artist at 12 at night, but thankfully Manoj obliged and then to hunt for an auto-rickshaw at the Oshiwara crossing with a blue light inside, when it was pouring non-stop was quite a task. I stood beneath a shut tea-stall for more than half an hour- and every time an auto would pass by, I would stop him n ask if he had a blue light inside- I can never forget the incredulous look on their face- they so obviously thought I am some mad drunk guy stopping rickshaws at night n looking for a blue light. But I wanted a bit dramatic lighting and when you got someone as enthusiast as Mamta, the excitement rubs on to you as well and you are determined to get the shot right.

I was amazed at her excitement – she styled the whole look herself, organizing all the clothes from her friends’ including the red “chameli” Sari- right to that flower in her hair. We got the make-up done, found the auto-rickshaw somehow (had to pay him Rs 300 for 30 min of work) and then managed to somehow get a chai-wala as well. Now for those who are from Mumbai –these chai-walas are a very comforting sight at the nights when you are working late. You will find them at most of the prominent crossings with ready-made tea and also packs of cigarettes. They are such an integral part of Mumbai work life that you can’t imagine a night without them!
Did we get all the elements correct? Well…almost! There was not just enough light available to capture Mamta’s expressions and then to highlight the chai-wala as well! Somehow we managed to get a studio opened up for 2 hours to get a power connection to place the flash lights on the road- put rain protection cover on them and cover my camera as well to avoid water drops because all the moisture can really damage the equipment.
Nobody’s asked me the time so far- let me tell it was about 2.30am when we got these shots. But it was really so much fun- the only thing I dreaded was cops- if they would find us doing such crazy things in the middle of the night, then surely would have spent the night in the lock-up.

But all in all…it was great fun…! We even managed to get a quick shot in the studio before leaving. Why not shoot there as well since were paying for it….!
But the best part was the way Mamta would laugh after every shot and the auto-rickshaw guy n the chai-wala had great fun too. After all, they don’t get such wild people every night.

So, hope you enjoy the ‘Chameli by Night’ shots – which I doubt anyone else but Mamta could have delivered. She is adorable, immensely talented and I hope she gets to reach high point in her career as an actress- which she truly deserves.

(Dont ask me why the match stick is still burning in this pic after she got it lit up - I told you I like drama !!!---and dont miss that fire in her eyes !)

p.s.- Mamta Dutta is an established model n a really fine actress...!