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Thursday, 2 September 2010

Shah Rukh Khan on Photography

Last year my cultural life consisted of watching all 7 series of Buffy from beginning to end - and a good cultural life it was too. This year, my wife has become a Hindi Cinema (aka Bollywood) afficionado, so I trail in her wake watching Dilip Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan (who I met at Bangalore Racecourse in 1990 - for real!) and Shah Rukh Khan movies. From Devdas to Deewar, from Amar to Akbar and Anthony, it's the Bollywood back-catalogue all the way in my house. And a very good cultural life it is too. It's a great way of learning to watch films in new and different ways, to loosen up the narrative conventions and to see how to square the circle and sythesise every kind of oppostion into non-confrontational harmony. Is it escapist or realist? It's both of course.

Anyway, I have been well and truly sucked into her fascination and so had Shah Rukh Khan's biography (King of Bollywood: Shah Rukh Khan and the seductive world of Indian Cinema by Anupama Chopra) as holiday reading.

SRK has been quoted as that as an actor he has only five expressions, but he was a success because his rivals had only two. I get the feeling what he said about acting and cinema could just as easily be applied to photography - the only difference is that in photography the limited repertoire is often, wrongly, regarded as a good thing, as style and voice - when of course it is no such thing. It is a limited repertoire and nothing beyond that.

The book ends with SRK saying, "My grandmother used to tell me, 'Zyada photo mat keecho. Har photo ke saath three seconds life ke kam ho jatein hain.' (Don't have too many pictures taken . Each photography robs you of three seconds of your life). I want so many cameras taking pictures of me at the same time that I only live for a moment. The cameras go khachak! And somebody asks, 'What happened?' And they say, 'He got photographed to death. He got shot.' I think that would be the nicest way to go."

That gets around three contradictions into the mix in less than a paragraph, mixes the real and the magic. I love the idea that the picture takes three seconds of your life and I sort of believe it myself. I think most people believe it, but pretend that they don't because it's too irrational and doesn't make sense. But it does make sense and the way people behave around cameras and photographs, the way they write about them and mysticise them demonstrates this rather clearly. The camera steals your life - whether that is a good thing or a bad thing is another question. As is where it steals your life to.

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