Biwi flew to Ahmedabad last Friday. Five days ago. She will return to Goa the coming Friday. The morning after she left, I went running again. The same six kilometers as the previous day. Slightly faster though. Later that night, at around eleven, I took a taxi to the airport. Izaz bhai has been my reguar cab driver since past few months. He usually wears a white shirt (uniform). He was wearing a t-shirt when he came to pick me up.
‘You are looking younger in this t-shirt’, I complimented him.
I meant it. He spoke for a while about the need for uniforms during day-time and all that. When we reached the airport, he decided not to charge me the extra night time fee. ‘Some other time sir’, he said smiling. So sweet!
My flight from Goa to Hyderabad took off at around one in the night – and because the entire row in the aircraft (on my side of the aisle) was vacant – I slept occupying all the three seats. Tried sleeping rather. Didn’t succeed much. It didn’t help that the flight was a short one.
I landed between two and two thirty and slept for about an hour or so in the transit hotel at the airport. One can book a room on an hourly basis at this airport – which is pretty cool. The room was absolutely tiny though – not much space around the bed. But the bed was cozy and I could relax somewhat.
I was in Hyderabad to shoot an engagement function of few hours. Val – the girl, had been my junior in IIT. I headed the design department for IIT Madras’ technical festival during my last two years there. In the final year, Val had worked for me as a photography coordinator. Her job had been to make photographs based on the requirement of the rest of the design team (for brochures, posters etc.). Now, after so many years, I was her photographer! Life comes a full circle. I mean, yeah not exactly full in this case, but what somewhat circulish?
The function got over by around 11. My flight back to Goa would depart only at 03 pm. So I called up Radha and asked her if she was free and if we could catch up. We ended up catching up. Even if it was just for fifteen, twenty minutes. And even if the restaurant where Radha took me could offer nothing more than veg pakodas and sandwich (which we could not finish anyway, given that I had to rush for the airport and all that).
I liked the hairstyle of the cab guy who drove me from the Goa airport to my flat.
‘Dominique, you have got a great hairstyle’, I told him, while on our way. I don’t remember now whether he thanked me for this compliment (which I genuinely meant) but I do remember him explaining to me how his hair used to be so much more silkier when he was younger. ‘I am sure’, I said. He didn’t give me any discount once the trip was over.
Next day, I tried getting up in the morning (to go for my run) – but failed. So I did some weight training instead (later during the day). This was day before yesterday – 15th August – India’s Independence day. Po – the rockstar, wanted me to come over to a restaurant-cum-bar in the evening, where he was performing, and shoot a video for him. I did that. It was also good to note that, that place was serving beer even on 15th Aug! Things that can happen only in Goa! ? By the way, you so totally HAVE to view the short clip below to see how amazing Po is on guitar (it might take you a while to guess the song though)! ?
Po’s rocking guitar skills
Yesterday, I tried once more to get up early enough to go for my run. Yesterday, I failed again. So, did some weight training again. Today morning, I finally got up. 0530 AM. Yay!
But I was so sleepy that I sat on my chair and slept again (didn’t have a great sound sleep last night). Tomorrow morning, I will get up and do a 8k. There are only 39 more days to go for the Chicago Half and there is only so much that I can screw up when it comes to training!
PS: the feature image is a photograph that I made in the lounge of the hotel, where the engagement was held (Park Hyatt, Hyderabad).
I remember when I had just started blogging (back in IIT – 2005/06), Dhakkan (and I am sure others in my hostel-wing) would tell me how obsessed I was with waiting for a new comment and then replying to it and then waiting for the next one and on and on. Nothing much has changed. The blogging world is certainly not the same (after Facebook and Twitter took over internet), as every blogger would acknoweldge. So of course I no more expect comments on my blog. I don’t blog much anyway – relative to how I was in IIT and for the first few years of my corporate job. But the wait for an audience to listen to what I have to say, look at what I have to show and read up and acknowledge what I have to write, remains, be it on Facebook or Instagram or my 3 Minute Stories. As strong as ever. It is so me. This craving for an audience was the reason I left my business consulting job four years ago, that otherwise offered me such a structured career path!
I always called my blog shit.
‘Phres blogshit’ has been the tagline for Vatsap? ever since I bought this domain name (and has never ever changed). That was so because I believed my writing sucked (I am not so harsh on myself anymore – but love the tagline nevertheless ? ). So although I was neither very proud of my writing skills nor my knowledge of the world, I still wrote – posts after posts, because the world of internet had opened up the access for strangers to read what other strangers wrote. I hoped that someone somewhere out there might end up liking my shit. Which did happen eventually. In fact, I am still in touch with some people, after all these years, who I happened to know about, only because they bothered to read my blog-posts. And leave comments. To think of it, my writing (however shitty I thought / think it was) had a major role to play in turning MRP to my now Biwi.
Moving on to the present times, every time I make a 3 Minute Story, I desire for the world to watch it. The world obviously doesn’t. Sometimes even before I venture out to shoot, I already know that a particular story has a limited audience. I go ahead and shoot and make one anyway. Because I love the job. But until the entire world has not watched it, am I happy? Certainly not. May be one day my audience will find me. Till then, I need to keep getting better at my craft. I need to tell stories so good, and in such a way that everyone feels like making their friends and family watch them.
Just recently, I was in a company of various artists (of all kinds, from painters to illustrators to installations artists to clothes designers) for over a month. Some of them told me how they didn’t care if any one got their art or not. They did it for themselves. I can never think like that. I always care. That craving for an audience – I live for that.
Anyway, let me also include some photographs that I made this Friday when many in Goa (where I live) celebrated Sao Joao. If you could care to read my ramblings, I am sure you will like the images! After all, there are things that I know I am not so shitty at! ?
Siolim, Goa, India. 24 June 2016.
Man. Always in conflict with animal.
For some reason, I love this last image – so many different kinds of couples (and quadruples) have come together so nicely for a fraction of a second in one frame. This is all that photography means to me. It wasn’t easy shooting on this day. It kept raining a lot and the crowd was chaotic. But I am happy with whatever little I could return home with. I also recorded a live song being sung by someone on stage, and using that, plus some of these photographs and a lot more additional audio effects, created a multimedia artwork that you can check out on Facebook if you want to (it’s on insta too).
So yeah, that’s it for now. A lot more work to be created. A lot more work to be shared!
The Shop Art Art Shop Residency and Exhibition got over on 14th Jun. I returned to Goa last evening. And it’s time for a wrap up post. I still remember how I had felt first, on reaching the village – “now that I am in Gunehar, I wonder what stories I am going to end up with, in the next three weeks” (quote from diary #1). As it turned out eventually, I didn’t end up making a story on any of my first ideas (house with the best view, village life, struggle of artists etc. – diary #2). Even the sniper project that I started in the second week (diary #3) did not lead to anything exciting other than a dramatic fight scene (which I started showing as a story in itself, but gradually just retained the most interesting parts of that video for a jingle that I made later). Diary #3 also mentions a “juicy conversation” (quoting below) and that finally did become a story [you can watch it here on 3 Minute Stories’ Facebook page].
…villager approached me… …shared a lot about his life. Pretty juicy stuff for first meeting – how his first wife had an affair and dumped him, the reasons why he doesn’t like his father, a foreigner who has promised to adopt his children and take them to England and things like that.
The stories that I eventually did create and screened have their origins in my thought process by the end of second week – “…find one specific subject in each generation category and then shoot him / her + do a bit of interview to put together something that at least resembles a story”.
The first story that I finished editing was on Maniram (sharing it below). To read up more on how this story happened, you can visit my blog on 3 Minute Stories.
The exhibition part of the residency was only two days away. So I started tidying up my shop (this residency was not only about making documentaries, but also about managing a space like a multimedia installation). I am not a space person, so it took me considerable time and effort. I am thankful to Eeint (the bottle guy from diary #5) who helped me with some good ideas about setting up the space.
The final week was more about screening my stories every time someone came to my shop. I also found enough time to edit a new story (the juicy one, mentioned above).
I would also go out once in a while during power-cuts (that were rare) or during rains to make images.
Two days before the event / residency ended, there was a dance programme by the villagers and a trial Gaddi fashion show. There would be an even bigger function on the closing night, but I didn’t take any pictures then; so sharing the ones from this prior evening.
Unfortunately, after all the amazing time that I had in Gunehar (sans the falling sick and accidental formatting of memory card once), the biggest shit that happened to me, was during the closing ceremony. 🙁
Maniram’s story had just started when 4T decided to change the angle of the screen. Yes, in the middle of the screening with thousands of villagers watching. I am sure 4T just wanted more people to get a good view. But everyone who has set up a home projector that has couple of wires going from here to there, knows that it’s a fragile setup and any lose wire can shut off the screening. While in a home setup, that’s fine because it usually doesn’t take more than 5 minutes to sort things out, in a public screening, it can lead to chaos. In my case, because of the abrupt and unplanned change in the way the screen was put up, I had to readjust my projector and in the process, the sound cable probably got loose from some point (and there were too many points). Sound stopped. And I could not figure out why, for about a minute. So yes, the screening stopped. So did my heart. 4T soon announced on mic that because most villagers had anyway seen my movies, it was ok. And I guess it was indeed ok for many. But boy, what a heart-breaking moment that was for me (I can still feel the pain). I was in pain and I was angry. For many hours following that, I kept wondering how amazing it would have been, had 4T not tried adjusting the screen in the middle of a screening. But then, was it really his fault? He just forgot to take into account the fragility of the whole setup when he decided to do what he did. He only wanted more people to watch the screening properly.
The local singers took over the stage immediately and I zoned out, unable to focus on anything. I am sure majority of the villagers had indeed already seen the stories in some screening or the other, as 4T had rightly said. But I also knew many in the audience had not. And in any case, this was not about who had seen the stories and who had not. For me, it was simply the biggest gathering of audience who were watching it and that’s a difference experience altogether.
Eeint saw me dissolving in the background, and could read my expressions. He hung out with me for a while. Some villagers offered booze and I tried to feel normal again. But in spite of trying so for few hours, (I even went up the stage, dressed like a Gaddi and did a bit of drunk dance), I finally realized I had to deal with the fiasco on my own. I had to let it sink in, stop blaming anyone and move on. Shit happens all the time and that evening was just my unlucky day. While the rest of the artists partied till late night, I chose to skip my dinner and went to sleep. Sleep came very late. It was the worst possible way the festival could have ended for me.
‘Where had you disappeared last night?’, Kaki asked me the next day. She added that everyone had missed me and all of that. I wondered if I should make an excuse. I didn’t. “I was not in a great mood yesterday”, I gave her an honest reply. I think she understood.
The bigger question is, does one fiasco really take away all the wonderful things that I experienced during my 4 week stay in Gunehar? No, it doesn’t.
So to sum it up, I would love to wrap up my Gunehar diary on a happy and positive note. My stay was about:
back to back hard work, doing something that I really liked doing;
creating films on purely personal stories for the first time;
screening my Gunehar stories for several days, both for villagers and visitors (who often complimented – but then I never take compliments too seriously – most people do it out of politeness anyway, don’t they? 🙂 )
consuming amazing food on most days (and a crazy variety) – thanks to my (now) friends from Goa;
getting to see, meet and interact with so many different kinds of artists;
McDowell’s No. 1 every single night :D;
and last but not the least, growing up some more, as an individual – with a new life experience.
May life be interesting always. Full of things to write and talk about, like this! Over and out for now!
Most artists are more or less approaching the final stages of their work.
They have to. 🙂 The festival starts from 7th and ends on 14th (June 2016).
Bluehair met with an accident day before yesterday. That left her with a crushed big toe. The injury is so serious that the toe might even get amputated. 🙁
But we all are hoping for the best. I was told her toe has already shown some signs of recovery. And that means she could end up keeping it, if nothing goes wrong. She is admitted to a hospital in Palampur and some of us plan to visit her in the evening. She would most likely return home once she is discharged from the hospital. All of us are slightly disturbed and sad about this, but then, such is life.
I have three stories ready + 1 jingle that is a story in itself. 😀 I think I have enough extra footage to create few more as the festival starts (I am thinking may be two more). Pretty proud of myself! The stories are not online yet. I would slowly release them once the festival starts. Or may be after 14th, when it’s over.
Biwi showed up and stayed for few days before leaving for her trek that started in Manali.
She even brought with her, our projector from Goa. It’s being of much use here.
Biwi also helped me make my shop look better (painting, sticking papers and all such things). The work is not yet complete but should hopefully look much neater in the next few days. Biwi also took few dance classes for the village girls, for a possible performance during the festival. I look forward to her returning on 10th.
Life in the village is going on as usual in the meantime. My interactions with villagers declined somewhat over the last few days because of all the editing and shop beautification tasks that I was upto (still am). But I did go out once in a while to capture some of what I saw.
I ended up meeting Vishnu again (had mentioned him in diary#3; a guy who works in a perfume factory in Chandigarh, misses his village when working in the city, but also gets bored when he comes to village for short duration). I shot him working with bullocks in one of his fields. Often, his nephew and niece would take over. Later he took me to his house and made me see parts of the village I had never been to. He returned to Chandigarh the next day.
A funny thing happened. Pinkhair who is an author and is an integral part of the Shop Art team, (blogging regularly about artists and the development of the festival) is from New Zealand. So I shared my New Zealand Holioke with her. She loved it, showed it to Eeint and then slowly everyone ended up seeing it, one by one. It was proposed that I show them to the villagers too, when I screen my movies. And guess what, I did so. Since then, both that and the Italy holioke are like hot favorites here in this village. In fact, they care more about those videos than their own stories! 😀
In less than ten days, it would be time to leave this village and I have this feeling, I might miss this place for quite some time.
Alright, let me go now and decorate my shop. The huge posters that I have, need to be framed so that they can be put up on the wall. And then there is always some editing to do. Villagers want more and more stories and I don’t want to let them down.
This Sunday, I created a half-baked 3 minute story (that I don’t want to share here because, yes you guessed it right, it’s half baked 🙂 ), transferred the video to my phone and started showing it to every villager who cared to watch.
So the villagers now understand that I am not just some random guy shooting shit with his camera, that they will never get to see.
This has made my life easier because now they are coming up with more ways to help me find subjects, stories and all that.
I want to focus on views and lives of people of different generations in this village (oldies, working adults, college going kids and possibly a young kid). One of the biggest challenges that I have with this approach is – there is no clear cut well defined “story” really – something that I have always depended upon over the last two years since I started 3MinuteStories. I am dealing with it anyway. Don’t ask how. :/ This week’s plan was to find one specific subject in each generation category and then shoot him / her + do a bit of interview to put together something that at least resembles a story. Could it get boring? Possibly yes. Is there anything else that I can probably do? Can’t think of much. Fortunately, I already do have somewhat exciting subjects from each category and for many, I have already shot this and that. Working hours are going up slowly – with all the hard core editing required and stuff. So blogging might go down a bit.
A film-maker from Quebec (Canada) happened to be in Gunehar for few days. He sat with me one evening, looking at some of the work-in-progress stories. He advises directors and film-makers on their stories, professionally. It was nice to have his feedback. I hope it helps in the final output.
Oh by the way, day before yesterday, I accidentally formatted one SD card, without copying the video files to my hard disk 🙁
They were clips showing villagers working together to re-divert part of the river water to a channel. The channel takes the water to the fields. Majority of villagers own farms and this is the time to sow paddy. So they really need water in the channel. Heavy rains about two weeks ago (before I had arrived in the village) had set many boulders and stones rolling all over the river-bed, damaging the channel and blocking the entry of the river water to it. After few days of combined effort by the villagers, the water is flowing back to the channel now. I have shots of that. But I lost shots which showed the blockage of water. And that’s kind of sad. 🙁 This was like the only “clear-cut” story that I had accidentally stumbled upon. I have already tried almost every possible software since past 24 hours. Nothing worked! I am moving on as I type away this blog.
It rained later that evening. I put on a rain-coat (borrowed from 4T), wrapped a plastic around my camera and went out to shoot whoever I could. Till it got very dark and rain stopped.
That’s about it for now. Let me get back to editing and hopefully I will also have some video-story to share when I return to my blog next.
Today is my third day in Gunehar and I have already fallen ill.
It started with a moderate cold when I got up in the morning. And since then, I’ve been feeling pretty feverish. I can only hope that the body temperature doesn’t rise. Fingers crossed. My ‘shop’ has been identified. I should put up a signage soon – once I feel better. As of now, even creating this blog-post is a pain. But laying on bed and doing nothing is probably even more painful.
Yesterday, I roamed around, up and down the village main road (the length is just around 1 Km or so) with a camera, clicking away pictures. I would have done the same today had I not fallen sick. The process has been helpful both for me and the villagers (I guess). I want them to see and recognize me as a photographer to the point that they don’t care any more. That’s when interesting stuff would happen. And from being a photographer, I would turn into a film-maker who can manage to capture the reality the way it is.
Story ideas are slowly taking shape. Some of the potential ones are:
Whose house has the best view? – I can find say three people who are proud of their houses and try to explore if they care about the view at all! Who do I think has the best view anyway?
My take on “life in a village” – could become pretty boring unless something unexpected happens while I am it. Their is lot of typical village activity that can be captured, but I need to figure out a thread to weave them together, in a way that they become a story of some kind.
Mystery of the blue and pink hair – we have two women here who have got bright coloured hair. I am wondering if something interesting comes out when I start enquiring on what the villagers think about the coloured hairs. Do they care? Do they have an opinion? How do I know their opinion is candid and not “for the camera”. What is the real reason these two got their hair coloured?
The struggle of few artists to bring back a dying artwork to main stream – I have maximum clarity on this story. Kaki is working on Kangra wall paintings with few Himachali artists. What they are doing should help more people take notice of this particular art-form.
I also like what Terra is upto (the lady working with clay in one of the pictures above) – and have this feeling that I can extract some story from there. The ideas are pretty vague at this point of time.
That’s it for now. Pray for me to get well soon. Will get back with more stuff soon.
In short, I will be running a 3MinuteStories (3MS) shop in a village in Himachal Pradesh for a month. What the heck is a 3MS shop? And what exactly would I be selling from my shop? Read on.
What can ‘arts’ achieve in the 21st century if it is taken out of its usual cosmopolitan setting and related dependencies? Shop Art / Art Shop (SA/AS in short) is a contemporary Arts event that is trying to explore answers to this question, by inviting 10-12 artists to do a one month paid-for residency in Gunehar, a small village close to Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh. The first SA/AS was held in 2013. This year (14 May to 24 June 2016) would be its second edition.
Loly – my dearest friend – is working for SA/AS and that’s how I got to know about the event / residency. She connected me to the other organizers, they checked out my 3 Minute Stories and soon, Frank – who leads SA/AS, asked me if I’d like to be a part of it. I jumped in. What did I need to do? Well, like the other artists (some of them are still being finalized I guess), I will be occupying an empty shop in Gunehar and will be creating, yes you guessed it right, “art-work”. 🙂
A painter or a sculptor or a fashion designer can possibly sit in a shop and create stuff but what would a film-maker like me do sitting in a shop really? Edit movies on his laptop? Also, how do I exhibit my final work? Set up some TVs? What would be my final work anyway – a couple of 3 Minute Stories that I can possibly shoot in the village? I don’t have answers to all these questions. But hopefully, I will figure some of them out before I land up in Gunehar! More than anything else, it would be cool to keep checking out how the other artists proceed with their work. And of course, what they end up creating.
Of the four weeks that the SA/AS residency would be, the first three weeks would be for creation and the last week for exhibition. The exhibition is planned in a way that it not only demonstrates the end result of the artists’ work but also incorporates typical local ‘mela’ elements, such as concerts, screenings, discussions etc. to reach a broad cross-section of the society.
The SA/AS guys also plan to take some of the work created during the residency to different locations, galleries etc. around the world in a modified and actualized version in a series of follow-up exhibitions. Let’s see how my 3 Minute Stories does on that! 🙂
Will keep you guys posted on how things shape up! For now, pretty excited.
Below is the screen-shot taken from the now deleted blogpost about the lemp brewpub Gurgaon incident
Note: after extracting this from Google cache, it was pointed out that the same also exists on Scribd
Cached images from the deleted post on lemp brewpub Gurgaon incident
Through Facebook, I found this blog and I thought an incident like this was worth being talked about freely in public. And today morning, again through Facebook I realized that the actual blogpost was deleted. The obvious conclusion is that the actual writer was most likely threatened by the hotel owner. So well, thanks to Google cache, the post is up again. Spread the word – and this time, better still, copy-paste the images to your blog and post. Free speech can’t die this easily!
PS: by posting this here, I don’t intend to agree to all that has been written by the original writer – these are his views and it is up to the readers to endorse these.
Beimaan, Dil bada be-imaan
Hota nahi aasaan isey hai samjhana
Beimaan, Dil bada be-imaan
Tere liye shaitan
Meri naa ek maana
Dil jeete yaa main jeetu
Dekhungi dekhega tu
Lo dil se sharat lag gaye
Mujhe to teri lat lag gayi, lag gayi
Biwi chose the above song for her first dance class in Goa. And the song for the next three classes. I have joined her class. They say na, biwi husband ko apne ishaare pe nachaati hai. A wife makes a husband dance on her moves. How literal can it get? 😛
I suck at learning dance steps by observing others dance. So may be I am the weakest student in the class. The class only has women. And few girls. I am the only guy.
And because I already told biwi how strongly she needs to improve her verbal communication when teaching dance steps (else, I can never remember which leg to move first, which hand to move next), I must write here what I didn’t tell her after the class. The things that I liked. I liked the way she spoke to everyone in the class. The way she greeted them. And how it didn’t really feel like it was her first class. Or that she was seeing most of her students and talking to them for the first time.
But she still needs to improve her verbal communication. For my sake. Was it the right leg that had to be flicked at the count of eight or was it the left? Eh, never mind.
I picked up the call. A female voice asked, is this Amrit. I said yes. Amrit the photographer?, she asked again. I smiled to myself. And said yes. Again.
I was sitting in a coffee-shop inside the Mumbai airport, waiting for my flight to Hyderabad, when this call came. When for the first time, a stranger referred to me as ‘photographer Amrit’. How nice.
Neelabh and I had a rocking time doing our first paid shoot. With our newly updated gear. It got a little hectic and tiring but now that we are going through the thousands of pictures that we have clicked, we are stunned with our own abilities! 🙂 Do check few updates on the updated slider view of Shaadigrapher.com home page. On FB, search for Shaadigrapher and like it if you like the pictures.
I returned to Mumbai only few hours back. At about 1130 in the night. I rang the bell. She opened the door. I smiled, looked into her eyes and said – ‘I am back from my shoot darling’. And believe me it felt awesome when I said that.