'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...!


Anonymous said…
I LOOOOOOOOOOVD ur experience n the writing n the pictures are mind blowin PRAVIN....
I jus pray to GOD u get wot u ultimately want..
- Love,
Prathna said…
amazing theme and photography and really enjoyed the insight in your blog entry.
Sobia said…
Hi Pravin,

I am Sobia Tabassum know you on face book, I always admire your extremely creative photography and your vision to see this world through your canvas, your all pictures shows me your inner which I must say “Is Pure”.

I never comment this much long on any picture of yours but after watching your "'Chameli' by Nights...." shoot and reading your article on this you really made me to write for you Because this is something that really touched my heart
“Woman trading Flesh for Money”

Somewhere deep down in my heart I am always stuck with this thought “What is that level of Need where someone can sell himself doesn’t matter its Women, Men, Child or someone else” Doesn’t matter its Flesh, Talent, Time we all are Trading something for Money just Titles Places and Procedures are different but this kind of Trading is Extreme because this is not just the matter of selling Flesh, flesh has to evaporate one day but what about Souls, Dreams Thoughts.

People like you and me may be far away from all that, we are just the general observers..

But anyways I really appreciate you and encourage you to do more and more that “You Can Do” because people like me I am a back setter, No one knows me, No one like to listen me, No one is interested what I think what I feel, No resources, No approach, No Network all big “NO”.

But “You” my dear Pravin, why I am writhing all this to “You” even I don’t know that you are going to read this all or not but still I am writing Just to Encourage you that you are blessed with all that resources that many people don’t have, You can do all that, that other people die to do. You have the most powerful tool in your hand, you are in the right place, you have media approach and most important you know where and when to click.

I really admire your Model she is adorable, I appreciate your effort that you and your team made that night.
But I have a question for you Is your model can even think of that pain under all that costume, lights and makeup, can she really feel that how vulnerable she is and can you see that pain and long wait for “Prospective Customers” in her eyes.

Just for a bit focus on the other faces that you have in your pictures except your model, look at those Two men in your first picture what do you think about them and that blue lighted rickshaw driver his eyes are not prominent but still its telling his whole story.

And you are right that”Match stick is still burning in the Real after she got it lit up”

You have that power and courage to show the world “The Real World” fantasies are nice to see once a while good for closed eyes but we have to be realistic and open our eyes to see the Real.

I am no one to point out my Questions to you or to your work but just as an ordinary admirer I am shearing my opinion. God Bless You….

Sobia Tabassum.
Rajni said…
Amazing work. Was just exploring some blogs via blogadda.com and found a cross link of your amrita rao images and landed up here. ps update often!
Harpreet Kalsi said…
Amazing work Pravin!!

I'm in awe with your Chameli shoot!!!

Harpreet Kalsi
claytonia vices said…
Lovely blog you have here. It is inspiring to see your work. Keep clicking :)
gr8 work of art and your write up brings life to it!!you are truely creative!!
Envy said…
My favorite was the one wear Mamta lies back in Auto and the blue light actually does the work you hunted them for. For that fact the Mumbai as tons of Taxi with blue lights and searched for Auto instead made it more realistic for the theme.

Another point why that one's my best is because the foot of the auto says and inviting colorful "Welcome" which fits your theme and Mamta's expression.

Sometimes one is lucky to get a great shot, sometimes one sweats out the whole day to get one. That's when the passion of a photographer comes to life.

No matter how dumb we look, We would always hang a camera, and walk the world