Going solo

Kitne Admi The?”—booms the voice of Gabbar Singh with the immortal dialogue from the cult film Sholay when one calls up Sheena Sippy.

Written by Georgina Maddox | Published: February 10, 2009 2:24 am

Sheena Sippy makes her debut in fine art photography on February 24

Kitne Admi The?”—booms the voice of Gabbar Singh with the immortal dialogue from the cult film Sholay when one calls up Sheena Sippy. Her caller tune indicates how much of a Sholay fan she is as well as reveals her silent tribute to her father Ramesh Sippy’s iconic work. However this daddy’s girl is about to make her debut in fine art photography with an exhibition,called Cine Indo-China,at the Viewing Room,Colaba,on February 24. And it is clearly a departure from her earlier tribute to Bollywood,which has been a constant subject in her works.

“The work I did in the book,Lights Camera Action,and then Bollywood Posters clearly drew from my Bollywood background. But I have always created my own path and this exhibition,though inspired by the sets of Chandni Chowk to China,adopts a different approach aesthetically and even content wise,” says the youngest Sippy,settling into her chair opposite me at Theobrama,Colaba.

While the book format is something she has been comfortable with,this exhibition explores the format of triptych and diptych. And it presents photography in the realm of art. “It is a good time too. Not only has photography proved itself as an art form at auctions and through collectors wanting to pick it up from galleries,we have aesthetically evolved as photographers,” she says,before ordering a double espresso. She reveals that she is a big foodie and her gourmet evenings with her kids,Shaira and Zahan,are the high points of their weekend fun.

Sippy picked up her camera at the age of five. But it was when she developed her first black-and-white photograph in the darkroom at the age of 16 that she fell in love with photography. She began working on the sets of her father’s and brother’s films as the still photographer of their units. Doing the publicity photographs for Patthar Ke Phool (1991) was the first work she put out in the public domain. This was followed by Saatwan Aasman the next year. Soon she made a name for herself as a photographer. Her love for good food led her to doing the photography for Around the World in 80 Plates,while the glamour and glitter of Bollywood lent itself well to fashion photography. Her image of

Naomi Campbell and Ashwariya Rai Bachchan are noteworthy.

“This body of work has emerged from being on the sets,but it is only in one frame that I make a reference to the film,” says Sippy referring to a small colour dummy of the larger prints that she plans to show at the gallery. In that,we see

Akshay Kumar reflected in the window of a vintage car and a suavely dressed Chinese woman sitting inside the vehicle. “I allowed only this little reference because it is a reflection and not a direct reference to the film,” says Sippy. Several photographs of period-dressing are featured in the exhibition with men in hats and coats while women are in furs,coiffures and feathered hats. For this,she has roped in junior artists from the film industry to model for her. In some instances,images from China are juxtaposed with images of Old Delhi. “I wanted to create a visual dialogue between India and China,not just through an obvious juxtaposing of disparate images but also those with aesthetic similarities,” says Sippy.

An example of this can be found in the frames where the photographer has juxtaposed two images. A set of tangled wires on an electricity pole bellow a window of a building in Chandini Chowk has a dialogue with a similar pole in China. “I like to see my images as a jigsaw puzzle,that I want my viewers to figure out,” she concludes after draining her coffee mug.

Shutterbugs
* Albert Watson
* Herb Ritz
* Dayanita Sigh
* Vivek Valsan
* Annie Liebowitz

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