Date with the Past

In 2008,it was the Rabari tribe of Kutch that found a place in his calendar,and this year photographer Rohit Chawla decided to look into the past and pay an ode to Raja Ravi Varma.

Written by Vandana Kalra | Published: February 1, 2009 3:44:02 am

Photographer Rohit Chawla pays an ode to Raja Ravi Varma in his limited-edition calendar

In 2008,it was the Rabari tribe of Kutch that found a place in his calendar,and this year photographer Rohit Chawla decided to look into the past and pay an ode to Raja Ravi Varma.

“I did not want to take conventional photographs. There is a lot of obsession with contemporary art. I felt the need to go back. Ravi Varma is perhaps the only artist who documented the style of that era,” stated Chawla,a few hours before he unveiled the 2009 calendar at DLF Emporio on Friday evening.

In attendance were some of his muses — including Sailaja Tahiliani,Aditi Rao,Kalyani Chawla and Saloni Puri — who have posed for Chawla in sets that resembled Varma’s works of art. “We sifted through many images of his art before finalising a few for the calendar,” noted Chawla.

If on the May cover of his calendar he has Anoushka Shankar draped in a green sari,on the January 2010 page,Kalyani Chawla is seen in a red sari. “I had to find women who would match the look that was there in the artwork. The anorexic look wasn’t in at that time,” said Chawla about the models.

While the photographer got fashion designer Tarun Tahiliani to design the nine-yard saris,Amrapali provided the jewellery and Radhika Jha acted as stylist. Manoranjan Mukherjee recreated the sets to match Varma’s paintings in Chawla’s studio. “There was a lot of detailing. From small mirrors to the sitar,several props were fabricated,” Chawla observed.

Feroze Gujral,who dressed in a white and gold Kerala sari for the November page,said,“It revives a certain kind of art and the calendar is,of course,well-stylised.” For model Punit Sabharwal Juneja,though,the project acted as an introduction to Varma’s art. “I was vaguely familiar with his work,but this project enabled me to learn much more. My aim was to portray the feeling and emotion that he painted,” she said.

While the calendar is limited to an edition of 500,Chawla will display photographs from it at Visual Arts Gallery from February 2 to 5.

The exhibition will move to Tokyo in April,when a few more pictures will be added to the collection. “The exhibition will be another way of paying a photographic tribute to Raja Ravi Varma’s artwork,” declared Chawla.

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