Parsis at Chemould Prescott Road

Photography | Community centre
By Nandini Ramnath | Live Mint & THE WALL STREET JOURNAL | March 02, 2013


Taraporevala. Photo: Manoj Patil/Mint. The difference between Parsis the book and Parsis the photography exhibition is that the first drew attention to the Zoroastrian community, while the second will direct the eye to the art of taking pictures.






Ratan Modi, a photographer with Modi StudioPhotographer, screenplay writer and film-maker Sooni Taraporevala, whose 2004 publication extensively documented the community to which she belongs, will be exhibiting a selection of images from the book as well as other unseen pictures at Gallery Chemould Prescott Road in Mumbai over a month, starting 6 March. The show won’t make any statements about the community’s religious, social and cultural practices, she says.

“My book said everything I had to say about the Parsis,” Taraporevala says. “I don’t want the show to say anything. I want it to be a visual experience, I want people to go in there and look at photos.”

Contempory ArtThe exhibition has 108 photographs from the book, others that didn’t make it to the final publication, and more recent snapshots. We see prominent and ordinary members of one of India’s smallest but most vibrant minorities in their homes, on the streets and at work. Taraporevala captures them praying, dancing, getting married and receiving their navjotes, or religious initiation. There are also more recent, deeply personal images, such as one of her parents dancing at a Navroze, or Iranian new year, celebration and the wedding of her friend and co-producer, Dinaz Stafford. “The show has no agenda of representing everything and being responsible for showing everything about Parsis,” Taraporevala says. “I have chosen the photos I like.”

The 56-year-old writer and film-maker, whose 2009 movie, the comedy Little Zizou, also held up a mirror to her people, started shooting in the mid-1980s. The city that Taraporevala has boxed into her camera for over three decades has changed only in two respects, she says. “There was much less traffic in those days and only two kinds of cars, Fiats and Ambassadors.”

Jazz musician Goody Seervai was ‘an institution at navjotes and functions’.Apart from being in different sizes (ranging from 40x60 inches to 8x12 inches), the photographs are printed from different formats, including Kodachrome, Ektachrome and digital. “I went into digital kicking and screaming,” Taraporevala says. “My dad, who was a good photographer before I got into photography, convinced me. Once I started, I didn’t touch film again. Digital is so much more convenient.”

It took six months of poring over boxes and boxes of transparencies and choosing the ones to digitally scan and convert into prints. “I hate decision making, and selection is all about making decisions,” Taraporevala says. “For the book, I chose photos that featured only Parsis in the frame, while for the show I have shown Parsis along with others. My primary thing, of course, is good photographs.”

A Parsi priest at Nana Chowk, part of a set of four photographs that follow the character throught the streets.This is the first time Taraporevala is showing the photographs in India—they have been exhibited at several places abroad, and were most recently at the Sert Gallery for Contemporary Art at Harvard University, US, where Taraporevala did a bachelor’s in arts in 1980.

It’s also the first time the pictures will be on sale—priced at between Rs. 18,000 and Rs. 1 lakh.

Parsis will be on at Gallery Chemould, Queens Mansion, Fort, Mumbai, from 6 March-6 April.


Live Mint & THE WALL STREET JOURNAL | March 02, 2013

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