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Saturday, January 09, 2016

The Portrait of a Photographer as an Artist - Mohan Das Vadakkara

Today, my walk down the past lane takes me to putting in front of a whole new generation of young audience two people. The first person I introduce here. The second one in another separate post. 

One I have very personal acquaintance with and have had the opportunity of laughing, kidding around, fighting, having my works watched, analysed, photographed, videographed.... and whom a whole lot of Madras artists are familiar with. I consciously use the word Madras, even though you could have noticed my posts refer to my beloved city more as Madras and only when talking of contemporary inevitables as Chennai. No artist who has walked the Theatre in specific and Arts scene in the city will be unfamiliar with his work or him in person. A very genial, humble and knowledgeable person, I fondly call him as padakkaaran... Mohan Das Badagara. 

The accompanying photos are from a random album of his I chanced upon to take along with me, when Max Mueller Bhavan cleared up from KNK to its current residence. 



I bought a horde of German books for pittance, was gifted a horde of books - both in German and in English by a lot of Heads there from Herr Augustin, Herr Schindler, Frau Behlke, Frau Wetzkubach, Frau Rahimi.... as and when they left Madras for another pasture. Also, when MMB moved from KNK they were throwing away such a load of things because 1) they were old, anachronistic 2) they couldn't find place for those 3) the new place was getting digitised. So, like many a person, I also became richer with books, posters, media. 

One of those riches in the middle of rags was this album by Mohan Das. It is a simple collection of faces and places. I haven't met him in a while. Am sure he is quietly around at rehearsals, film festivals, art shows, theatre performances clicking away like there is no tomorrow, unassumingly, as he always does. He always tells me the need to buy printed photos, burned DVDs of performances in preservable copy saying "pinnaale venumna kedaikaadhumaaa.... negatives enga pogumnu solla mudiyaadhu, tapes enge pogum, memory card eppo erase aagum..." (later if you need you won't get, negatives and raw data files being erasable!). So I believed him and I BELIEVE HIM because after 25 years of being around, I realise the importance of old materials. I have materials - books, show tickets, fliers, program bills, souvenirs, photographs I myself took, bus tickets on the back of which several artists drew casual sketches and threw away which are documents now, plain paper sheets and tissue papers on which people like Mitran (Devanesen) and others drew stage and set first sketches.... so on and so forth. From 60s (when I hadn't even started taking firmer steps)... till 2006. After that I stopped collecting except those I own from my company. There are too many artists in the business now to keep track of and I lost the excitement of watching many of the theatre shows because they are purely of no aesthetic value to me and commerce never really excites me. 

Anyway, back to Mohan Das. I have some old random pictures. I hope you enjoy these. Some of these have solid history behind them. Notice how his places and facades have the same personality and character as some of the faces he captured. PLEASE FEED ME YOUR THOUGHTS AND VISIT HIS FB PAGE AND GIVE HIM A PAT FOR HIS UNFLINCHING STAND. He's been a very unassuming but steadfast soldier among people of his tribe. Like an artist refusing to budge to the demands of commoditisation making aesthetic works even when there is no cash in the bank or gas in the vehicle tank, he has been plugging away stolidly. As against a lot of photographers I have known started with lofty ambitions and have ended up shooting all kind of things and people for the lure of filthy lucre indiscriminately, Mohan Das is an artist among photographers in the same breath as a lot of documentary film makers, theatre directors who choose their work with a certain politics at heart and mind. Soldier on Badagara...

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