'Bollywood is taking over your culture'

While Indian women were busy splurging on Pakistani fabrics, they could have hardly realised that a man with a camera around his neck was merrily capturing their frenzy.

So engrossed was he in his work that it was difficult even for Metrolife to sit Pakistani fashion and art photographer, radio host and jewellery designer Tapu Javeri down for a candid chat. Javeri was in the city to participate in the recently concluded ‘Aalishan Pakistan’ exhibition.  

The minute Javeri takes a break to relax at his stall one catches him adjusting the jewellery pieces and bags to look alluring. His mannerisms define his fetish for perfection, but was he was prepared to face the mad scramble of Indian shoppers for goodies from the other side of the border?

“I didn’t bring many bags or scarves, and hadn’t planned on selling. When I left Pakistan, I thought I would go and show my work, even if I don’t sell. This is my learning experience. In Pakistan stones and even gold is appreciated, but everyone out here wants a very specific kind of Pakistani jewellery which we have moved on from. I thought India would already have a traditional backbone, but what I discovered is that everyone here is looking at a very specific traditional piece of earring or jewellery as if it’s completely new. That’s fascinating to me because I can’t understand how the tradition seems to have been lost?”
His confessions don’t surprise, especially when as Indians we know how fast we get influenced!

“People watched Ramleela and went gaga over the big pair of chandbalis which are very traditional. Their great grandmothers would have definitely been wearing these. I am intrigued how India is rediscovering its own ancient roots which are still strong in Pakistan,” informs Javeri as one’s eyes fall on his books. The pages are filled with candid shots of personalities such as Aung San Suu Kyi and Aamina Sheikh (who played the elder sister in Pakistani serial Maat). The lensman shares how he got to go to Burma to fulfil his wish of photographing the Suu Kyi.

“My most-talked about experience is however with my favourite actor Mr Shashi Kapoor,” he says taking one back to 1997.

“I wanted to photograph him when he had come to Pakistan, but he was too busy. I requested him but he didn’t give me time. Then I thought where I could catch him and spoke and coaxed the customs department in Pakistan. I waited for him to come through the airport where everybody is equal and while he was in the departure lobby I said Salaam-Alaikum Shashi saab, How are you? Let’s sit down...’ First, he was amazed at how I had manage to do this, but later agreed to my request since he had time till his flight took off,” Javeri mesmerises the listener with similar tales.

He looks up to the works of ace Indian photographers Raghu Rai and Raghubir Singh and expresses his views on the recent change in India. One can sense the tension in his voice build up as he says, “Bollywood is a gorgeous thing but its taking over your culture. I would love a Bollywood filmmaker to say let’s make a movie about Kathak or Bharatanatyam. My only distress is everything gets a movie touch and you are losing your roots.”

Yet, when it comes to naming a personality who he still wishes to photograph, he picks “Lata ji. I hope she gives me time. And Madonna, I really want to photograph her and I will get to, some time.”  

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