Tag Archive: Nemai Ghosh


Freeze Frame

By Jaya Biswas

A breathtaking photograph of Satyajit Ray stuns visitors into silence when they step into Nemai Ghosh’s drawing room. And by the time you stop admiring it, you are likely to forget  why you have come for.

One man still considered the last word on the celluloid Czar, Nemai Ghosh (popularly called his photo-biographer) was the only person allowed to shoot on the sets of Ray. He quietly preserved the moments as Ray canned history — capturing the intense passions and pains dexterously through his lens. Today he is the proud owner of 90,000 pictures of Ray alone. Each of the shots has its own particular interplay of light and shade telling its own story, a story in which Ray is but one of the elements.

Nemai Ghosh says, “At no point did I lose touch with the man in action. I watched from a distance through the lens of my camera. It was as if the camera was an extension of me and I’d never keep it down in case I miss a golden moment.”

Ghosh’s passion for theatre led to a second collection of photographs that forms a pictorial history of theatre in Kolkata over the last four decades. His photographs capture the distinctive individualities of renowned directors, actors, actresses like Shambhu Mitra, Utpal Dutta, Manoj Mitra, Badal Sarkar et al.

Ghosh’s style shows spontaneity and action, a rare feat attained by any other still photographer. “Unlike other photographers, I can’t shoot a static subject. It is more intuitive and instinctive for me as I shoot a person in action,” he explains.

Secondly, his strict norm of using only black-and-white prints and not using a flashlight shears the effort of any decorative element or technical gimmickry. “Black and white photographs are here to stay forever. The fair play of light and shade entices me more than shooting with a coloured film,” he states.

It didn’t come to us as a surprise when Nemai Ghosh finally got his dues in the form of Padma Shree, early this year. But one wondered, why so late?! Ghosh, however, has no complaints. He says, “Better late than never. People have questioned me why I accepted the award now. To tell you the truth, I don’t mind. I’m glad our government has finally acknowledged and appreciated my endeavours.”

July 10, 2010 saw the launch of his book Faces Of Indian Art by Hon’ble Governor of West Bengal Shri M K Narayanan. It was followed by an exhibition of the works of 52 eminent artists featured in the book at Weavers Studio Centre for the Arts, Kolkata.

With Faces of Indian Art, for the first time, Ghosh gives an insider’s view of how a painter works in his own private domain or at work. This is a private space of introspection with the artist in solitude and in dialogue with his work. Ghosh has managed to capture painters from Benodebehari Mukherjee, Jamini Roy to Manjit Bawa, Arpita Singh, sculptors Ramkinkar Baij to Dhruva Mistry at work, as they paint or sculpt. The volume of work traverses half-a-century as the journey of the ace photographer maps the length and breadth of India and beyond to Paris, where Raza lives. The exhibition is on till August 14, 2010.

Interestingly, this is his first book of coloured photographers. “I had no choice. Although I prefer black and white, taking pictures of these artists using vibrant hues, would have been an insult to their work,” Ghosh reasons.

Ghosh has many interesting anecdotes to share regarding this book. Reminiscing his shooting episode with MF Husain, he says, “I think I’ve been really lucky with this project. I got full cooperation from the artists I have featured in this book, including Husain Saab. Though I had trouble getting in touch with him, once I spoke to him about my project, he immediately complied. And not only that, he flew down to Kolkata for me. That I think was a great gesture on his part.”

Always on the move, Ghosh has already planned his next project. “The work is in progress. I have already shot almost 10 more artists for volume 2 and volume 3 of the same series,” he informs. “I am also planning a mega project wherein I’ll be drawing similarities in the lives of Satyajit Ray-Bijoya Ray and Italian filmmaker Michaelangelo Antonioni and his wife Enrica. I won’t to focus on the husband and wife relationship establishing my point with a series of pictures,” Ghosh signs off.

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