Sohrab Hura


Whatever little imagery stuck in my head from the time I was growing up goes far beyond photography. Television was new to us and programs would only be aired in the afternoons and the evenings. As kids, we would wait with excited anticipation with the television switched on before the scheduled time. I remember the blinding static followed by the colored bars. With that switch, the drone of static would give way to a maintained whistle of a sound that was almost as sharp as the colored bars accompanying it on screen. It meant that soon there would be a countdown to the now iconic Doordarshan (state owned television channel) montage that presented the start of the afternoon’s program. It was all so bad, that it was one of the coolest things I had ever seen.

On television, an animation piece called Anek Chidiya, which spoke about strength in unity through a story about birds, seemed to play on television almost everyday of my 1980s life. Considering that this video piece had been made in 1974, and from my hazy memory seemed to have lasted through a good chunk of the eighties, it must have been a masterpiece. We were still at the edge of the orbit of socialist India and, more importantly given that I hadn’t yet hit the age of 10, it was not weird at the time to happily sway to propaganda through television meant for children. With the rise of Hindu nationalism and religious violence against minorities in India now, the same tune would take on a far scarier tone if it were to be aired today.
My first encounter with a photographer was with film characters Vinod Chopra & Sudhir Mishra. They ran the best photo studio in Bombay and their cheeky confidence, their attire, their hairstyles and, most importantly, their glitzy cameras had me in splits. They once photographed a murder by accident while trying to make photographs to enter a photo competition and had all the bad guys chasing them. I was almost eight at the time and having just watched the cult film Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro I dreamt of becoming a photographer for the whole of the next week. I only understood satire when I got older.

Towards the late eighties and early nineties, through the phase of liberalization, India had started to open up to the world. I had also started to experience a new world of special effects. Amitabh Bachchan’s Ajooba blew me away and each subsequent B-grade Horror film by the Ramsay Brothers scared the living daylight out of me. It was almost at the cusp of my teenage years that I started to notice photographs.  But it was always events that led me to these photographs and the events were always the horrific ones: the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, the Mandal Commission protests, the Babri Masjid demolition in Ayodhya, the Bombay riots, the 1993 Bombay bombings. I remember the images quite clearly because I felt scared when I looked at them. Life was a lot slower and there was far more time to process all these images.


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