Funny Business

By Ritesh Uttamchandani 0

Searching the streets for a “filler” image is a news photographer’s stock-in-trade. Some, like Ritesh Uttamchandani, enjoy playing at this theatre of the observed

      For any newspaper photographer, the standalone image is one that evokes equal amounts of dread and delirium. The standalone, offbeat, or “opbit”, is that one photograph requisitioned to plug a three-column hole on a page. But I love hunting for slices of life, those in-between moments in the lives of others and mine. Pictures that make the reader pause, incite an aww, or a haha, or the coveted aha! With news becoming more entertainment than entertainment itself, I find the hunt for the standalone therapeutic not just for its consumers, but for me too. It takes a lot of walking and speedy execution to arrive at one.

      For some inexplicable reason, I find myself drawn towards the visual depiction of humour in everyday situations. People caught midway between things. Like the “headless” parking lot attendant who was really covering his head with a shirt to avoid crow poop; or the two workers taking turns posing with a new camera on the banks of the polluted Mithi. Or the innocuous man walking out from behind a standing casket on a Bandra Sunday morning. Or when I was once walking by a theatre in Dadar and saw a board that advertised a modern-day version of Mughal-e-Azam, written by a guy who wrote slogans for Maharashtra Navnirman Sena campaigns. I was early and caught Shehzada Salim and one of his co-actors playing carrom.

      Although I have had the good fortune of having photographed across this country and some others too, the images presented here are only from Bombay—my city, my home and my personal zoo. Every street and every little turn is full of bizarre humans doing even more bizarre stuff, sometimes loud and sometimes subtle, all of which I race to capture. For instance, one of the most crowded of Bombay’s famously crowded local trains I have travelled on is the first train of the day, at 3.25am. The train is overflowing with vegetable vendors, flower sellers and Koli fisherwomen. It is also the day’s most fragrant train, depending, of course, on which compartment you are in!

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This photo essay was published in the April-June 2018 issue of The Indian Quarterly magazine. The theme of the issue is “Black and White”.

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