Bollywood Gets Real, Without Makeup: Rare Pics of the Stars

It’s Bollywood’s best-kept secret: the shindig behind the publicity photo-session, the cost of which has mounted from scores of thousands to lakhs. An indie film, okay a short one albeit, could be squeezed out of the constantly soaring moolah invested in a single shoot – usually before the release of a star’s film.

And once in a tinsel moon, it’s for magazine covers (not many left there, though, but for the Asian editions of fashion glammies), come spring, fall (do we have one?) and winter fashion specials.

Quickly, I may tell you an A-list star at such shoots has been traditionally enriched by his or her hair-stylist, makeup-person, designer and car chauffer.
But for the designer, the other worthies have to be paid cushy sums, an extra give-or-beat-it ritual besides the star salary coughed up by the film producer.

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If the click-fest is for a magazine cover, the editor must moan on cue, “You know how it is, can’t pay your attendants too much.”

The photo-session diva Rekha on the cover of Filmfare in 1985.

If the click-fest is for a magazine cover, the editor must moan on cue, “You know how it is, can’t pay your attendants too much.” I’m guilty of that too, that sentence from me would drone as if from a recorded voicemail. In lieu of gushy publicity, the rates would be toned down.

Celebrity photographers, as they are termed, have had to go along with the media essentially to up their equity on the moviedom scene, depending far more on endorsement shoots and film posters and hoarding campaigns to earn their toast and caviar.

The photographer’s battery of assistants at the sessions were and perhaps still are the symbol of the sporting spirit and I suspect, underpaid. Handling paper rolls and chintzy backdrops, rushing to and fro from one heavy duty light to another, they dream on.

Right, so this in a walnut-shell, is the backstory of those bubble gum pouts and muscles-from-screen-tussles which have been upon us since movie kingdom come, from the analogue era to the digital boom – which entitles anyone with a smartphone to aspire to the credentials of a photographer.

Making news, Priyanka Chopra steps out of her hotel suite for a quick, unrehearsed shot for a daily newspaper.

Right, so this in a walnut-shell, is the backstory of those bubble gum pouts and muscles-from-screen-tussles which have been upon us since movie kingdom come, from the analogue era to the digital boom – which entitles anyone with a smartphone to aspire to the credentials of a photographer.

Suffering from a shoulder injury at the shoot of Kapoor and Sons in Coorg, Alia Bhatt didn’t shy away from wincing for a cellphone click.

Uh huh, so I’ve already expended a clutch of paragraphs like the prologue of some Ashutosh Gowariker period Mughal epic. The point, sparked by World Photography Day today, is that how about giving natural light a chance? Nothing like the sun or the moon to be the light source for fantastic star portraits, I’ve learnt through my greying-hair process.

To cut hotly to the chase, then, there’s also the age-old question, which I’m sure all of us have heard, “But do the stars look gorgeous without all that make-up glob, technical paraphernalia and photoshop-ing?” They do, they do. Candid shots are the best means to catch the core essence of the celebrity.

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Camera chameleon Sonam Kapoor. Her cheek-bones, flawless skin and infectious smile were captured by the legendary camera whiz Prabuddha Dasgupta.

And by this I don’t mean the paparazzi flash-bulb clicks at airports, outside restaurant awnings and shudder, stars seated on the backseats of their sedans, with the chauffeur striving to look like a poker-faced Buster Keaton. Amused but won’t show it, or apna Keaton may end up looking more camera-friendly than the biggies he’s ferrying.

Most, if not all Bollywood-wallas, I may tell you, are mortified when asked for selfies.

Anil Kapoor caught unawares as his hair is about to be trimmed.

Au naturel photographs – with no cosmetics or maybe just a patina of talc, no Amazonic hairstyles, no outfits which seem borrowed for the evening from a buddy-buddy designer, no hair locks being blown by a fan from the Dark Ages, and certainly no faux pirouettes, are the photographs which humanise the celebrities, instead of displaying them as stars who have descended from heaven to Mother Earth.

Karisma Kapoor’s brief for Fiza was to depict the everyday Muslim neighbourood girl. No makeup and chikan kurtas were to be her costumes.

Most, if not all Bollywood-wallas, I may tell you, are mortified when asked for selfies. Is the light from the ceiling at the hotel foyer cool? Or is it jaundiced yellow? Care has to be taken to make the moment as glamorous as it can get in unavoidable circumstances. No selfie, and the fan can get alienated from a favourite dream girl or Greek God, for life.

Madhuri Dixit’s dressed-to-the-teeth look in Kalank didn’t show her at her best. In her prime, during the ’90s, she had no issues about being clicked before a full make-up on session had begun.

To date, stars take on photo sessions only as a necessary evil. Rekha is the only exception. That uttered, Ma’am Re won’t ever go for natural, sans make-up and elaborate sarongs and saris set-up. Fuh-get it. She dictates every teenie-weenie detail, and has had her pet lens-men at different phases of her life, right from the late Taiyeb Badshah and Jagdish Mali to Ashok Salian and Jayesh Sheth. If she’s been keeping a low-profile nowadays, not to worry, she’ll be back. No one quite knows the art of makeup and still photography as expertly as she does.

(Unused photo clicked by Dabboo Ratnani at Madame Tussauds for the book To Be or Not To Be Bachchan)

Amitabh Bachchan can be impatient about publicity photos. Catch him in a rare, all’s-well-with-the-world mood and he can improvise on the spot.

Gratifyingly, the millennial stars are not as fussy, not all the time anyway. They agree to candids, and pick the most flattering of the bunch rewound for their approval. Delete the rest, is the request.

Gratifyingly, the millennial stars are not as fussy, not all the time anyway. They agree to candids, and pick the most flattering of the bunch rewound for their approval. Delete the rest, is the request.

Straight after her morning bath and puja, Hema Malini as she is, beautiful without fuss or fret.

Which is fine, a star can’t be vigilant enough. As for those vacation clicks at the Maldives or the Bahamas or wherever on Instagram accounts, these are edited and posted to get the maximum number of hits. Going viral on Twitter, ah nothing like enhancing the count of followers. To pop up on the list of the leading social influencers, is the new means to gauge one’s star status ever since fan letters (read snail mail) became as irregular as the good old postman delivering a sackful of missives at the doorstep.

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By the way, top-line photographers I’ve known aren’t too exultant about star photo sessions any more. Intervention from the PR personnel has exacerbated their disenchantment. Not surprisingly, then, glam photographers have either quit clicking star photographs, and occasionally succumb to the exercise if the subject is known to be collaborative. Sonam Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Akshay Kumar and Taapsee Pannu, no hassles guaranteed.

But naturally, Rishi Kapoor flashes a disarming smile, two years ago in his bungalow’s den for a cellphone shot.

To wrap, then, and this is a matter of personal taste perhaps, I cherish the photos which catch the stars as they are, when they aren’t faking it. And for memorable photography’s sake, may their tribe increase.

(The writer is a film critic, filmmaker, theatre director and a weekend painter.)

Dailyhunt

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by Dailyhunt. Publisher: The Quint

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