Through the lens, sadly: Remembering Gautam Rajadhyaksha

13 Sep,2011

By Hemant Kenkre

The last message from my friend Gautam Rajadhyaksha, a few days ago, said: I will be heading the School of Photography at the Symbiosis International University; we are launching soon. He was planning to head to Pune for the launch on September 16 (his birthday) with his dear friend, ace makeover artist Mickey Contractor.

As I write this, the events of the last ten hours have yet to sink in. Gautam’s gone to the great studio in the sky, without saying farewell to his many friends and (very unlike the propah man that he was) not letting the institute know. As one walked up the winding steps, dotted with posters from classic operas, all the way to his quaint, artistically done second-floor apartment on Hughes Road, memories of an association of more than 25 years flashed by.

The many shoots that one witnessed of Gautam clicking away  making superstars of hopeful actors. The high notes of operatic arias immortalized by the likes of Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo (Kiti Chintu [Rishi Kapoor] sarkha disto na? he used to say to me) or the dulcet tones of his favourite muse, Asha Bhosle.

Much has been written about his photographic skills  inspired by the late Wilas Bhende, whom he considered his guru. Gautam was also passionate about music  operas, Marathi natyasangeet and RD Pancham Burman. When Pancham went for a photoshoot at Gautam’s residence cum studio, the duo started to discuss the finer points of opera, leaving a bemused Ashaji wondering when the shoot would start. This was probably one of his favourite shoots. The other, undoubtedly, was when he shot a live (and rare) concert featuring sisters Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle at the Salt Lake Stadium to commemorate Calcutta’s tercentenary. His work, while he sat hunched on the round stage for more than four hours, perfectly depicts the versatility and class of the two divas.

It was one of his pet dreams to get Ashaji to sing operas  selected by him  in Hindi. Gautam would certainly have known which operas would suit Ashaji as he has the second largest collection of operas in India. In the early 1990s Gautam co-scripted the film Bekhudi which saw the birth of Kajol as an actress. I will never forget the many discussions we had as to who should be the music director. Pancham, alas, had just passed away.

One feels sad that Gautam could not live to see the birth of his baby: The School of Photography in Pune. He was hell-bent on passing on the tricks of his trade to Gen Next and this school would have brought him immense pleasure and satisfaction. Gautam was not just a connoisseur of art, music and culture but was, in the words of ace lensman Shantanu Sheorey, one of the many photographers he mentored, a complete giver.

And, as his mortal remains were being carried down those steps on the final journey, the high notes of Pavarotti rang out, bidding goodbye to one of music’s fondest devotees.

Farewell my friend, we will all miss you.


Hemant Kenkre is a senior communications consultant and cricket analyst.



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4 responses to “Through the lens, sadly: Remembering Gautam Rajadhyaksha”


    Gautamkaka was my distant uncle and I used to meet him as a child and youngster in family marriages.
    As time passed then a close friend’s son wanted to get his photos clicked by Gautamkaka and I called him and immediately he agreed to meet him and shoot his pictures.
    I was touched by his simplicity and kindness and then through Facebook kept in touch with him regularly.
    His death is great shock and we must try and come together to fulfill his last wishes and unfulfilled dream and thats how we can actually pay our respects to him.
    Nitin Vijay Adarkar

  2. Shruti says:


  3. Very heart-touching tribute from one great man to another great soul who has made the transition to a greater heavenly studio where, I am sure, he will be training many more … to be better photographers and more important, to be greater human beings!

  4. I join you in this grief dear Hemant.Subash Awachat did tell me that he was to come to Pune for this function.It is sad that we couldn’t celebrate Gautam’s birthday.I was introduced to Gautam by Mickey as he was Kiran’s friend, make-up person and a family friend.Gautam had done a portfolio shoot for Nandini my sister-in-law at the behest of Mickey and sure enough Gautam was the best!!!
    A wonderful Human and true Artist.His liking was in a varied number of fields.Every collection in his house tells his story!May his soul rest in peace.