Anil Thakraney: Prabuddha: Photographer with soul

17 Aug,2012

By Anil Thakraney


I did a detailed interview with Prabuddha Das Gupta in 1999. This was for The Brief, the ad mag I used to edit at the time. We met at his minimalistic, but very stylish home inDelhi. I recall we had a wonderful exchange, mainly because we hit it off. This doesn’t often happen during interviews, and when it does, you can be assured of a candid and meaningful conversation.


Prabuddha was not in a very happy mood that day, and that’s putting it mildly. He was out on bail, and was irritated over the possibility of another round of police action. The Maharashtra government had got him arrested for the very controversial Tuff shoes campaign, which he had shot. (Younger readers can surf the net to learn more about the sordid drama over that campaign.)


Prabuddha Dasgupta (pic:

The photographer directed his fury at the IAPA, who, he felt, did not stand by him at the time. He said: “When you are dealing with images with creativity, you’re always dealing with something that’s controversial, you’re always trying to push the envelope. I have no respect for an organization which doesn’t support that.” But all the legal mess clearly hadn’t bogged the photographer down. When I asked if he’d do a Tuff Shoes all over again, without blinking an eyelid he exclaimed, “Oh yeah!”. That was Prabuddha for you. Fearless. A word that best describes the individuality he brought to his craft.


One reason why the entire ad world remembers him fondly is that Prabuddha put his soul in every picture he shot, be it for artistic or commercial photography. This quality is rare to find in Indian advertising photographers, most of who treat photography as an assignment that needs to be done and dusted. According to Prabuddha: “If you are not bringing something of your own to the image, then the image equals another image, which in turn equals the third image, and so on. For a photographer, what is critical is not just to have the ability to deliver a competent image, but the ability to deliver something that’s uniquely his or her own. You are not being paid so much money only for your technical ability to press the shutter six times.”


And this is why his death is a huge blow to the ad world. The industry has lost a photographer who brought his own sensibility to the picture. He conceived, he imagined, he created. And only then did he press the button.


And, me being me, I needled the man on his book, ‘Women’, in which he had captured scintillating nude images. Didn’t he, while shooting, feel the urge to cross the line? I still remember Prabuddha smiling, as he took in a deep drag from his Wills Filter. “No, I didn’t cross the line. If I want to sleep with someone, I don’t have to go through the whole process to do it. But yes, I have to admit the temptation was there. I am a man, after all, with a woman unclothed in front of me.”


Rest in peace, Prabuddha. I totally enjoyed the teas and the smokes. And the delightful talk on nude women. Wish we had a chance to do another round.


* * *


PS: Sadly, the film and ad world has lost another great craftsman: Ashok Mehta. While I did not get an opportunity to interact much with the ace cinematographer, I did work with him on a TV commercial for Taj Mahal Tea. And if there’s one single impression I carried back of the man, it’s this: Mehta was always smiling; he was unflustered and totally chilled out even when things were going wrong, and the director was tearing his hair out. Ashok Mehta was the ‘King of Cool’. Anyone who worked with him will readily agree with this description. RIP.


Post a Comment 

One response to “Anil Thakraney: Prabuddha: Photographer with soul”

  1. Himanshu says:


    An obituary which means every word of it…

Today's Top Stories