Travel with a mystic in his search of the ultimate truth in Ashok Kochhar's images.

A dancing figure clamouring to dissolve into the cosmos, the emerald green colour of his robe together with his hair bouncing about. Not to forget the complex patterns formed by his strings of beads in motion…that's the sufi mystic of senior lensman Ashok Kochhar, created in the medium of photographs. The various stages of evolution in the life of a seeker — right from the restlessness propelling him to look out, to Baka, a state where one gets a glimpse of the higher self to finally that of Fana or fulfilment are presented in 30 frames by Kochhar in the first of his series on what he calls ‘spiritual art photography'.

The exposition on Sufism will be followed by one on Krishna and another one on Buddha later this year.

“In today's fragile world, we need concepts like these. My sufi doesn't belong to any religion, he doesn't care if he is a Hindu, Muslim, Christian or a Sikh. He is simply enjoying his state of being which is utterly blissful, for he isn't in conflict with his situation but in harmony,” elaborates Kochhar on his project.

But the sufi takes on a journey before he eventually arrives there and that state of flux is what is shown in the images. “It has taken me 20 years to reach here. I couldn't have produced such a body of work alongside my commercial assignments. It wouldn't have been so genuine and pure. I didn't wander searching for the subject. Being a student of spirituality, I could easily get the message that came from nature or my surroundings,” says the photographer about the process he went through while making the pictures. “He was dancing and so was I. We were clapping and shooting. I don't think, I have clicked this picture. Somebody possessed me,” he says pointing towards the shot of ‘Fanaa' in which the mystic isn't visible but just has his green robe swaying, rendering it fluidity.

One stretch, 83 frames

Kochhar chose a first year student of National School of Drama for the assignment, who along with the make-up artiste was given discourses in Sufism before they began work. “You won't believe, the actor arrived in the studio with a serious bout of diarrhoea but we completed it one stretch with 83 frames. I worked with two lights; the constant light gave me a blur and with flash light, I froze the moment. It's a simple technique and every photographer knows it, but it's about how, when and where you use it. I haven't done anything to them on computer, they are as it is,” says the artiste referring to the image in which the mystic is levitating in ecstasy. “It's a very heavy cloth chosen specially to give us certain kind of folds so as to add to the effect. As for picking up green, it's because green represents growth,” he adds.

While it is green which shines in most of the pictures, one of them has a striking combination of magenta -red, which Kochhar says is a metaphor for the intensity with which the sufi is searching for the divine power. “And look at the shadow here. The whole concept of Dvaita or dualism comes into play here. But be it Baka, Fana, Satori of Zen philosophy or Dvaita, ultimately it's all about reaching there,” concludes Kochhar, who is now starting a professional institute of photography in the Capital.

(The exhibition is on at Shridharani Gallery, Triveni Kala Sangam till July 4. For details call 98100-85082)

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