An unknown terrain, complicated by an unknown language: shooting for a coffee table book on Kutch was a challenge for wildlife photographer Diinesh Kumble
Freezing images for posterity is perhaps a natural reflex for Diinesh Kumble. However, when the Gujarat government commissioned him to work on a coffee table book on the State’s largest district Kutch, the chief thinker and principal photographer at Krab Media, a Bangalore-based firm, was staring at a steep challenge.
Think Kutch and an arid landscape springs to mind. Similiarly, Diinesh too was pigeon-holed into twin-slots when it came to photography – wildlife and cricket. Now, he not only had to showcase the multiple layers that define Kutch but also prove that he could capture varied slices of life with the same felicity that he reserved for an elephant or a cover-drive.
On the evidence of the book – Kutch, A Pictorial Journey – launched in Gujarat by Chief Minister Narendra Modi on April 30, Diinesh has delivered on both counts. The biggest tribute to Diinesh came from Modi when the latter said: “Diinesh has shown us Gujarat in a different way.” It helped that Diinesh has had previous photographic trysts with Gujarat and his earlier book on the State’s Vibrant Wildlife was well received. Explaining the genesis of his latest book, Diinesh says: “They (Gujarat administration) said ‘why don’t we do one more on their largest district – Kutch.’ In fact, Kutch is the largest district in India.”
The challenges were manifold as Diinesh in his own words had to cope with ‘an area that gets water-logged in the monsoon, a landscape and a language (Kutchi) that is different.’ He enthusiastically waded into the assignment and with wife, Romila, drove down to Kutch last October. They traversed the entire district and what you get are riveting glimpses of warm people with their colourful attire, the cultural nuances, the Rann of Kutch, the wildlife, the Harappan sites and even solitary moments like the one of an old lady making ‘rotlas’ for her family, which is a favourite with Diinesh. “It is a simple thing. She makes these rotlas, may be 40, 50 every day and it was fascinating,” he says. Shooting at the Rann of Kutch was arduous.
“In the Rann, when the (saline) water retreats, the evaporation rate is high and it becomes a salt desert. It is white and the glare is intense. On a full moon night it is a beautiful sight. We battled to get the full moon and the white Rann,” Diinesh says. The stumbling blocks were not merely centred only on light as there was also the need to alter his approach to photography.
“The biggest challenge was that we are dealing with people. In wildlife photography, you got to be silent but here you have to chatter. And we also don’t know the language so we had a local interpreter who was also a photographer.”
Being Anil Kumble’s elder brother, cricketing analogies also comes naturally to Diinesh and he says: “When you start out on a shoot you get prepared, it’s like a test match. This (Kutch experience) is more like a Twenty20, you got to adapt very quickly. In the morning, we are shooting arts and crafts, suddenly someone will say there is a nice beautiful landscape or someone will mention about a beautiful sunset and then you rush.”
In the future, Diinesh would love to do a pictorial book on all the States, especially Karnataka, and he is currently supervising a pictorial book on the Nilgiris Mountain Railway. “These kind of books need government and corporate support,” he says, while charting his company’s growth through online endeavours, besides waiting for that perfect moment to unleash his camera.