Bollywood film industry's legendary photographer Gautam Rajadhyaksha passed away here in the early hours of Tuesday after he suffered a massive heart attack.
“He lived alone. Other members [at home] went to wake him up and found that he had passed away. He was up till 3.30 a.m. He was fine. He said he was going off to sleep. We found him dead in the morning,” Mr. Rajadhyaksha's cousin and well-known writer and columnist, Shobhaa De, said.
“He had no immediate family; only nephews and nieces. He was not suffering from any ailment. So the heart attack did come as a shock,” nephew Sanjay Rajadhyaksha told The Hindu.
Celebrities, namely filmmaker Karan Johar, actors Kajol, Rani Mukherjee, Juhi Chawla were among those who visited Mr. Rajadhyaksha's residence in south Mumbai to pay their last respects. The funeral was held at Chandanwadi in the evening and was attended by family and friends. Tina Ambani, Ms. De, lyricist Javed Akhtar and theatre personality Dolly Thakore attended the funeral.
Mr. Rajadhyaksha was cremated in the evening after the last rites were performed.
Mr. Akhtar described the ace lensman as “a very rich person, emotionally, intellectually. There were so many aspects to his personality. He was a good raconteur. He was extremely sincere and a very educated person who could talk on any topic. He was an authority on Opera and the classics. He had a huge collection of western classical music. He knew a lot about old cinema too,” Mr. Akhtar said.
“There can only be one Gautam,” Ms. De said.
Making celebrity photographs his specialty, Mr. Rajadhyaksha went on to become an iconic figure in the industry. Starting out from an ad agency, he quickly gained recognition as a glamour photographer when he started to take his own pictures for star interviews. He moved to working for magazines such as The Illustrated Weekly of India, and film magazines like Stardust, Cineblitz and Filmfare. “I pushed him into photography. I bullied him into getting into professional photography. So I feel a sense of pride. He was not very confident and I told him to just go out there and do it. You could see his talent. He was an administrative officer in Lintas looking after the photography division. He was coordinating. I pushed him to start writing. He was one of the first photojournalists in India who would interview and click the celebrity he was interviewing,” Ms. De said.
In 1992, he wrote his first screenplay for the film Bekhudi, which launched actor Kajol's career. In 1997, he released a coffee table book titled ‘FACES', containing 45 film personalities.
“He treated every single person who came into his studio like a superstar, whether it was a Sachin Tendulkar or an aspiring model. He treated every single person exactly the same way. He made them comfortable. This I have not seen in any other photographer. This ability to reach out, to make them feel wonderful about themselves regardless of how they looked. People used to say, ‘Gautamji ke lens me jadoo hai' [there is magic in Gautam's lens]. His lens was not soft focussed, but it captured something that was soft and wonderful in a person, which no other photographer could capture. To be photographed by Gautam was a privilege. It was to know that the person behind you is going to make you look like a goddess.” Ms. De said.
“He was an opera devotee. He loved Italian Opera and I insisted that instead of playing bhajans please play Opera. He loved Tosca so much. He was a man of very many passions beyond photography. He was a great cook; a lot of people don't know that. He was a superb orator — bilingual. He spoke and wrote Marathi very well. He loved his music, his food, his life and photography. I will make sure that the Gautam Rajadhyaksha frame remains immortal,” she said.
Starting a photography programme at Pune's Symbiosis Institute had been Mr. Rajadhyaksha's dream for the past few years. On 16th September, the day of his 61st birthday, a grand function has been organised in Pune, which he was to attend. “The programme would have mentored a lot of young photographers. And he has already mentored so many who would just come to him and say sir teach us photography. The last two years he was working almost obsessively. The stress of it could have taken a toll. We would tell him to slow down. But he said it's got to be done. He was shooting till the last minute. I am so glad that he died with the camera in hand which is the way he would have wanted to go,” Ms. De said.
“I will remember him with a lot of joy and happiness. Fantastic memories of great shoots. He was also training to be a classical singer. His voice was so mellifluous. It was like liquid gold in his throat. He had also planned to cut an album with Asha Bhosle. In a way, he was preparing for a debut in music. He sang Opera and Indian classical music. He shot my wedding and Kajol's wedding. Those pictures are like no other wedding pictures. They are so spontaneous.”
The news of Mr. Rajadhyaksha's demise sent shockwaves through the industry as reactions poured in on the social networking site, Twitter.
“Gautam Rajadhyaksha the gentlest of humans, and one of the finest photographers in the industry, a friend, family favourite…RIP. Too shocked to learn of Gautam! Were talking about him just the other day. Many of his pictures adorn our house and our books. You have left behind a legacy that shall keep you in our hearts forever. Pictures that you took shall be with us always!” Amitabh Bachchan tweeted.