Sheena Sippy's images are without any trace of the hallmark glamour and glitz

The passion for imagery is innate in Sheena Sippy. Having roots in a family which gave us not just Sholay — a landmark film in the history of Indian cinema directed by her father Ramesh Sippy — but many other noteworthy projects, Sheena has grown up watching stories being spun out of a web of images layered with diverse meanings. “There has to be an element of genetics,” says Sippy who chose the still camera to tell the tales her own way.

“Cine Indo-Chine”, her ongoing exhibition in the Capital, born during the filming of Akshay Kumar-Deepika Padukone starrer Chandni Chowk To China produced by her brother Rohan Sippy, is a continuation of that practice. At the same time, it marks a departure too, for Sheena, with this body of work seems to be entering the zone of fine art photography.

Her repertoire, all this while, consisted of Hindi cinema and food — books like “Lights Camera Action”, “Bollywood Posters”, film stills for her home productions and yet another book – “Around the World in 80 Plates”. With Cine Indo-Chine, Sheena changes tracks and draws parallels and similarities between two developing countries from the Asian continent. The format has changed too. Here she toys with diptychs and triptychs adding to it the elements like colour bars and graphic compositions.

Randomly shooting on the sets of Chandni Chowk to China in Shanghai and Chandni Chowk in Delhi, Sheena later realised that there can emerge a narrative even if the pictures taken in two nations, two different settings are juxtaposed. “It's not what you do for a brief given by an advertising agency. I take photographs, I don't paint and I choose how to express myself,” explains Sheena. She had her first solo in Mumbai in 2002.

Bereft of chaos

In one of the frames, while one part shows the tangled wires on an electricity pole with a child looking below from his window in Chandni Chowk, the other half depicts another electricity pole in China standing against a pink wall but bereft of any chaos. “While China picture shows control and order, the scene on the other side is chaotic. They are simple comparisons. They do go slightly deeper but for me it's more of a visual story,” expresses Sheena who is now working on another book on food.

She rustles up a visual treat in the photograph wherein a Chinese woman attired in all her traditional finery is being clicked by another woman wearing an identical costume. The red pillars and the railing atop which the woman stands works well with the fabrics in myriad hues neatly displayed on the shelves of a matching centre. “The passion and obsession of looking good is juxtaposed with a matching centre. These centres are iconic,” she adds.

(The exhibition presented by Matthieu Foss gallery is on at Visual Arts Gallery, IHC, Lodi Road till February 13.)