It’s not just with his palette that he is experimental, artist Manu Parekh — who recently exhibited his photography for the first time — is eager to impart new flavours to his palate

It was with some reluctance that Manu Parekh agreed to exhibit his photographs at United Art Fair (UAF) in September. It took Ram Rahman 10 years to convince Manu to bring out his photography in the open. And it is again with some reluctance that the artist agrees to be part of the column. That he doesn’t seem to be talking too much about a passion that he has nurtured since 80s, is Manu’s concern. “I don’t want to portray myself as a serious photographer. I have been doing it casually during my trips to Banaras and I don’t know what Ram saw in these photographs but yes, I love to take pictures…In a way it is an extension of my art practice as a painter,” says Manu Parekh who showcased six diptychs and triptychs at UAF.

But is he as reluctant an eater, one is tempted to ask. “What happens with Gujaratis is that wherever they go they always look for Gujarati food. But I never did that and also travelling helped me become less fussy about food and in fact more experimental with it. I have really explored chicken dishes and travelling has made me more fond of it but I can eat idli any time and all the time and Madhvi (fellow artist and wife) makes it really well,” reveals Manu settling for chicken salad and pita bread with baba ghanoush in the absence of idli from Pickwicks menu at The Claridges. At home, he eats anything Madhvi cooks. “Things are such in our society that a wife needs to ask her husband what to cook. So when we (Madhvi and I) went to Mumbai for job, Madhvi asked me the first day what would I like to eat. I got a little irritated but I didn’t say anything. Then second day she asked me the same question. Again I didn’t say anything. Then when she asked me the same thing third day, I told her she is free to cook anything she wants…She doesn’t need my permission or approval and since that day it has been like that. I see it as another aspect of economic independence of woman which is very important,” says Manu, much known for his powerful work on Banaras.

It was while visiting Banaras, Manu first began to take images. “It was like a diary for me, a sketch, I would refer to while painting. So it was a very personal thing. I was very nervous that Ram would ask for its negatives which I didn’t have but he just took it like that and had them blown up.” Seeing his love for South Indian cuisine, we recommend appam with chicken stew to which he happily agrees. “Idli is the greatest food but another thing that I have a weakness for is khichdi. I can eat it any time,” reveals the senior painter from Gujarat, who pursued a diploma in drawing and painting from Sir J.J. School of Art, Mumbai.

Coming back to the domain of photography, he is making inroads in, Manu says, he wants to keep it very simple. “I don’t want to learn aperture, exposure and get into the technicalities of it. And I don’t want to get this confidence of being a very good photographer. Photography is a very vast area and it’s not easy to get into it. The whole idea is to retain a very raw feel to my work.” Perhaps that’s how he lends painterly aesthetics to his photographs which were so much evident in the images on display at UAF. The detail of mundane sights amazed the viewer which was given another spin by pairing it with another image. “I simply applied the dada’s (Dada art movement) rule that take two readymade things and create something new,” says Manu relishing rabri and admitting his weakness for everything sweet allowing at last one Gujarati trait come to the fore.

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