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“Now that I have discovered that my photographs can be used to generate funds for worthy causes, I am even more excited,” she smiles. Over the years, with her quiet demeanour, she has graced art events, …theatre presentations and Page 3 dos with a dignified ease and earned goodwill everywhere. All that translated into generosity when she auctioned her collection of photographs. Her last exhibition for the Multiple Sclerosis Society of India earned over Rs. 10 lakh. She rebuffs the notion that well-heeled Hyderabadis hesitate to open their purse strings for causes. “If the cause is genuine and the organisation makes efforts to promote it well, I have seen that people come forward to contribute,” she says.
A writer, publisher, photographer, documentary filmmaker and currently the President, Blue Cross of Hyderabad, Amita slips into different roles effortlessly. Her eyes light up when she talks about photography. Her interest stemmed from her father. “He was fond of clicking pictures us in childhood, and mom in particular who was extremely beautiful,” she laughs. She didn't have the joy of learning from her father, though, since he passed away when she was in IX Standard. “My real learning began during school trips. My first camera was a six-inch Bronica,” she recalls, even as she fiddles with her new possession, a full frame Nikon D 700. She says, “Now my friends tell me Canon is better. I refuse to be drawn into this Nikon vs. Canon debate. I believe that a photographer has to look beyond gadgets. As long as you have an eye for photographs, any professional SLR should work,” she says. Her interest in photography grew post marriage when she moved base from Delhi to Muscat. “I was never interested in clothes, jewellery etc. So my husband was more than willing to indulge me with cameras,” she says. She began with shooting family members and shifted focus to landscapes as she travelled at great length. “These days, subconsciously I find myself capturing spiritual symbols,” she says.
The big step
Egged on by her friends who saw her photographs, she held her first exhibition, Prakriti, at Shrishti Art Gallery in 2005. “I exhibited my works along with Avani Rao's paintings. Then, Avani and I jointly curated an art exhibition highlighting works of artistes from Andhra Pradesh,” she recalls.
The icing on the cake was showcasing her photographs in New York's Wendt Gallery in 2010 along with photographers Pablo Bartholomew and Prabir Purkayastha. The proceeds went to Mira Nair's Salaam Balak Trust.
Today, apart from the new look of Channel 6 , which she wants to position as a lifestyle magazine, she is focussed on working on her second book, a collection of photographs of Benaras. Apart from that, there are two unfinished documentaries that demand attention. One of the documentaries focuses on the Ramnami sect in Chattisgarh. “People in this relatively unknown tribe tattoo every inch of their body,” she says and reflects on Sahayog Foundation. “When I first visited the place, it was shocking to see that there was no road in this village and not a single shop. Children had to bicycle 10km to reach their schools. With a lot of effort from Ramdas Lamb, there's improvement now. We set up an NGO and gave people bicycles, sewing machines and trained them for jobs. Among other things, we provided cameras and taught young girls to take photographs. We helped them set up small studios,” she says. The documentary, she informs, involves editing more than 10,000 hours of footage shot by Ramdas Lamb. “More than technical aspects of filmmaking, what draws me is the opportunity it gives us to interact with people,” she says. Her very first documentary was on the life of Kaifi Azmi.
As she talks about her closely interlinked creative pursuits, from photography to writing and filmmaking, she says it all began with writing. While in Muscat, she wrote for Khaleej Times and Times of Oman before moving back to India. “I found that there was a vacuum in Hyderabad. There was no magazine that brought out a calendar of events,” she says. Channel 6 was born in August 1990. Two decades later, she felt the need for a change and the city guide is now a lifestyle magazine. “We'd like to stay ahead and offer previews of what's happening each month,” she says.
There's a lot that needs to be done. She paces up her residence in Banjara Hills and says, “Our family has been on the move, living in the Gulf, then back to Delhi and Hyderabad. I hail from Patiala but I cannot call any place other than Hyderabad as home.”
I believe that a photographer has to look beyond gadgets. As long as you have an eye for photographs, any professional SLR should work