Prakash Tilokani is India’s most influential wedding photographer, but the glamour behind his success has a touch of simplicity. Raj Lalwani finds out.
For the longest time, I thought that I will open this interview by describing Prakash Tilokani in a filmi way. That he has a bit of Bollywood in him. But then, I realised that this statement is such a contradictory one. With a rags-to-riches story that engages and inspires, India’s most successful wedding photographer’s journey does seem like a Hindi movie. But while his photos have the glitz and glamour of an opulent production, meeting him is like visiting a simple world created in a Hrishikesh Mukherjee movie. Not surprisingly, Mukherjee, and more recently, Rajkumar Hirani, are his favourite filmmakers.
A Sense of Simplicity
This tiny nugget actually told me a lot more about Tilokani than his several photos did. He has marched at the forefront of wedding photography success with grit and ambition, but is still, humble enough to shrug and smile when asked to analyse his success.
“Success is never analysed,” he told me, in a conversation that began with chai and ended with a Gujarati thali near his studio in Vadodara. “You just do what you have to, and your karam will give you what it should.” As he shows me around his larger-than-life studio, he reminisces about his beginnings, as a 15-year-old photographer in a local studio. A 44-square-feet hole-in-the-wall office that made one photo for Rs. 20, and even doubled up as a video casette library.
“The biggest secrets in wedding photography are actually the smallest ones… a calm head and the ability to understand human emotions.”
Being the Catalyst for Change
Success and longevity are measured by one’s ability to adapt, and the wedding industry has undergone tectonic shifts through the years, especially in the last decade. From being the first to shoot weddings with an organised, professional team to being one of the primary adopters of technologies like strobe lights and LED in weddings, Prakash has always been a visionary… probably the most influential photographer in a genre that is important, yet underrated in India.
Where Greatness Needs to Be
There is a certain disarming honesty with which he deals with this success. “I’m not a great photographer, please don’t call me that. I believe in shooting good images and being a great businessman. I ensure that no matter what happens, the client feels great after seeing the photographs.”
Where Does Personal Satisfaction Lie?
A wedding cannot be the ground to showcase your personal style, he believes… you have to keep in mind what the family wants. But doesn’t that creatively stifle him, I wondered. What about personal satisfaction? “That comes later,” he says.
“In the quest to be different, one should not forget that a wedding photograph must be beautiful.”
“The first step towards being a good wedding photographer is to be a good human being.”
This article originally appeared in the December 2013 issue of Better Photography.Tags: Raj Lalwani, Wedding Photography, prakash tilokani, December 2013, Great Masters