When We Make Simple, Complicated


This article was originally published in March 2016.

One of my favourite movies is Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Bawarchi (1972). The film stars Rajesh Khanna in the titular role, where he is hired by a dysfunctional family as their cook. There is a lovely conversation in the movie between Rajesh Khanna and Kali Banerjee where they discuss the aatma, one’s soul. Rajesh Khanna says, “I used to work under the great poet Harindranath (Chattopadhyay). He often used to say… it is so simple to be happy, but it is so difficult to be simple.” Kali Banerjee is left astounded at the profundity of this one simple sentence, as I have been, every time I have watched the movie. Even though the thought is uncomplicated, layers of meaning keep emerging from it.

We live in times where photographers around the world are using their cameraphones to produce some of the most interesting and pathbreaking photography works. Newer thoughts and techniques are constantly being discovered and used. I have always found it difficult to internalise complex ideas into my own work. Call me an old soul, but I like to think of imagemaking as an uncomplicated process. You find something you want to shoot, and you shoot it. It is then up to the viewer to decipher what the photo means to them… and sometimes the image could mean nothing at all. And in my opinion, that’s completely okay.

I wonder, in the process of standing out amongst the crowd, are we steadily beginning to forget the more simple ways of seeing? By attaching arbitrary meanings and constantly explaining what we shoot, are we taking away from the viewer’s experience? Ultimately, it is the image that speaks, not what it took to make it, or takes to read it. And once we uncomplicate that thought, silently, layers of meaning will start emerging from our images too.

Tags: Supriya Joshi, March 2016, Bawarchi, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Rajesh Khanna, Kali Banerjee, Harindranath Chattopadhyay