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Rakesh Sinha’s photos capture moods of legendary artists over three decades

Ustad Amjad Ali Khan (Pic Rakesh Sinha)

Rakesh Sinha, a well-known photographer has been for more than three decades capturing rare and poignant moments from the world of art, music, drama and dance, for posterity. His black and white pictures whisper gently as the viewers feast their eyes on the mesmerising images of doyens of performing arts.

Experience this at the ongoing virtual exhibition “Aks-e-Mausiqui”, (music through images), organised by India International Centre. On till February 28, it brings a collection of archival and heritage portraits of leading classical dancers and musicians during their live performances.

From Shobha Gurtu, Sharan Rani, Kishori Amonkar, Sitara Devi, Shovana Narayan, Yamini Krishnamurthy, the leading female artists to Ustad Bismillah Khan, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Ustad Vilayat Khan, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, can be seen in myriad moods and emotions.

Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma

Some artistes like vocalists Amonkar, Gurtu, Pandit Jasraj and santoor maestro Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, with their eyes closed, unaware of their surroundings, depict complete concentration. Others like classical dancers Shovana Narayan, Ileana Citaristi, and sarod virtuoso Amjad Ali Khan are all smiles as they enthral the audience. Many like Ustad Vilayat Ali Khan, Pandit Vishnu Govind Jog and Pandit Rajan and Sajan Mishra seemed to have transcended into meditation.

Delineating on how he does this, Sinha says, “I observe their thoughts, moods and movements of the artists on stage while maintaining and synchronizing the camera with their posture and steps.” Describing such pictures as an appreciation, he observes, “it is a ‘waah' in the shape of the image by the photographer.”

Ileana Citaristi

Obviously this calls for immense patience. Agreeing, Sinha adds, “Besides fine observation of the stage, infinite fortitude, availability of light and proper angle, too have to be taken into account. We need to ensure that the picture does not include on-stage mics and other unnecessary background.”

With colour ruling the roost, what persuades Sinha to click black and white pictures? “In my opinion life is a reflection of two colours, that is, black and white, in other words, syah and safed. Also since I self-develop/print the photos, I have to work on two colours only instead of different ones.”

Pandit Jasraj

Having clicked for years, Sinha has a treasure of memories. Recalling one he says, “This incident happened around 32 years ago. While capturing the vocal concert of Pandit Jasraj Ji, I was sitting on the ground with my legs facing towards the stage. This was out of etiquette. Pandit Ji noticed this and looked towards me. When I didn’t realise, he looked again. This time I got it and immediately corrected my posture.”

During his career, Sinha has always shared these magical images with their subjects. “They feel happy and have at times appreciated these pictures at various gatherings, seminars, and musicologists meet,” he says with pride.

Rakesh Sinha

A self-taught photographer, Sinha has honed his skill over the years. “This has come about by being associated with several theatrical and cultural groups, and music institutions/academies, as well as assisting my elder brother in this field.” But there is more. “My passion for photography is at the core of my work!”

All images by Rakesh Sinha