Friday, March 25, 2011

First Entry...

Whether you searched or stumbled, welcome to the blog.

The site is dedicated to my current book project “Living the Dream: The Life of the ‘Bollywood’ Actor.” It began in January 2010, during my first trip to India as a simple comparing & contrasting photo essay between the acting communities in Los Angeles and Mumbai or affectionately “Hollywood and Bollywood.” I was in Mumbai for only 2 weeks, after having traveled up north for 3 weeks and by great serendipity met a then kind-stranger/ now best-friend film producer, Guneet Monga, who introduced me to about 20 actors in one week. I returned to the States with the dream of turning the photo essay into a book project and concentrating just on the acting community in Mumbai. I journeyed back to India in mid- November 2010 and with the selfless work of many, most notably casting director, Shanoo Sharma, who’s love and dedication to the project in combination to my own has turned into the makings of a full-fledged book. It is the first documentary photography book of its kind on the subject of actors and my hope is that it will serve as rich and layered introduction of the acting community here in Mumbai to the United States while simultaneously serving as an abbreviated super masala style encyclopedia of actors for ‘Bollywood’ fans the world over. Not to mention being the ultimate actor book for actors themselves!

Before becoming a photographer I was an actor for 10 years in New York and Los Angeles, doing everything from Ibsen’s “Enemy of the People” with Sir Ian McKellen to “VIP” with Pamela Anderson. In 2003, by chance I stumbled onto photography and within 9 months was making my living from it and feeling more creative and confident than ever before in life. I quickly became one of the top headshot photographers in LA and about a year or two into it met National Geographic veterans David Alan Harvey, Alex Webb and Eugene Richards. These guys are some the greatest photographers / visual storytellers in the world. I would get completely lost in the depth and honesty of their images, how they experienced and captured the world visually. One day at a workshop in Virginia, D. Harvey and I were talking about book ideas, he was telling me with all the actors I know in LA, I should do an honest-to-God documentary photography about the actors ‘real’ life…. and I recalled when I was an actor, I truly felt like no one outside of the industry had any idea what my life was really like… all of the stuff that actors go through before they even get an audition then everything they go through after they get the audition. With the thought of a book on the horizon I began to see how I could now tell the story of the actor’s ‘real’ life and to pay homage to a community that I always loved and called ‘home’ for 10 years of my life.

So, why set this book in Mumabi when I live, work and was an actor in Hollywood? I didn’t grow up on Hindi cinema? When I came to Mumbai last year, the only Indian films I had seen were Mira Nair films and ‘Slum Dog...” none of which are ‘Bollywood’ or new wave Hindi cinema… in fact, at that time, I didn’t know who any of the top stars were let alone all the working actors and character actors. I didn’t know anyone!! But, for some reason doors kept opening and I kept walking through them. Maybe there’s something to be said for ignorance and genuine curiosity? Approaching it with earnest eyes and a candid camera, nakedly looking at the actors without any bias. But more than that, I believe actors are actors wherever you go; they share a universal commitment to story telling by hiding and revealing their lives at the same time. It's this dichotomy that provokes the purest interest to me and it's that needle of curiosity which threads the fabric of this project: the documentation of an acting community in its totality, from student to star. This life of an actor is the story of many that only few know.

Now, a note about the word ‘Bollywood,’ I am taking into account the multi-layered sentiment the word provokes. To some it is harmless and precise, to others it’s derogatory and offensive- even though the entire community knows and understands that the world uses the name and knows ‘Bollywood’ to be synonymous with the Hindi film industry. I am also fudging with the word a bit, using it has an umbrella for the acting community as I have (working) titled the book, when in fact ‘Bollywood’ only refers to film actors from commercial cinema, not independent cinema or even TV. This is a alteration that I also hope to be forgiven for. The truth is that I have never thought of the name ‘Bollywood’ as kitsch in any way! 

In the past 4 1/2 months I’ve photographed about 100 actors... covering a huge variety. Everyone from Dev Anand to Ranveer Singh, Salman Khan to Nasseriddin Shah, Kareena Kapoor to Deepti Navel and Shabana Azmi to Rakhi Sawant and EVERYONE in between- Students, Strugglers, One-hit wonders, Fallen stars, Etc, etc. It has been months of phone calls, texts, waiting, more phone calls, e-mails, rickshaws, taxis, more e-mails, trains, meetings, more waiting, cancelations, rescheduling, lunches, coffee's, make-up trailers, interviews and of course thousands of photographs. 

The legendary actor Amibabh Bachchan recently said in his blog entry on the subject of family, "We are all islands of singular individuality... but what has been fascinating for me is the fact that we reached out and held each others hand, in a unique gesture of being one..." I completely agree and know from my know experience of the world, that community is family and family at its core is binding love. I sincerely hope the hand of this project will touch fans all over the world.