Monday, November 03, 2008
Hot and happening
Subi Samuel is one of Bollywood’s brightest young photographers. His list of clients includes the Who’s Who of the industry
By Shevlin Sebastian
Subi Samuel wanted to shoot a frozen image of a well-known Bollywood actress, Ritu (name changed). “There was a sheet of ice on the floor,” he says. “And we got Ritu to lie on it. It was supposed to be a face shot with the eyes closed.”
To get the chilled look, salt had been put on the upper part of her body. Once the shot was taken Subi told Ritu to get up. But she was unable to do so because her hair was stuck into the ice. “She started screaming,” says Subi.
In this panicky situation the stylist ran outside and managed to get some hot water. He poured it onto the ice so that it would melt. Part of the warm water flowed towards Ritu. Because of the effect of the salt and Ritu’s low body temperature, the skin peeled off her back.
“Ritu still has a scar on the upper back,” he says. “She can cover it with make-up, but she has never forgiven me.”
Subi Samuel is one of the rising young stars in Bollywood and fashion photography. He has shot unusual and candid photos of stars like Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, Akshaye Khanna, Aishwarya Rai, Diya Mirza, Esha Deol, John Abraham, Deepika Padukone, Hrithik Roshan, Bipasha Basu, Priyanka Chopra and Preity Zinta, among others.
He explains his modus operandi. “If a star knows how the picture will turn out they tend to be a bit more confident,” he says. Earlier, during the analog age he would do sketches and show them how the frame would be cut.
However, in today’s digital era they can check it on the computer immediately. “If they like the picture they develop a confidence in you,” he says.
For models who are always insecure about their looks, he follows a different procedure. “I never tell a model she has put on weight,” he says. “Nor do I ask her age. These are small matters, but they have a big impact on the final image.”
Interestingly, he says, all these established stars and models have one common character trait. “They are go-getters,” he says. “That means they will go the extra mile to see to it that they achieve the goals. That is the difference between the successful and the not so successful.”
Subi belongs to the successful breed. His photographs can be seen in magazines, calendars, film posters, books and catalogues. Asked the secret of a good photograph he says, “Nowadays, a photograph is not about just shooting it. You do extensive changes in photoshop. So what you are seeing is not reality but an illusion.”
Subi’s USP is his unusual depiction of film celebrities. For example, the cover photo in his coffee table book ‘Subi’, shows an unusual Sushmita Sen. “At that time all images of Sushmita were that of a beautiful diva,” he says. “I wanted to break that. So I did a picture of her screaming.”
Subi, the son of a Malayali businessman, grew up in Mumbai. In 1983 he came across an encyclopaedia of photography called the Camera Book. It sparked his interest but it would be several years later, after graduation from Mithibai College and a management degree from Narsee Monjee Institute that he would get serious about photography. “I hated my MBA course,” he says.
In 1995 he became an assistant to one of the country’s leading fashion and Bollywood photographers, Rakesh Sreshtha. “In terms of lighting a subject Rakesh is the best,” he says.
He remembers a turning point in his life during his association with Rakesh. One day Rakesh was shooting Sushmita. He suddenly got a call and because the music was blaring inside the Andheri studio he went outside to speak.
Subi began to look at Sushmita through the lens and she caught him doing that. Since the lights were on she asked him to start shooting. Subi did not want to offend Rakesh so he said no. But Sushmita insisted.
“I literally shied away from the situation,” he says. “But she said, ‘Now I will pose only if you shoot.’ So I had to take a couple of frames. That was for me a memorable experience. One of my ambitions at Rakesh’s studio was to use his lights. And then there was this God-given chance to shoot with an ex Miss Universe. The whole thing was like a dream come true for me.”
After a few years Subi branched out on his own, and established his reputation fairly quickly. “To be frank I did not have much of a struggle,” he says. Rakesh says by working with him Subi understood that a lot of people -- the make-up man, the stylist and the light person -- are needed to get a good shot. “You also need to know the mind-set of the person who is being photographed, so that he or she is able to relax,” he says. “What Subi needs to do now is maintain consistency and quality.”
Apart from celebrities Subi also takes pictures of ordinary people. Asked the difference between the two he says, “Celebrities come with pre-conceived notions of how they should look. It is difficult to break that. For ordinary people they are always thinking they are not good enough to be photographed.”
(Copyright: The New Indian Express, Chennai)