Sunday, August 29, 2010

Exhibition note for "Flex, Feroze!"

The Parsis of Mumbai are a social people. They have a packed calendar, and can be seen at agiaries and charitable gatherings, weddings and navjotes, at the race-courses and at shareholder AGMs, at Parsi panchayat meetings and elections. Once a year, they turn up in their numbers at Rustom Baug, for the Annual Zoroastrian Power-Lifting and Bodybuilding Championship, open only to Parsi musclemen (and women) from all over the country.

This set of photographs of Parsis by Aparna Jayakumar, taken earlier this year at the ninth edition of the competition, is a celebration both of community (sometimes thought to be in decline) and of the body (clearly in good shape). The pictures record the animation of muscular bodies, but also that of the human face as it watches and sometimes wanders. They catch a Feroze as he flexes those biceps that have been in training all year long for this day, but also perhaps a Jamshed as he suddenly remembers hanging out with Freny on Marine Drive on a winter evening in 1965.

The photographs show an awareness that any public event involves not just an audience watching the actors, but also the actors watching the audience, and taking their cues from them. Casting their net widely about the scene of the event, they construct a narrative that roves back and forth across the line of the stage, creating a palpable sense of intimacy and drama. Parsis young and old, happy and gloomy, flexed and at ease, fill these photographs with their myriad looks and emotions.

Chandrahas Choudhury

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