Follow
Dinesh Krishnan
Dinesh Krishnan
Photographer | Journalist | Traveler | Still searching for the Zen

Forbes India Celebrity 100 Cover

Three hours after my colleagues and I landed at Mannat, Shah Rukh Khan’s (SRK) home, we were told the super star wasn’t feeling too well and that there was a chance he would be in no shape to be photographed. His publicist though assured us come what may, SRK would live true to his promise and make it for the shoot.  When, was anybody’s guess.

Daena Sethna, (the stylist for the shoot), was there much before we were. She suggested I go through SRK’s wardrobe and try figure out what could possibly work best for the cover and the inside pages.
I’d had a chat with Anjan Das, our design director earlier and the both of us reckoned black would work well on the cover. So between Daena and me, we looked through the options on hand. We finally settled on a Chinese collared shirt under a textured blazer.

For the pictures that would appear inside the magazine, I very badly wanted him to wear suspenders over a T-shirt and denims. Daena liked the thought as well. But she warned me SRK doesn’t like suspenders, and that he has never worn one for a shoot ever before.  But that said, I thought I might as well give it a shot. If the big man didn’t want to, we’d look at other options.

Dabboo Ratnani, the photographer assigned to do the shoot and I went over the look and feel we wanted. I told him in graphic detail what Anjan and I had in mind.

I thought we had all bases covered and Dabboo’s assistants started to set the lights up. He fired a few frames using a dummy model to fine tune the lighting. It was intended to be classical and Dabboo was getting very close to what Anjan and I wanted. All we now needed was SRK.

Just when we thought we were ready, a bombshell dropped. We were told SRK was now very unwell and running 101 degrees. And while he’d still make it for the shoot, he perhaps wouldn’t be up to going in for a change of clothes.

Dabboo and I quickly convened and decided we’d make do with what we have on hand. It didn’t look like our plan to shoot him with suspenders would work. When SRK finally came in, he looked horribly unwell. And for the life of me, it was unfathomable how he was punishing his body with both a cigarette and a drink when feeling so hopelessly down. But that said, the man lived up to his promise.

I briefed him on what we were looking for. He heard Dabboo and me out closely and a few minutes later, got into the outfits we’d chosen, looking remarkably composed, and went to the spot Dabboo had marked.

The atmosphere quietened. When the make up team finished giving Shah Rukh the final touch-up, he looked the camera in the eye. What followed was a remarkable transformation. In a few seconds, he had morphed into the superstar all of us are used to watching on screen. In that instant, I knew we had latched on to a good thing.

Dabboo started firing away and Shah Rukh kept changing his expressions for every frame, but well within the limits of our brief.  Between shots, he’d come over to Dabboo’s laptop to see how the images were turning out and check with us if things were going to plan. I said yes. But even as I said yes, I could see he was making notes in his head and when he went back under the lights, he delivered what was as close to the brief as was humanly possible.

Buoyed on by how he was going about it, I went up to him and asked if he’d be upto changing his attire and using suspenders. He heard me out. I told him traders on Wall Street like to wear suspenders and that if he did, it would go well in a business magazine. He heard me out, got the logic pat, and agreed to change.

Back on the sets, the next set of frames Dabboo shot was all the evidence I needed that these men had done many shoots together in the past. The atmosphere between them was easy going as SRK flitted between expressions with the ease of a trained dancer. The only problem as I could see was that most of these expressions were happy go lucky ones, and none of them would work for the opening image.

When SRK came to look at how the shoot had turned out, I told him that while each one of those images would have been magnificent on any other day, it was way off brief for what I had in mind. Like a thorough professional, he went back under the lights and like a magician, transformed himself into what I had in mind.

It was as if we were shooting a ruthless banker on Wall Street.

YouTube Preview Image

Shoot done, the “banker” went about looking for a doll to give Myra, Dabboo’s adorable little daughter, who was prancing on the sets, thrilled to bits that her hero was around. He found one, chatted with her a bit, the little girl was happy, and so were we. While Dabboo’s team wound the lights down, we got ready to settle down in his library for what would turn out to be a three hour conversation. And guess what was the first thing he told us?  “I get very disturbed with still photography. I do it only for films. But not for magazines. I have a problem posing as me. I have no problem posing as a character.”

We take our covers seriously. Every two weeks, a bunch of us get into a huddle with IG—that is Indrajit Gupta, our editor—to think up ideas for the cover of the next issue. Sometimes we brawl, question the brief, the story, everything. At others, more rarely, we’re all singing from the same song sheet. Last week was one of those times.

IG’s brief was clear: the poster child of India’s e-commerce industry, Flipkart, was, unthinkable as it may seem, headed for turbulent times. Sure, it was setting the standards for customer satisfaction, but that very focus was also weakening the company. You’ll have to read the story to get all the details that my colleague Rohin Dharmakumar has put together, but I can tell you his research was thorough, and so there was no ambiguity in our minds about what we wanted to say.

In this case, the line came first. “Flipkart can’t deliver” was the tack we decided to take, with a sub-head (a ‘strap’ in journalese) that said “India’s e-commerce darling is headed for a fall.” Then came the visual idea: Little shopping cart icons have become the de facto ‘buy’ buttons on e-commerce sites. We decided to show a real-life shopping cart, but one that was damaged in some way.

Later, we decided that it wasn’t quite working. I argued that the spindly wire-frame and single colour of a cart wouldn’t stand out enough for a cover. Instead, why not use a toy cart? I knew that in Karnataka, Flipkart’s home state, a little town called Channapatna made outstanding traditional toys with just the kind of clean, solid lines and bright colours that I had in mind. I was soon checking out the Internet if there were images of toy carts from Channapatna. There were none.

I called Mallikarjun Katakol, a Bangalore-based photographer who shoots regularly for us. He is very knowledgeable about Karnataka’s indigenous arts, and is an extremely resourceful guy. Mallik, as I expected, took it from there. Here it is in his own words.

P.S. Yes, you noticed that the line that eventually went on the cover isn’t the one you read a few paragraphs ago. That’s because we decided that though it was definitely a powerful and provocative headline, it also implied that the game was up for Flipkart. And that was not the claim the story made. We needed to communicate that the company was in trouble, but not that it was doomed. And so we changed that to a simpler statement : “What’s wrong with Flipkart.”

And now, over to Malik.


After I understood the brief, I went looking for this cart toy in all those places where Channapatna toys are sold in Bangalore, from the state-owned Cauvery Emporium, to stores where such handicrafts are sold. No luck. I finally called up people who might have collected such artifacts, and that too turned up zilch.

I had to head to the source, Channapatna, which is 60 kms from Bangalore.

That night, I made a drawing on my comp—almost as detailed as an engineering drawing—of the cart that I had in mind, since I wasn’t sure that I would find exactly what I wanted ready-made. I even made a graphic print so that an artisan could easily understand what I wanted.

Next day, in Channapatna, the first guy I contacted said he would do it, no problem. Now that was too easy, I thought. He was soon cutting up wood to the measurements I had drawn. When I asked him how he planned to colour it, he said he would ask a furniture shop to paint it. The horror! Traditionally, Chanapatna toys are always seen in bright yellow, red, and green, and they are coloured using molten lacquer. Why couldn’t he do that? Nobody was doing that any more, he said, it was too expensive.

I wasn’t convinced and went to another artisan, who pointed out that the design I had created was not ideal for the molten lacquer process, since it had sharp edges and corners; all Chanapatna toys had rounded corners and bevelled edges, which made the melting lacquer method possible.

This was a disaster. I began to wonder whether I would get the toy ready in time after all: I had only up to that evening to deliver the final shot; it was already noon and I didn’t even have the toy ready. And worse, the electricity in Channapatna is not to be trusted, I was told. If the power went, all work would come to a standstill. Time for a Plan B.

I got the artisan to make the wheels the traditional way, with the lacquer coating, and then I hit the road for Bangalore.

En route, I called Dinesh to tell him that he should have a back-up image ready. He reassured me that he had a reserve, but he’d much prefer the shot we had discussed. Small relief.

Once I was home in Bangalore, I went to the place where I usually get my wood work done, and asked for long, thin reapers. It was 1.30 p.m. I hurried back to the studio, and began making the cart, cutting, buffing, sticking and nailing the wood with one eye on the clock.

At 5 p.m., it was ready for painting. I had experimented with paint that would give me a look that was close as possible to the lacquered effect we wanted. Now, I sprayed the various parts of the cart and set them out to dry. Then, I took a break for lunch.

At 7.30 p.m., I set up my camera and lights, assembled the various pieces, and took my first trial shots.

I emailed the rushes to Dinesh and chewed my nails while I waited for his reply.

At 8 p.m. my phone rang and his voice boomed down the line: perfect!

Whew.

Mallikarjun Katakol

 

 
 
Dinesh Krishnan
I was earlier the Director Photography for Forbes India and ForbesLife India.

I have been a photojournalist since 1991, starting with a four-year stint with the Hindustan Times in Delhi, a place that I still call the best finishing school for photography. In 1995, I moved to BusinessWorld magazine attracted by their outstanding coverage of the emerging India. In 2005, I came to edit India’s leading photography magazine, Better Photography.

When I am not working, I am a fan of the outdoors and road trips. I was able to combine all these loves when I did a series of motorcycle trips to the Himalayas to document the fragile ecosystem and its people. This culminated in a exhibition of photographs called “Endless Horizons” at the IGNCA, Delhi, in January 2000, along with two other photographers, Gurinder Osan and the late Pradeep Bhatia.

I have enjoyed the role photography plays in what is an otherwise word-dominated profession of journalism.
 
 
 
Dinesh Krishnan'S POPULAR POST(S)
Most Popular
Dinesh Krishnan's Activity Feed
August 08, 2013 17:10 pm by Raj Aryan
Shahrukh Khan Biography, Profile, Date of Birth, Height, Father name, Mother Name, Siblings, Education, Careers, upcoming mo vie and more details you want to know pls click this link http://movies.dosthana.com/shahrukh-khan-biography
June 05, 2013 18:08 pm by Archita Rai
Well he is always posses down to earth personality
April 19, 2013 04:06 am by cindyd
Better with age:) And what a pro!
April 02, 2013 17:38 pm by suraj singh
srk is a good of acting
February 20, 2013 15:00 pm by Jean Poquelin
It seems that the more we hear about SRKs generosity,professionalism and charm (above all), the more he is determined to become even better. A true gentleman. Pity, there are not many more like him.