Bombay Meri Jaan

Padma Shri recipient Sooni Taraporevala has permanent displays for her photographs in the National Gallery of Modern Art, Delhi and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Her work has also been exhibited in art galleries across the USA, France, and in the Tate Modern Gallery in London.

A rendezvous with legendary photographer Raghubir Singh after her return from NYU put her on the path to photographing Parsis in Mumbai. Looking through her photos, he advised her to concentrate on Parsis because he believed that not only did she have a flair for capturing their culture and lifestyle, but she had a unique access to the community.

Moreover, he encouraged her to start shooting in colour, lending rolls of film, lenses and tripods to Taraporevala.

Making Mumbai’s past and evolution her muse, Taraporevala’s black and white images evoke a feeling of nostalgia. Thus, the Rotarians were honoured to hear the unique and captivating stories behind her photographs as she flipped through a presentation filled with them, travelling back in time through her exclusive snippets.

From photographing the boys who inspired Mira Nair and Taraporevala to pursue their cinematic debuts with “Salaam Bombay!” to Mumbai landmarks, the juxtaposition of a camel with a car at Marine Drive to the sets of a movie, Taraporevala has truly captured the essence of Mumbai.

Ending her speech, Taraporevala recounted an experience at The Chemould Art Gallery in Mumbai, where she was once exhibiting her photographs. A lady excitedly came up to her. It turned out that she had featured as a little girl in one of Taraporevala’s photos. In that moment, so many years later after the original photo was taken, she was finally able to take another picture of her. “That’s been one of the joys of my book; finding out who people are, people [coming] up [to] say ‘This is me,’ or ‘This is my granddad.’ That’s been really nice,” she said.

Taraporevala’s work is a journey through Mumbai. She concluded, “Some things have stayed the same, some things are absolutely unchanged… Then some things have drastically changed.” Taraporevala has captured the changed, changing, and unchanged; She hasn’t just shown us the different eras of Mumbai – she has frozen them in a frame.