I met him just a couple of months ago. In August, to be precise. For the first and last time. It was on a photoshoot assignment for a book. I was nervous and excited like I rarely find myself nowadays. I wanted to nail it with this one. This would be my claim to fame! Hell yeah!
Heart pounding, I got off my car and took out my camera from the bag. I had been asked to travel light by the author and publisher as I am quite notorious for hefting three or four bags into a "quick" photoshoot and looking every bit like I could give Amitabh Bachchan a run for his role in "Coolie." I am told I don't make a great first impression.
I decided to ignore the author's warning and carry my bag of lights with me anyway. Hell, I am shooting Yash Chopra! Don't want to be caught with no lights! Ran up, ran in, cleared security at three levels and finally landed on his floor. I asked the doorman if I could leave my bag of lights outside the door of the office - I'll take it in when I need it. The doorman said, "Sure! Will you be needing a power outlet for them later?" Bloody hell, even the doorman knows all this??? "No," I replied, "they run on batteries!" I tried to make out if he was impressed but couldn't tell. I wiped the sweat off my forehead, caught my breath, composed myself, took a look at my camera to check the space in the memory card and put my hand on the door handle to push it open. Damn!!! Wrong lens on the camera!!! Could I? Should I? Too late!!! Screw it!!! I entered.
I broke professional protocol twice that day. I slipped in a couple of questions myself in between the interview - with the author's permission, of course. By permission, I mean, I kept kicking the author's ankles until he gave me space to ask the questions. The second time was when after the interview, he asked us to move outside for the photographs because he was uncomfortable getting his pictures taken with all the trophies. I asked him to pose for a picture for me - not the book. He readily obliged and after I after I fired off a couple of shots, asked with childlike innocence,"Kaisi aayi? Achchi aayi?" (How are they? Good?)
As I looked at the back of my camera, I realised that any picture I took of him would be "a Yash Chopra picture." Any attempt to make it mine would be futile, the watermark at the bottom right hand corner would hold no meaning. I nodded, "Yes sir."
I shot him without lights that day. Not because he was in a hurry or had other important things to attend to but because I felt that it was rude to make him wait even for a second and it all seemed so unnecessary. Lights or no lights, right lens or wrong lens - it would always be a Yash Chopra picture.