Parsi body builders hang at the Kala Ghoda Café

Parsi body builders hang at the Kala Ghoda Café

Photographer Aparna Jayakumar's subject could not be more authentic to Mumbai, as is her unconventional choice of venue for this photo exhibition

Aparna JayakumarThe Annual Zoroastrian Power-Lifting and Bodybuilding Championships in Mumbai."Bombay is yet to open up to looking at photography as an art," thinks Aparna Jayakumar whose exhibition, "Flex! Feroze!" -- snapshots from the annual Annual Zoroastrian Bodybuilding Championship -- went up over the weekend at Kala Ghoda Café in Mumbai.

Her choice of subject, the Parsi community, is intrinsic to Mumbai and makes the exhibition interesting on merit alone. But more so because she deliberately avoided the traditional gallery, opting instead to hang her work where people hang out.

On the subject Chandrahas Choudhury says in his curatorial note, "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 meetings, 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)."

I meet Jayakumar, who has photographed for CNNGo before, at the Kala Ghoda Café. "This is easily my favourite café in the city. It's a lovely space -- quaint, with great creative energy. The proprietor Farhad Bomanjee, being an artist himself, has an eye for detail. You can engage with the works in a way that is not possible in a more formal space like a gallery. You can look at the work over several days, over several cups of coffee, and take something different away each time. Also, the opening hours (0900-2345) make it possible to look at the work at different times of the day, a luxury that an art gallery may not be able to afford. The exhibition space is neatly designed and well-lit too. KGC is trying to make photography more accessible to people, while also maintaining a standard of what makes good photography and not yielding to the over-democratization of the form."

Bomanjee, in turn, says "Aparna's images stand as an important document for me of people gracefully living a lifestyle that seems to be under threat from the imperative of rapid change which is the city today. I would be happy if the gallery aspect of the café can display images of sociological, political and environmental relevance to Mumbai today."

"Flex! Feroze!" is up at Kala Ghoda Café from today till September 21 at 10 Ropewalk Lane, Kala Ghoda, Fort, tel. +91 (0) 98338 03418

Sita Wadhwani is CNNGo City Editor in Mumbai.


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