American Photographer Captures Bollywood at Its Candid Best and Every Photo Narrates a Story
Through some captivating photographs, American photographer Mark Bennington narrates the human side of the Bollywood, the worlds largest film industry.
Bollywood is regarded as the most glamourized industry. For laymen, the Hindi Film Industry is the place where stars are born, fame and success is attained to giddy heights. Which is why, most of us like to see Bollywood and its actors through rose tinted glasses and often overlook the hard work, the grime that the people of this industry go through. Which is why American Photographer Mark Bennington’s coffee table book Living The Dream : Life of the 'Bollywood' Actor holds relevance. A visual story with 112 pictures of those who try to make it in the world’s largest film industry, Mark captures the other, more human side of the film industry. It is not just about stars but about the acting community at large and captures some fascinating, candid shots of struggling actors as well as superstars like Salman Khan and Vidya Balan.
“This book is not about stars,” emphasized Mark in his interview to News18.com. “It has got no hierarchy. It is about the acting community entirely.”
Mark came to Mumbai in 2010 first and was curious to know more about the acting community here. A chance meeting with producer Guneet Monga, whom Mark now considers a dear friends, opened doors to many stars and their work. “I asked her if she could put me in touch with some actors. She said, ‘I don’t know too many stars but I do know a lot of actors’. And so that’s what she did. On my first trip to Mumbai, she put me touch with Huma Qureshi, Richa Chadha, Guarav Kapoor, Gaurav Gera- basically a lot of actors in the neighbourhood where I was staying.”
Mark spent two weeks in Mumbai during his first trip only to come to India 8 months later to work on this project. YRF’s casting director Shanoo Sharma made him meet some very established stars and that set the ball rolling. “I am thankful to both Guneet and Shanoo. Guneet Monga brought this book into existence and then Shanu sort of took it to another level. Without these two people this book would have never happened.”
Mark, who was an actor in Los Angeles in the late 1990s and early 2000s, was familiar with how an actor’s life is but he wanted to capture it on camera and show the real side of the actors through his book. “When I came down here as a photojournalist and not as an actor, I wanted to know what life looked like for the acting community here. And I wanted to emphasize the acting community as a whole and not as stars and strugglers. This project is about acting community in totality.”
Mark’s images have Salman Khan interacting with fans in between a shot, Swara Bhaskar traveling on Mumbai’s local while reading scripts, Ranveer Singh getting ready during an award function and much more. Mark said that being friends with certain actors helped in getting the right shots. Because of the nature of his project he spent a lot of time interacting with actors. “Some of the older stars I had set meetings with- they were the more established actors. But a lot who have featured in the book were friends of mine. We all hung out in the same circle. Swara, Huma, Richa- I spoke to them about their life, their work. So got to interact with them personally.”
When asked which actor left a lasting impression on him, Mark was hesitant to name one person. “I think I enjoyed a lot with all those I spent time with. Salman did leave a lasting impression so did Ashwin Mushran. In fact, the other day Ashwin said he felt validated with this book, felt more included in the community. The book is about unity. What brings them together is this common dream, the idea.”
When asked how big Bollywood was in America, Mark said, “It is not very big. Depends on where you go. If you are in a big city like New York, Los Angeles, you will find more Hindi cinema because of the NRI population living there. But in general, most Americans don’t know much about this industry. Having said that with the emergence of Irrfan, Priyanka, Anil Kapoor – America is certainly craving more for Indian actors, I feel. There is a huge opportunity for Indian actors in the United States and there is such a dearth of good work being done now. So there is a lot of scope for Indian actors in America right now.”
While collating the book, Mark used quotes of actors to narrate their stories. “Included quotes from people in the book instead of articulating of what happened in the discussions. I wanted to put the actors in their own words. That captured the lives better. That way its more delicious for the readers, I felt. I tried to give an insight on how the community functions. It brings out the unity of the community- the dream that they all have.”
Mark's book has been published by Harper Collins. For more images by the photographer, visit his official site.
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