Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Book, a Social Networking site & 2 Photographers

Thanks to Tapu Javeri for the Twitter Invite.

BOOK REVIEW: Dou Rukh / By Arif Mahmood &Tapu Javeri
Published in Daily Times / October 15, 2011
Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal


Two of the people in the room strive for the same, elusive goal — to crystallise intangible fragments of the soul, to craft safe harbours for frenzied energy; to coax secrets out of ciphers. They may wander the same planes but have different agendas. And only when they are done plumbing the depth of human emotion can the rest experience a world draped in shadow and light.


Their separate ideologies run parallel in Dou Rukh (two sides) — a coffee table book that showcases the work of two giants — Arif Mahmood and Tapu Javeri and the exhibition of original photographs that accompanied the launch. With 16 willing subjects — 18 if one counts the cameramen who posed for the shoot, and more than 30 images, these two collaborators briefly transform an ordinary surface into a veritable pantheon.

A Twitter invite wrested from Tapu Javeri can enable one to access the star-studded opening night extravaganza and witness the portraits come alive — starting with the mysterious lady on the cover. A few words from Arif Mahmood can help clarify the complex forces at play.

Arif is an award-winning Karachi-based street photographer with a slew of shows and publications to his credit. Tapu Javeri is a dominant force in the world of fashion and art photography. Pushing boundaries is his favourite pastime — according to an old interview.

Their objective, one learns, is not to document Jekyll and Hyde in action, which come to think of it is an equally fascinating endeavour, but to help the audience gauge the men behind the camera and their differing techniques. Together, these maestros have settled upon a simple theme — crafting two versions of the same story to stage a spectacle using the same ingredients, which is why one subject shows up twice.


The personalities chosen include veterans from the arts — some are already legends in their field, others are on the ascent. Dou Rukh offers something besides the ‘most wanted’ from celebrity-ville. A chosen few outside of showbiz make the cut. The social worker might feign indifference to the socialite but both will find themselves sharing the same space. As both mosaics overlap and diverge, pairing revered icons with beloved stars lends that perfect inimitable flavour.

IVS gallery featured the actual photos displayed side by side to provide an immediate sense of their whimsical style and distinctive artistic sensibilities. The book has been divided in two portions. The blank page preceding each image is for effect — says Arif.


But that picture hanging next to the monochromatic portrait of the qawwals — Farid Ayaz and Abu Mohammad by Arif Mahmood gives one pause. Has an exquisite piece of art lost its way? How does Tapu’s (odd looking) rendition relate to Arif’s (clear-cut) vision? “If you see the exhibit,” says Arif helpfully, “then you will get it” — forcing one to confess that they did, they have, and it did not help. Tapu Javeri’s delirium-inducing piece gets approving nods but continues to confound. One could have spent a lifetime trying to decipher its meaning. But there is no need to tax the poor overworked brain. The magicians are more than willing to reveal their secrets. It is just a face — blurred — a brilliant symphony of motion.


Shakeel appears happy that the hitherto undiscovered aspect of his character has been so effectively rendered. This duet is merely a vessel to serve up the contrasting colours and savour ephemeral sentiments. Whether it is the fraught subtext of Tapu Javeri’s Shakeel or the colourful flamboyance that is Arif Mahmood’s Marzi, Dou Rukh leaves a lingering sense of wonder in its wake.


Markings; Rs 1,200

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