Today morning, as I sat in a taxi to reach the wedding venue – Hotel Goldfinch near Race Course road in Bangalore, I wondered if it was going to be yet another Kannadiga wedding. I would know only once I reach the hotel. I recalled my meeting with Caesar the day before. He was in the last lap of his morning run when I showed up. We then headed to a nearby restaurant to have breakfast. Paper masala dosa. One of the things that he asked me was, did I think I had reached a level of saturation in photography? I guess what he meant was, if I thought there wasn’t much to learn anymore. And I told him what I felt. That it was only because of wedding photography that I have actually evolved as a photographer. I was just a cameraman around two years ago. The pictures I thought were ‘great’ back then, may not appear ‘great’ anymore to me. And as far as Caesar’s question went, I felt that with every new shoot, I evolve a little more, learn a little more, see something new. And hence no, I don’t think I have saturated. I told him what I felt.
I was soon at the wedding venue. Hotel Goldfinch. It was 0740 in the morning. I was 10 minutes late from the schedule I had been given. But guess what, I was still the only person in the hall. It was a small banquet hall. And that made me happy. I cannot tell you how much I hate crowd. And if the banquet hall was not as big as an indoor sports stadium (as often happens in some of the big Indian weddings), it meant there would only be limited number of close family and friends attending the wedding. I sat and waited for people to show up. And as I waited, I wondered if it was going to be yet another Kannadiga wedding. Aditya was the groom. He lives in Seattle. He was getting married to the love of his life – Vallari.
After about 45 minutes of waiting, one of Aditya’s friends let me know that Vallari was about to get ready in room 101 and I was free to take her getting-ready pictures! Going by her name, I had assumed Vallari would be a Kannadiga. But within 5 minutes of being in room 101, I realized they were all Marathi! “Daddy gave me a very South Indian name”, Vallari cracked a joke. And then I also realized that she was getting dressed up like a Telugu bride! Oh ok. So it wasn’t going to be a Kannadiga wedding. I see. Not that these things matter to me. But at least I finally knew that it wouldn’t be yet another Kannadiga wedding. :) And given that the entire bride side was Marathi, I also knew that the wedding was definitely not going to be yet another Telugu wedding. But tell you what, I had not expected the wedding to start off, the way it finally did.
I came back to the banquet hall after I had captured a good number of candid moments as Vallari got ready for her most special day. The hall was now abuzz with a lot of guests, all waiting for the wedding to start. On the wedding altar, I saw a small table over which was placed a small goldenish statue of Buddha!
In none of the hundreds of weddings that I might have been to, have I seen Buddha’s presence (unless it’s part of the hotel’s architecture / ambience). I wondered what was this statue doing on the wedding altar! Anyway so Vallari joined me in the hall shortly thereafter. And then came Aditya. I went to him and said hi. He said he was happy to see me. Things people say to each other when they meet for the first time. And then he went to Vallari and smiled. And she smiled back. He was happy. And she was happy. And then the wedding started.
It was some sort of a Buddhist wedding when it started. No wonder they had that statue there! It was a very short and a very sweet ceremony. With candles standing in tea-cups stuffed with rice. A guy dressed like a Buddhist monk read out hymns and the couple bowed down few times to the statue. And then, in like 15 minutes, the first phase of the wedding got over. I don’t even know if it was wedding or only some sort of small pre-wedding ceremony. But whatever it was, I liked it. I liked it so much that for a while I didn’t even want to click pictures. I just wanted to sit there on the altar and listen to what the Buddhist monk was saying.
You see the picture above? How do you think I got that shot? Was Aditya looking at Vallari all the time? No, he wasn’t. In fact, throughout this ceremony, he looked at her may be like 5 times, and each one was a 1 to 2 second look. But the moment I saw him do this for the first time, I knew I wanted to capture him doing that. And the only way to do that was, have the frame ready, have the lens pre-focus on him and just wait for the right time to click. I almost lost it few times. But finally the patience paid off! :) Yay! One of the things about candid photography that a lot of photographers don’t appreciate is that, you don’t shoot when you feel like. You shoot when the time is right. The above shot kind of illustrates that. Having said that, I would also say that at times, it is also very very easy to get a picture like this because the couple is continuously looking at each other.
Anyhow, so after this, the Telugu wedding started. It was slightly different from most of the Telugu weddings that I have shot in few ways. For example, some of you might already have noticed how Aditya already looks like a marathi groom (because of that hair-band). Also, unlike almost every Telugu wedding that I have seen, today, instead of putting on a white sari in the middle of the wedding, Vallari actually put on a yellowed one (I was told later that it was a white sari died with haldi and so it became yellow). Personally, I have never seen a Telugu couple getting married in the kind of yellow dress in which both Aditya and Vallari tied the knot. I loved the colour though. Overall, the wedding did have its typical set of Telugu rituals including the Kashi yatra, the part where the couple throws coloured rice at each other, tying of the mangal-stura, the phere and pointing fingers at dhruv tara. The traditional video guy kind of spoilt parts of the rice-throwing activity for me (and I think for everyone else). He started choreographing how the couple should throw rice, where they should look when they did that etc. In a wedding, nothing turns me off more than orchestration by these video / photo guys. But I guess I did capture at least few candid moments when Aditya and Vallari threw rice at each other, the way they felt like. And not the way someone wanted them to!
At the end of the day, I am sure I have a lot of candid images that will help both Aditya and Vallari relive their wedding through my eyes. And I am positive they would like what they see. I have 1200+ raw images from the five hours I spent and I guess once I have gone through all of them, I would be able to submit at least 400 pictures. This, when I had promised only around 200-250 pics to him when he had booked me. I love under-promising and over-delivering. And I guess, so do my clients! Time for me to board my flight to Goa now. Hope you liked the story from todays’ shooot.