An Interview with Shubhadeep Roy

An IIT Kharagpur (2005) and IIM Calcutta (2007) alumnus, he worked in marketing and advertising roles and then left it all to venture and live his dreams. This is Shubhadeep Roy for you. He is brilliant, determined, remarkably creative and above all courageous. His passion for theatre and cinema has led him to be involved with various theater groups.

However, presently stationed in Rishikesh, his work today stands to be Photography. An avid photographer, he is currently capturing the festive fiesta of India in his Nixon D80, a project in line with the concept of “baaro maashe tero parbon” (thirteen festivals in a span of 12 months). Here is a brief journey with this youth through his iconic life.

Q) How do you want people to recognize Shubhadeep Ray?
Mr Roy: It depends on the definition of the word ‘people’. For example, I am happy when friends recognize me as a friend. But for the broadest definition of the word, it is adequate to be recognized as a fellow human being.

Q) You went on from being a well established corporate man to a dream chaser. What was the driving force behind the decision?
Mr Roy: It mostly was a desire to lead life the way I wanted, a life that is not dictated by monthly paychecks. And then there was (and still is) so much I wanted to do and most of it is practically impossible to do in parallel with a corporate job. So there was enough clarity to take a call.

Q) How difficult was it to cope with family, friends and most importantly the orthodox society and make them accept your decision?
Mr Roy: Family has been very supportive throughout. Friends have reacted in diverse ways – some appreciated it, some recommended more caution and some chose not to comment at all. Some friends have gone out of their ways to help me because they thought I was leading a life they could “only dream of”. Irrespective of the type of response, each one of my close friends has played a positive role in it. So cheers to all of them!
I don’t think the ‘society’ is as orthodox as it was ten years back.

You find a lot of people in the developed countries doing what they really want to do. And it has started happening in India also. This partially is because the Indian economy is at that stage of evolution where people start becoming entrepreneurial and selective. In that my generation is luckier than the previous one.

The deadliest battle, however, is fought within one’s own head. You keep earning money and chances are high that you would get used to money. You stop doing daily work and you might start doubting your social commitments and accountability.

Q) How did photography happen and where did you gain the requisite skills from? Or is it sheer talent?
Mr Roy: Well it’s a long story. As a little kid I wanted to be a bus conductor. Society rejected it outright. After a ferocious bargain we settled for photography. I was about four then. But the first camera happened when I was doing engineering.

Five of us bought a Kodak KB10. It was Rs. 500 back then. And the first SLR was procured five months into my first job. It was an instant addiction. Finally after quitting I set out on an unplanned, indefinite trip of India. (My first encounter with Rishikesh, where I live now, was during this trip.) The photographs were shared with a larger audience. The feedback was encouraging. So I kept clicking.

See theatre is my first and longest-lasting love till date. And I am a die-hard fan of what most call ‘world cinema’. So a basic sense of aesthetics and composition had already developed. As for the technical parts, we have books and the internet. The rest of it is emotions, which no one can train you in. And now I have friends in couple of really good photographers. I learn from our discussions and from watching works of the maestros. Also I try to learn from my own mistakes. It’s a continuous process that, I hope, never ends.

Q) How has life changed after taking up photography? How has the journey been so far?
Mr Roy: At a micro level, now every day is a different one on the field – lots of uncertainty, many challenges and a lot of sweating. But then in the evening you check the day’s work on the laptop screen and every drop of sweat looks worthwhile.

At a macro level, photography has brought a lot of travel. (Or was it the other way round?) I am getting to see a lot many places (another childhood dream) and meeting people from diverse backgrounds every day. And almost everyone I meet treats me with a lot of warmth. So despite the shady hotels and a thin wallet so far, it has brought a general state of happiness. Shifting to a village near Rishikesh has also contributed to it greatly.

Q) Tell us about your current project and your inspiration.
Mr Roy: Currently I am travelling to 13 Indian festivals, majority of them lesser-known ones, within a span of 12 months ending in February 2012. To give you an idea, with the ex-headhunters of Nagaland I have celebrated a festival that involves a lot of gun-firing in public places. This festivals project which is being supported by Delhi-based travel agency Copper Sky Journeys is called The Country Within.

There is a Facebook page for it and a book of the photographs from these festivals will be published sometime in 2012.

Well the idea first occurred to me while reading William Darlymple’s “Nine Lives”. So I shared the idea with a friend and he insisted it was a ‘wish’ and not a ‘plan’. So I sat down and made a ‘plan’. And now it is all happening.

Q) What is your style? What do you look for in a perfect click?
Mr Roy: My areas of interest are people’s candid moments and documentary photography. Since I go to different locations to capture them, naturally parts of the stock can be classified as travel photography. I do not have a signature style yet. Normally it takes far more time.

At least in my areas of interest, a perfect click must tell a story. Then the other components need to fall in place according to the story. For example, if you are clicking dancing people, the rhythm has to somehow show in the photo. Also it needs to be technically sound.

Q) Theatre is another domain that interests you. What is it that attracts you to the stage?
Mr Roy: My love for story-telling, I guess. For an actor the thrill of getting into someone else’s shoes is addictive, more so when people come back to tell you how the character moved them. As a director, while reading a good script I always have images moving in my mind like they do in a bioscope. If those images attract me, the objective becomes clear – to create them on stage for the audience to see.

Q) What is your advice to the youth of India, herding to join the corporate brigade?
Mr Roy: ‘Advice’ is a strong word. I can at most share couple of realisations:
I. It is critically important that we keep contributing to the betterment of the community, by joining the corporate brigade or otherwise.
II. The heart and the mind can work in tandem. Finding the right combination for the two is difficult but not impossible. And the prize is worth the effort.

Q) 10 years down the line, where do you find yourself? Will you be doing the same work as today or pursuing another raw dream?
Mr Roy: 10 years is a long horizon to comment with certainty. But I hope I would still be chasing dreams.
Did I tell you about this childhood dream of making full-length feature films?

Amrita Sarkar

Photo Courtesy: Amrita Sarkar