Postcards From Matheran

February 22, 2012 8:00 am by
View Slideshow

If you’ve read anything at all about Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi, you’ll know that the author can be a polarising force in the Indian literary scene—his first novel The Last Song of Dusk, about a woman with magical powers, often elicits violent reactions of love or loathing. Should you fall into the latter camp, you may want to avoid the author’s foray into photography currently on display at Sakshi Gallery. For all others, and that includes people who know nothing about him, you’ll likely be charmed by this neat little glimpse of life in Matheran, the hill station where Shanghvi spends much of his time.

There are two sets of photographs on display. The first, “Postcards from the Forest” is paired with notes written to recipients left to the viewer’s imagination. They are rambling ruminations inspired very loosely by what you see in the photos; a statue in a cemetery, a mist-shrouded clearing in the forest, autumnal leaves. They are not brilliantly shot, more the result of a particularly observant amateur photographer being at the right place at the right time.

The second “Toy Train” set—sized to be nearly palm-small and running the length of four walls like you’d imagine a train track—is more enticing; frozen moments placed in no seeming connection to one another and boxed framed like little gifts. In miniaturising, there is always the risk of becoming twee, especially with the offer of a magnifying glass to inspect them closely. Except here, Shanghvi’s wide-reaching lens is able to sidestep that hole precisely because of the randomness of it all. There’s a spotted dog, a tawny horse, a pair of jeaned legs in neon-laced sneakers, discarded sofas in the forest, abandoned rooms, rickety bedposts, and chappals, that together hint at some of the magical realism that infuses Shanghvi’s writings.