Way back in 1945, photographer Damodar Kamat, established Kamat Foto Flash in Mumbai’s Famous Studio. Over time, Kamat developed a reputation of being a master photographer who had the gift of concealing an actor’s flaws. He ended up shooting portfolios for the likes of Raj Kapoor, Nargis, Madhubala and Dharmendra.
When Kamat died in 1967, he left behind an archive of over 3,00,000 priceless pictures preserved over 75 years. In a candid chat with Sneha Menon Desai, the late photographer’s son Vidyadhar Kamat & granddaughter Neha Kamat, share the untold stories behind pictures that have now become iconic to Indian cinema.
“This picture of Madhubala was taken at a time when colour images were a rarity. A black-and-white photo was later hand painted to create this image. My father would often share stories about how he loved photographing her because she had a face that could be clicked from any angle. Madhubala was so impressed with this picture that she gifted my father a Roniflex camera way back in 1950 as a token of her appreciation.”
“These pictures of Dev Anand were from the publicity photoshoot of Teesri Manzil. Dev Anand was supposed to essay the role of the drummer Rocky before Shammi Kapoor replaced him. We have images of Devsaab holding up three fingers to indicate the three of Teesri Manzil. The movie went on to become a blockbuster and Shammi Kapoor often says that he became a superstar because of Dev Anand.”
“This image from the iconic song Chalte Chalte from Pakeezah went on to become one of the most recognized images of Meena Kumari. But this actually Meena Kumari’s body double Padma Khanna. Meena Kumari was bed-ridden during this time and could not shoot these portions; therefore Padma Khanna was kind enough to step in and complete the patchwork.”
“Raj Kapoor will always be the original showman of Indian cinema. My father would recount stories of how the jewelry shown in the songs of Awaara were all real gems. The necklace Nargis wore in the song cost as much as Rs. 9-10 lakhs at that time. There were guards who were hired all night long to mind the jewelry during the course of the shoot.”
“This picture of Guru Dutt was shot at the Kamat Photo flash studio where he came after the shoot of Pyaasa. This was a special photoshoot to take publicity stills for the film. The illusion of a library was created at the studio using our manager’s chair and heaps of our photo albums along with a glass ash-tray, which was made out of focus. This image is the perfect example of how to create a shallow depth of field.”