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The country is his canvas, says Raghu Rai’s daughter Avani

Statesman News Service |

To mark his 75th birthday, a film on well-known photojournalist Raghu Rai, directed and curated by his daughter Avani Rai, was screened in the Capital on Sunday evening. As the 1972 Padma Shri awardee completes almost 50 years photographing India, the film encapsulates Raghu Rai’s passion for photography and the relationship between a father-daughter duo. The film, Raghu Rai, An Unframed Portrait, was screened at The Imperial Hotel,

Sharing his first thoughts about the 55-minute long film, Rai said, “I was overwhelmed because of its wholesomeness. Avani managed to capture a man in his entirety. My relationship with my children is as spontaneous as it is with my followers. The film is about that.”

At the outset of his career, Raghu Rai worked as the chief photographer with The Statesman. Over the years, he closely covered personalities like Indira Gandhi, Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama and events like the Bangladesh Liberation War, Bhopal gas tragedy and, more recently, the militarised zones of Jammu and Kashmir. He was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 6th National Photography Awards earlier this year.

In a conversation with The Statesman, Raghu Rai said one lifetime is not enough and there is much more to be done. “The shooting started in 2012 and 2015 onwards I met my producers and distributors. The idea of the film has been changing. We shot the climax in Kashmir in December last year,” said Avani Rai. At one point in the film, she describes Raghu Rai as a painter and the country his canvas.

The film is produced by Finnish producer and media professor Iikka Vehkalahti and Indian filmmaker Anurag Kashyap. It is co-produced by Arte France and the IDFA Bertha Fund. Raghu Rai, An Unframed Portrait premiered in the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) in November, where Raghu Rai saw it for the first time with an international audience.

Speaking about the film, Vehkalahti observed that a daughter’s portrait of her father would be unconventional compared to others as it will have a human touch. He shared his interest in producing the film because of the diversity and honesty in Raghu Rai’s photographs.

Eminent personalities, including MJ Akbar, Saeed Naqvi, Rajiv Sethi and Aroon Purie, who were at the screening of the film, spoke about their association with Rai, with Sethi thanking his daughter for “gifting the eyes of India to India” through the film.