Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The secret world of Kolkata's nude models

Glitter all over her body , not an inch to spare, when Bedashree Patitundu, 24, checked herself in the mirror, she knew she would look the same -with or without clothes.

She was a touch reluctant in the beginning but made peace with herself as the money she was going to get for a few hours of work was enough to last her a month. She is among the many professional nude models in the city , who are earning a fortune by posing for the camera. At a time when models in government-run art schools are striving to make ends meet, youngsters in the city are exploring the world of nude modelling. Bedashree, who joined group theatre as an actress years back, was approached by the makeup artist for her first ever nude modeling assignment.

"After the makeup, I realized I would look the same, with and without clothes. My inhibition was gone by the time I did my third such shoot," she recalled. Though there wasn't much opposition from her family , she did have her lows. "Once, pictures of one of my shoots made it to the cover of a porn mag. When my ather, a priest, saw it, he was urious. But later, I made him see reason. I was already earning a decent living and also, posing nude for the camera is no crime. But, it's a fact that nude models are often equated with sex workers and it doesn't come as a surprise that my neighbors have stopped interacting with me completely ," she said.

While the Maharashtra government recently hiked daily wages of live models for government-run art schools rom `300 to `1,000 per day , in Kolkata, it's around `500. In comparison, money involved in nude photography is a lot more. Bedashree, whose highest remuneration so far has been `1.5 lakh, gets `15,000 for four hours. After that, each hour fetches her `10,000. But the model now makes sure that the assignments she does are strictly for competitions exhibitions abroad.

She is among the highest paid nude models in the city as she doesn't mind her face featuring in the photographs.Satakshi Ganguly , 22, who has acted in several short films, said the mindset of Indians is yet to change when it comes to nudity.

There's a fine line between nudity and vulgarity our country. But in , they are thought to be synonymous. It's just the opposite abroad, where the aesthetics of nude photography are well appreciated," Satakshi said. The youngster, who earns `10,000 per shift, said she gets around `4,000 per hour as overtime. "There's a lot of money , but perceptions are yet to change. Also, I never felt any discrimination at home because of my work. My mother and sister have both been very supportive," she said, adding that it's important to do a background check of the photographer before signing up for any such assignment.

Brotipriya Das, 22, said it's time we looked at photography as `photography'. "Why should there be a demarcation between photography and nude photography? To me, it's just the same. But for any such assignment, one needs to share a certain comfort level with the photographer.So far, I have only worked with friends and never charged a penny ," she said. About opposition from home, Brotipriya added, "I am an adult, do I really need permission?" Arandeep Das, an actor who is into semi-nude modeling, said Kolkata is trapped in its past."Here, art begins and ends with Tagore. So, any new form of art is either faced with criticism or opposition. I myself want to work with body painting as a mark of protest against killing of animals, but models charge nothing short of `20,000`30,000. I plan to use my body like a canvas for my own interest," he said, adding that nude models often keep their job a secret in fear of losing out on assignments by bigger brands. Prasenjit Das, 23, who is against commercialization of nudity, said he doesn't drop his clothes for just another assignment.

"For me, what the photographer is working on is of utmost importance. I get `10,000 per shift and my highest remuneration so far has been `50,000," he said. Though offers come his way by the dozens, Prasenjit has not been able to disclose his job profile to his auto-driver father. "There's still a stigma attached to nudity . But someday , in the near future, things are bound to change," said the youngster, who is also into acting and choreography .

While there is no dearth of nude models in Kolkata, a bunch of young photographers are also making a splash. Abir Ghosh, 21, whose photograph was adjudged the best picture of 2014-2015 by a website, said there are still a few grey areas that need to be addressed. "Though there's tremendous curiosity surrounding nude photography, not much recognition comes our way . Moreover, finding a model is still difficult, as they either charge a bomb or refuse to shoot once in a relationship. Renting a studio is also not easy ," he said.

There are others like him who are trying to make a name for themselves by sending their works to photography salons or various competitions, mostly abroad. Iman Ghoshal, 25, said there's hope none theless. "In the past few years, I've been approached by several models beyond my friends. Some of them are plus-size models, as that's also a key area of my work.But yes, mostly women have approached me so far. I think today , there are more female models in Kolkata. It's a huge challenge to shoot nude photographs and hope people understand that before passing a judgement," she said. Iman, who tells picture stories, hopes to take part in major photography competitions the world over. "We need to get rid of the social taboo attached to nudity first," she added. Is anyone listening?

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