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Matrimania (extract)
2017

"Everything that’s great about our country and everything that’s wrong with it can be summarised in a single wedding.

In India, my dominant identity used to be that of a wedding photographer. You know, the one who eats, shoots, and leaves. Over time, my role transcended from meeting the expectations of that genre to documenting contemporary Indian culture. I enjoy a ringside view into the theatre of society.

Young men and women on their Big Day assume the role of prince and princess in a bollywood fantasy. On the periphery, a multitude of workers facilitate the creation of Disneyland-like sets, entertain audiences, cater to the needs of thousands of guests, and generally keep the machine greased. We see the confidence of the upper classes in their celebrations as the pressures of reality take flight; the servility of the lower classes, grateful for a day’s wages. It’s not hard to tell the haves from the have-nots. Their relationship is starkly visual and present.

How does one summarise a sub-continent that is so vast, so diverse, and so divided without succumbing to cultural or regional bias? Because the need to celebrate matrimony is the thread that unites this country, maintaining the guise of a travelling wedding photographer living out of a suitcase during each wedding season became an integral part of the process in creating this work.

Matrimania is my personal take on 21st century India seen through the prism of its wedding culture. It is a walk through one long night at an Indian wedding, offering the viewer an alternate narrative to the great Coming Together and what’s left behind in its wake. When one thinks of every wedding album ever produced in the world, it is a carefully pruned edit of photographs where the sky is always blue, the sun is shining, everyone’s cheerful, and all the attention is on the couple. Matrimania is also a wedding album—albeit a fictional one shot over six years and culled from over a hundred weddings. In this dark narrative, however, society seems to come tearing apart at its seams to reveal its insides."

Mahesh Shantaram

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