While most shutterbugs click pictures, Reji Bhaskar sculpts each frame to perfection with his in-depth knowledge of aesthetics and anatomy making him the favourite photographer of tinsel town, the cream of the corporate world and ramp scorchers. What’s more, he is also a visiting faculty in four colleges and the judge of 35 stellar pageants
– Renjith Leen
Many years ago, a 13-year-boy in Muhamma, Alappuzha, fell in love with the camera lens. It was no ordinary love affair; his world revolved around his dad’s studio where he handled the field camera and Yashica and peeped into the dark room. As he grew up, he decided to pursue videography and go on to become a cinematographer. But fate brought him to the world of fashion photography. Today, Reji Bhaskar is a name to reckon with in photography – be it celebrity, fashion, industrial or advertisement shoots. Very few shutterbugs in the state have attained his prowess, recognition and aura.
The journey from Muhamma to the heights of the fashion-celebrity photography world was long and Reji took each step towards excellence and fame armed with grit, perseverance and oodles of passion. “I came into photography during the last days of black and white photos and field cameras, saw the growth of colour photography and the smooth transition to digital cameras, which is a big privilege,” says Reji who is the official trainer of Canon EOS Maestro.
Dashing and well-groomed always, Reji’s world is not just limited to the lens and viewfinder. Verve and brilliance have made him the visiting faculty of the fashion designing department of four colleges in Kerala although he doesn’t boast a degree or a certificate in photography from any institute. A member of the panel of judges of 35 celebrated beauty and fashion pageants, he has to his credit five photography awards and three fashion awards, including the Passion Vista Award for Best South Indian Fashion Photographer.
“I remember my first award came when I was 17. It was for the documentary ‘Iniyum Marikatha Vembanad’ in the pan-Kerala competition conducted by Kerala Videographers Association,” says Reji, who began to be noticed when his frame captioned ‘Praanan poitum piriyatha pranayam’ (Enduring love even after death) won the photo contest of Malayalam daily Mathrubhumi in 2003 and it was published in eight columns on the front page. Then there was no looking back.
He is the only shutterbug to be interviewed by the most number of TV channels. “It is because of my popularity as a photography trainer and judge of pageants,” says the lensman who has been chosen as the mentor of Canon.
Though he has clicked countless celebrities and movie stars, there are two shoots that he always treasures. One is the ad shoot with Kollywood icon Vijay for Joy Alukkas, which was clicked in Chennai, and the other was the photo session with Mollywood superstar Mohanlal. It was the cover shoot for the publication Mamma Mia, which was launched by none other than national award winning Mollywood icon Mammootty. “What more would a photographer want?” he chuckles.
My lens has focussed on ace entrepreneurs – Ravi Pillai, Beena Kannan and PVP of PVP Cinemas fame. In fact, the magazine cover featuring his photo was launched by none other than Sachin Tendulkar, he says. Some of the other celebrities who posed for Reji are tinsel world icons Mammootty, Kavya Madhavan, Siddik, Aishwarya Lekshmi, Deepti Sati, Mythili, Mia, Vishnu Priya, Durga Krishna, Bala, and Vineeth Sreenivasan as well as cricketer Sanju Samson to name a few.
He has a state-of the-art studio in Ernakulam, which is one of the best equipped in Kerala with broncolor lights, medium format camera and other accessories. Except for wedding photography, all the other shoots are handled by Reji.
His fashion/portfolio snaps can be easily mistaken for ones that appear in high-end fashion magazines of Milan and Paris. What makes each frame unique is the stamp of perfection he gives, be it the lighting, costume, backdrop, lens and ambience. “I make sure that even the costume is in sync with the ambience and the nature of the shoot,” he says. “During a shoot in Nelliyampathy, I noticed a tree with a fascinating pattern on its bark. So I created an outfit almost similar to that and when we came for the shoot with the model, the tree had already been axed. But then there was a sapling nearby of the same kind, and the shoot went ahead giving stunning results.”
What gives him extra mileage over other lensmen is his unmatched knowledge of aesthetics and anatomy, which he uses to good measure. From the lowering of the chin to the light tilt of the face and the nasal symmetry, Reji’s trained eyes bring out the best of each subject in front of his camera.
Reji is also credited with bringing innovation to wedding photography. He was the one who transformed post-wedding shoots by taking it out of run-of-the-mill parks and gardens to exotic locales. “I took a lot of effort to make it appear more like a fashion shoot with elaborate props, stunning locations, costumes, stylists, makeup artist and it blends both outdoor and indoor shoots,” says Reji, who never gets tired of clicking in Alappuzha beach, the hinterlands of his home district and Nelliyampathy.
With his eyes on the stars, his march with the camera to conquer greater heights goes on and given his acumen, it is only a matter of time before he earns his place among the doyens of photography in the country.