I’ve been in this city for so long, and I found out only recently that there’s such a thing as a Parsi bodybuilding competition held here every year,” exclaims Aparna Jayakumar.
By Pooja Pillai / Express India
As soon as the freelance photographer found out about the Annual Zoroastrian Power-Lifting and Bodybuilding Championship, she picked up her Canon 5D and headed to the venue — Rustom Baug in Byculla. An exhibition of the photos she clicked that evening in February — “Flex, Feroze!” — is now up at the Kala Ghoda Cafe in Kala Ghoda till September 21. “It seemed to me such a quirky and interesting idea that I just had to record it,” she says.
Getting in and photographing the event was no trouble at all. “Everyone was so involved with the event and taking pictures of the bodybuilders, I was hardly noticed. So I got some very candid shots as well,” says the 26-year-old. The photos have a sense of drama as the audience is keenly involved in the display of physical prowess on stage. It’s a portrait of a community engaging with itself — whether it is the boys looking admiringly at musclemen on stage, or a young bodybuilder looking exultantly into the audience as he displays his rippling muscles.
The opportunity to so intimately observe the community thrilled Jayakumar. “The atmosphere at the championship was charged with excitement. Practically the whole community, young and old, turns up to watch,” she says. The competition is open only to Parsis, male and female, and to Jayakumar, it proved to be a rich ore of photographic opportunities. “When one thinks of the Parsi community, the first thing that comes to mind is that they’re being called a dying community. But then, you’re at this event, where these well-built people are flexing their muscles and it’s the very epitome of living.”
Jayakumar’s camera has captured not just the bodybuilders preening and posing on stage, but also the audience, as they respond to this display of vitality. “I got a picture of an old couple in the audience, and you can see by the expressions on their faces, how involved they were in what was happening on stage,” says Jayakumar, “Another interesting picture I got was of an old man in his seventies, who was the warm-up act for the show. He was very fit for his age and he set the pace for the event by performing some incredible acrobatics.” A picture of this septuagenarian hanging upside down from a horizontal bar, while a much-younger man looks on from the side, forms the poster for the show.