The background is green and scenic. On a stone bench sits Nagavalli (of Manichithrathazhu) and Joker (of Joker), her head rested on his shoulder. Two film characters, who lead disturbed lives on screen, are seen to be comforting each other in the photo series ‘When Joker Collaborated with Nagavalli’ by Kochi-based photographer Yaami. She says the idea sprouted in her mind almost a year ago. It was rekindled when the latest Hollywood film Joker hit the screens. “I loved the new joker and wanted to photograph him and Nagavalli before anyone else does it,” she chuckles.
In the series, actor Saniya Iyyappan appears as Nagavalli and Sam as Joker. They are seen dancing, walking, and communicating with each other through kind gestures. Looks like they find peace in the presence of each other. “These are two of my favourite characters. What I found common in them was their troubled life. In the series, they console each other: Joker by tying Nagavalli’s chilanka and Nagavalli by painting his face. I didn’t go deep into that aspect; I just wanted to bring them together,” explains Yaami, who has been liked and loathed for the aforementioned shots.
Laughing she says, “The response has been mad. Some people, I presume chauvinists, didn’t like the idea of Joker tying Nagavalli’s chilanka. They felt it feminine.” Yaami just ignored them. Because, a feminist, she believes both the characters have been treated equally and respectfully. “They soothe each other. There is nothing wrong in it. The story line goes like that,” she believes.
Yaami had imagined the series in Hill Palace, Tripunithura. However, she could not do it there as the place was not available on that day. “Thus, we moved to Iringole Kavu. The shooting was completed within half an hour. What took a bit time was to contour the chiselled features of Nagavalli.” She was also particular about their costumes. Nagavalli appears in a red and golden combo dance costume while Joker in a red-black combo.
This is not the first time Yaami, who left her airline job to pursue travel and photography, has done a character shoot. “I had done a series inspired from the character Subhadra of Vanaprastham. I was fascinated by the way she carried herself in those circumstances,” she says.
In Manichithrathazhu, she actually likes Ganga more, but she found Nagavalli apt for reimagination. “When we reproduce a character like Ganga, the shots are likely to look like those from movies. My followers are looking forward to something from my perspective. So, I chose Nagavalli who can be portrayed like that. And, Joker joined.”
It was two years ago Yaami left her job to follow her passion of travelling and, subsequently, photography. “Travel was the main reason. Photography came along. Once, I applied for leave to travel to Puri, Orissa. I was denied leave. It shattered me. So, I thought the better idea would be to quit the job and do what I love. That was the trigger,” she recalls. She, then, travelled to places she loved. Meanwhile, she got a camera and took a friend’s photo. “I posted it on Instagram and it clicked. That was my beginning into fashion photography.”
A self-taught photographer, she has done more than 100 projects in two years, most of them female-oriented. “Not that I hate male models. But I find female models more beautiful through my camera. No matter what their background or skin tone is, I am confident that I can make them look beautiful in their own ways.”
Not just that, over the time, she has learnt that photography can be used as an effective tool to break stereotypes. Her saree photographs for instance. In one, there is a woman who sits lazily in saree wearing boots instead of high-heels. She, who wears confidence, is least bothered about exposing her slightly hairy leg. “It is a kind of liberation. When we wear sarees, we are told to sit and walk in certain ways. This breaks all those notions. I bring the confidence of my subjects in their own way.”
In another, a model is shown skating in a saree. “That was one of my most hit photographs. It was very tough doing that. We had to arrange the saree after every shot. Chances were high that the saree would get stuck in the skateboard. But it turned out well,” she says. “When I started, I didn’t realise photography would bring change. It all happened quite organically.”
Looking back, she feels happy about her decision to quit. “My mother would always tell me ‘don’t stay in a place that does not make you happy’. I followed that.” Finding a foothold in the industry was not an easy journey. There were many to criticise. “But I also got people who support me. I gradually worked my way towards this dream.” Her only worry is that travel took a backseat as life became busy. “I have to restart it. I am planning a solo trip to Ootty,” she giggles. She has three more in her to do list: a high-end camera, a studio and an own team.