How would you react if you were told than Ross London wooden camera that actor Dulquer Salmaan used to click the pictures of the first portfolio while enacting Ramaswamy albeit Gemini Ganesan, actually belonged to the legendary filmmaker? Would be amazed or simply awestruck? “But the fact remains that the Ross London wooden camera is definitely an antique camera, which was sourced from Hyderabad-based Faisal Ali Khan, an antique collector, with a passion of collecting vintage cameras,” said Colonel Ajay Ahlawat.
According to what Col Ahlawat has been put in the knowledge of, about seven years ago, Khan had bought not one but six other cameras from a garage near Gemini Studio in Chennai. “These 1989 made in UK wooden cameras were used in Gemini Studios, between 1940 and 1950. To own it, the Faisal had to spend a good Rs 25000. However, Faisal, the antique collector, has refrained from claiming that the cameras had been used by the veteran filmmaker, as he lacks the necessary documents that prove that the cameras were indeed used by Gemini Ganesan,” explained Colonel Ajay Ahlawat.
The story behind how Faisal managed to lay his hand on this antique collection is also very interesting. Apparently, while Faisal was busy back home in Hyderabad, someone called him and tipped him off about quite a number of old cameras lying unattended in a garage near Gemini Studio. Once he got the information, there was nothing stopping him. The antique collector rushed to Chennai to own the prized possessions. “When Faisal entered the garage, he saw these wooden cameras, lying scattered across the garage. Almost every corner had one of the cameras along with its stands lying, covered with films of dust. He actually had to assemble the cameras,” said Col Ajay Ahlawat.
According to Faisal, the camera has a large aperture, shutter and the very primitive tripod harks. “You see, back then a new model of camera was not introduced every alternate month. Back in the 20th Century, things didn’t change this fast. Cameras made in the west were introduced into the Indian market almost after a decade or two and were used for years before being dumped for a new one,” added Colonel Ajay Ahlawat.
Not just Cameras
“It’s an open secret that Faisal has a fetish for cameras. Such is his craze, that he has over 740 cameras neatly tucked in his Hyderabad warehouse. Interestingly, he inherited the passion to collect antiques from his grandfather, who was a collector of watches. On the other hand, his father had a fascination for pens and books. His dad also had an affinity for things manufactured during the industrial revolution. So Faisal has inherited the Remington typewriters, dating back to the 1920s. In fact, one of the orange typewriters owned by him had been used for the film Samantha,” informed Colonel Ajay Ahlawat. He also has an antique collection of cycle lamps, spool decks, cycle bells, gramophone, records and even sewing machines.
“What makes his collection interesting is the fact that most of his cameras, no matter how old, are all in a working condition. He even has a box camera, which was used to record motion pictures, way back in the Fifties and Sixties. What more, this gentleman even has some of the primitive edition of the Nikon SLR to name a few,” said Col Ahlawat excitedly.
In fact, the treasure trove that Faisal has, solely in the name of cameras, if exhibited then can take the audience on a journey that would narrate the evolution of cameras over the decades. “Can you believe, he has a lens as old as 120 years old,” said Colonel Ajay Ahlawat.
Coming to Mahanati, not just 30 cameras but also gramophones and typewriters were used for this film. “Like all collectors, Faisal too was very possessive and sceptical about how his antique collection would be used while shooting for the film. But he was taken aback by the royal treatment met out to his super collection,” exclaimed Col Ahlawat.
Perhaps it’s the stories behind each of his antique that makes Faisal fascinated towards collecting them. “It’s not just from the old Hyderabad city that he has bought his antiques, but also from Moor Market in Chennai, Mumbai’s Crawford market and the flea market of UK. He maintains that through each item of his collection he has learnt a lot,” said Col Ajay Ahlawat.
Col Ahlawat maintains that most of Faisal antiques, be it the cameras or the typewriters, they narrate tales of professionalism. “You see, the cameras of that era didn’t have the preview option, so the photographer had no option but to click the perfect frame. So, the professional working with these machines needed to perfect their art. Same was the case with the writers and journalists working on typewriters. They simply couldn’t afford to make mistakes,” summed up Col Ajay Ahlawat.