Mahesh Shantaram



In India, I'm generally known as a wedding photographer. However, in recent years, my role has transcended from meeting the expectations of this genre to documenting contemporary Indian culture. I enjoy this position from which I get a ringside view into the theatre of society.

Everything that's great about India and everything that's wrong with it can be summarised in a single wedding. Young men and women 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 crowds, cater to thousands of guests, and generally keep the show going for anywhere between one to five days. Weddings will always be the greatest enterprise of consumption in India, no holds barred.

The answers to just about any socio-economic question can be explained as a cause or effect of wedding culture. What is essentially an intimate and private gathering anywhere else in the world is, in India, a spectacular show of power and wealth. The all-pervasive caste system; traditions steeped in patriarchy; the yawning gap between rich and poor; wealth as a determinant of social status; the confidence with which the upper classes celebrate as the pressures of reality takes flight; the servility with which the lower classes serve, grateful for a days' wages.

Matrimania is my personal take on 21st century India seen through the prism of its wedding culture. It is a window into my recurring nightmares within this very strange world and provides a dark narrative to the great coming together and what is left behind in its wake.