art world

Half Naked Nude: An Indian artist seeks sensuality in debris on the beach and in household objects

Shahid Datawala makes art out of everyday things.

It was an overcast day at the beach near Vaitarna, Thane, and artist-photographer Shahid Datawala had ventured out for a walk with his friend Joy Datta. At the beach, Datawala and Datta were surrounded by the washed up debris of discarded things, caught in sand that was choked by a recent oil-spill. Instead of garbage, Datawala says he saw intriguing shapes and sensuous forms.

He returned the next day with his camera to capture these shapes, half embedded in earth but peeking out in shades of blue and yellow. “It was pouring while I was taking the pictures, with Joy holding the umbrella over my head to protect my camera,” said Datawala. After six hours of taking photographs in torrential rain, Datawala knew he had all the material he needed for a show.

He calls this series of images Half Naked Nude.

Image by Shahid Datawala. Courtesy: Tarq.
Image by Shahid Datawala. Courtesy: Tarq.

The series along with another project done by Datawala, titled Unstill Life, will be on display for the first time at the Tarq art gallery in Mumbai from July 6 to August 5. The show, says Datawala, will be dedicated to Datta, for it was the late fashion photographer who took him to the beach on that rainy day.

“He knew me and my style of work very well and he knew that this sort of aesthetic would be right up my alley,” said Datawala. Datta died in a car accident in October 2016.

Datawala never felt the need to visit other beaches for Half Naked Nude. “I could have gone on shooting, but I knew I had everything I wanted to show in those pictures. We, as artists, feel that we have to justify our work by how long we have been working on it, but when you know you just know.”

Image by Shahid Datawala. Courtesy: Tarq.
Image by Shahid Datawala. Courtesy: Tarq.

The found objects along the beach remain unaltered in Datawala’s images and betray his fascination with the human body. A bright piece of plastic, buried in the sand, appears to approximate the curves of a woman’s body.

“I think it is important to take a minute and really understand your object or your subject,” said Datawala. “Like, during my fashion shoots, I’m very aware of every inch of the human body. I think while photographing anything you need to take that time.”

While Half Naked Nude celebrates the hidden art in found objects, his other series of work has been created from random things in his house that Datawala describes as a “mini-museum with its collections of scissors, typewriters and keys”. The photographs are the result of subconscious fiddling with these items. “The two bodies of work have two completely different visual languages – one is what I found and the other is what I already owned and gave another representation, but they are all bound together by the fact that they have ceased to serve their original purpose.”

Cargear. Image by Shahid Datawala. Courtesy Tarq.
Cargear. Image by Shahid Datawala. Courtesy Tarq.

Datawala dons many hats in his life: he is a fashion photographer and a designer of jewellery, clothes and furniture. His philosophy at its essence is unpretentious: everything is art.

“Everything is art and design and is meant to serve a physical or mental or visual function. All of it inspires some emotion,” said Datawala, who has been known to create jewellery inspired by the Bombay sewage system.

The first composition for Unstill Life came to him while playing around with a toy car. “I started stacking metal car gears under and over a blue toy car – just trying to balance it perfectly so that the whole thing doesn’t topple over.” The creation, called Cargear, became the first of many more to be made over the next few months. Most of the images in Unstill Life will leave the audience queasy – 50 pins pushed into a lemon sitting within a lemon squeezer or a telephone cord extending from a stuffed squirrel balancing a vintage, bulky phone receiver on its head.

Telefish. Image by Shahid Datawala. Courtesy: Tarq.
Telefish. Image by Shahid Datawala. Courtesy: Tarq.

“I would ask my friends and their kids to bring their toys or weird things when they would come to my house and some of those things have made their way into Unstill Life, like a friend’s 14-year-old son brought his panda bear toy from his childhood days and it’s in the show with the end of a little bulb as its mouth,” said Datawala.

The theme that runs through most of Datawala’s work, is that his constant goal is to give these found objects a new life. Ever since artist Marcel Duchamp’s installation, Fountain (1917), creating with found objects has become an art form. Duchamp’s Fountain was a urinal that was simply turned over, which has since been interpreted as the image of a seated Buddha, something erotic or even a practical joke. But, Duchamp had once described his intent to simply shift the focus in art from the physical to intellectual.

“While shooting Half Naked Nude, I was trying to see the objects strewn around the beach as remains of people, moments, travel, memories rather than just bits of plastic and fabric. Unstill Life to me is like tinkering with household things and seeing a visual emerge like a surrealist illustration of a surrealist narratives made up in my own head.”

Image by Shahid Datawala. Courtesy: Tarq.
Image by Shahid Datawala. Courtesy: Tarq.
We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Behind the garb of wealth and success, white collar criminals are hiding in plain sight

Understanding the forces that motivate leaders to become fraudsters.

Most con artists are very easy to like; the ones that belong to the corporate society, even more so. The Jordan Belforts of the world are confident, sharp and can smooth-talk their way into convincing people to bend at their will. For years, Harshad Mehta, a practiced con-artist, employed all-of-the-above to earn the sobriquet “big bull” on Dalaal Street. In 1992, the stockbroker used the pump and dump technique, explained later, to falsely inflate the Sensex from 1,194 points to 4,467. It was only after the scam that journalist Sucheta Dalal, acting on a tip-off, broke the story exposing how he fraudulently dipped into the banking system to finance a boom that manipulated the stock market.


In her book ‘The confidence game’, Maria Konnikova observes that con artists are expert storytellers - “When a story is plausible, we often assume it’s true.” Harshad Mehta’s story was an endearing rags-to-riches tale in which an insurance agent turned stockbroker flourished based on his skill and knowledge of the market. For years, he gave hope to marketmen that they too could one day live in a 15,000 sq.ft. posh apartment with a swimming pool in upmarket Worli.

One such marketman was Ketan Parekh who took over Dalaal Street after the arrest of Harshad Mehta. Ketan Parekh kept a low profile and broke character only to celebrate milestones such as reaching Rs. 100 crore in net worth, for which he threw a lavish bash with a star-studded guest-list to show off his wealth and connections. Ketan Parekh, a trainee in Harshad Mehta’s company, used the same infamous pump-and-dump scheme to make his riches. In that, he first used false bank documents to buy high stakes in shares that would inflate the stock prices of certain companies. The rise in stock prices lured in other institutional investors, further increasing the price of the stock. Once the price was high, Ketan dumped these stocks making huge profits and causing the stock market to take a tumble since it was propped up on misleading share prices. Ketan Parekh was later implicated in the 2001 securities scam and is serving a 14-years SEBI ban. The tactics employed by Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parekh were similar, in that they found a loophole in the system and took advantage of it to accumulate an obscene amount of wealth.


Call it greed, addiction or smarts, the 1992 and 2001 Securities Scams, for the first time, revealed the magnitude of white collar crimes in India. To fill the gaps exposed through these scams, the Securities Laws Act 1995 widened SEBI’s jurisdiction and allowed it to regulate depositories, FIIs, venture capital funds and credit-rating agencies. SEBI further received greater autonomy to penalise capital market violations with a fine of Rs 10 lakhs.

Despite an empowered regulatory body, the next white-collar crime struck India’s capital market with a massive blow. In a confession letter, Ramalinga Raju, ex-chairman of Satyam Computers convicted of criminal conspiracy and financial fraud, disclosed that Satyam’s balance sheets were cooked up to show an excess of revenues amounting to Rs. 7,000 crore. This accounting fraud allowed the chairman to keep the share prices of the company high. The deception, once revealed to unsuspecting board members and shareholders, made the company’s stock prices crash, with the investors losing as much as Rs. 14,000 crores. The crash of India’s fourth largest software services company is often likened to the bankruptcy of Enron - both companies achieved dizzying heights but collapsed to the ground taking their shareholders with them. Ramalinga Raju wrote in his letter “it was like riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten”, implying that even after the realisation of consequences of the crime, it was impossible for him to rectify it.

It is theorised that white-collar crimes like these are highly rationalised. The motivation for the crime can be linked to the strain theory developed by Robert K Merton who stated that society puts pressure on individuals to achieve socially accepted goals (the importance of money, social status etc.). Not having the means to achieve those goals leads individuals to commit crimes.

Take the case of the executive who spent nine years in McKinsey as managing director and thereafter on the corporate and non-profit boards of Goldman Sachs, Procter & Gamble, American Airlines, and Harvard Business School. Rajat Gupta was a figure of success. Furthermore, his commitment to philanthropy added an additional layer of credibility to his image. He created the American India Foundation which brought in millions of dollars in philanthropic contributions from NRIs to development programs across the country. Rajat Gupta’s descent started during the investigation on Raj Rajaratnam, a Sri-Lankan hedge fund manager accused of insider trading. Convicted for leaking confidential information about Warren Buffet’s sizeable investment plans for Goldman Sachs to Raj Rajaratnam, Rajat Gupta was found guilty of conspiracy and three counts of securities fraud. Safe to say, Mr. Gupta’s philanthropic work did not sway the jury.


The people discussed above have one thing in common - each one of them was well respected and celebrated for their industry prowess and social standing, but got sucked down a path of non-violent crime. The question remains - Why are individuals at successful positions willing to risk it all? The book Why They Do It: Inside the mind of the White-Collar Criminal based on a research by Eugene Soltes reveals a startling insight. Soltes spoke to fifty white collar criminals to understand their motivations behind the crimes. Like most of us, Soltes expected the workings of a calculated and greedy mind behind the crimes, something that could separate them from regular people. However, the results were surprisingly unnerving. According to the research, most of the executives who committed crimes made decisions the way we all do–on the basis of their intuitions and gut feelings. They often didn’t realise the consequences of their action and got caught in the flow of making more money.


The arena of white collar crimes is full of commanding players with large and complex personalities. Billions, starring Damien Lewis and Paul Giamatti, captures the undercurrents of Wall Street and delivers a high-octane ‘ruthless attorney vs wealthy kingpin’ drama. The show looks at the fine line between success and fraud in the stock market. Bobby Axelrod, the hedge fund kingpin, skilfully walks on this fine line like a tightrope walker, making it difficult for Chuck Rhoades, a US attorney, to build a case against him.

If financial drama is your thing, then block your weekend for Billions. You can catch it on Hotstar Premium, a platform that offers a wide collection of popular and Emmy-winning shows such as Game of Thrones, Modern Family and This Is Us, in addition to live sports coverage, and movies. To subscribe, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hotstar and not by the Scroll editorial team.