Christmas and Mud Wrestling

Pinned DownIt’s Christmas and boy am I glad to be away from all the commotion. We have spent the last nine days in Kolhapur – a city in the South of India, not too far from Goa, here not many people are aware of the ‘Festive Season’. There are no signs advertising Christmas specials, no Santa Clauses, none of the cheesiness associated with this holiday, which has long ago lost its meaning for most. Yes, I confess – I really don’t like Christmas and everything associated with it. My time as Santa Clause photographer during university holidays years back probably has something to do with it. That really showed me the ugly side of Christmas. Obsessive mothers shouting at their terrified children to stop crying while they sit on the lap of a stranger in a costume, the manager telling you to “Smile, it’s Christmas”. Yeah, sure! I even managed to have an argument with Santa Clause, who was far from a nice guy, the whole experience was like one of those Ben Stiller movies, where he plays the innocent goofball and everything bad happens to him. I don’t hate Christmas, I just don’t like it, but to all those who do – Merry Christmas.
Enough of that. I have just about completed shooting my first little photo project on Kusti – an ancient form of wrestling, in mud. The sight of men dressed in nothing but tiny underpants, covered in mud, sweating and grunting as they try to physically overwhelm each other and bring the opponent down is well…very strange, but also very photogenic. To an outsider this whole Kusti thing might seem like a cross between one of the most barbaric things in the world and just a couple of friends playing in the sand box. In one of the ‘Thalims’ (wrestling schools) some of the younger wrestlers don’t even wrestle, they simply come into the pit and cover themselves with sand, head to toe, later they exercise and that’s it, training over. Tanya jokes that I play with my little friends in the sandbox every time I go photographing and get into the mud pit. I also end up getting dirty, although not voluntarily, as I sit, lie down and lean against walls to photograph the action. Almost all of the wrestlers are great guys. Really, truly great. Hospitable, kind and friendly. Even the meanest looking badass is a teddy bear inside. It will even be a little sad to depart, since we’ve come to know almost everyone in the Motibagh Thalim – the place where I’ve photographed most. There is a lot to Kusti, but I will not go into it in too much detail for now. Instead I am posting a few images. As you can see the light was rather surreal in some of them, no need for anything additional.Portrait of a WrestlerWrestlingChild WrestlersFatiguePain

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4 Responses to “Christmas and Mud Wrestling”

  1. Gavin Says:

    Terrific images Mitchell, really like the earthy tones and atmospheric light. I hope the rest of your trip continues to go well.

  2. Mitchell Says:

    Thanks Gavin. I hope so too:) Will take a few days off in Goa for now:)

  3. david duchemin Says:

    Jealous. And as always, gorgeous work, Mitchell. Hoping you two are having a really great time out there!

  4. prashant khapane Says:

    What, you were in Kolhapur? My God, it is my hometown!! I’m going there next week and will be there for 4 weeks. If you are still around let me know.
    I still can’t believe it. Did you try Kolhapuri food? Where did you stay?

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