Linda Arasano, who played Reuters photographer Jessica Beckham with a Sony camera in the Kabul Express Bollywood film.
By Anuruddha Lokuhapuarachchi
The news of Associated Press’s decision to make Sony its official camera reminded me of an experience fourteen years ago.
That was November 2006. At that time, Sri Lanka was not a good time for journalists. The Sri Lankan government, on the one hand, is waging war against the LTTE, and in parallel has launched a war front against journalists. My main responsibility at the time, working for the Reuters news service, was to take pictures of the war. Despite my long experience and connections in the international news service, I also had two fronts of my own. That is, reporting on the war in the North and facing public and private media barriers imposed by the government in the South. In those days I was facing hostile reactions created in the society against the foreign media which reported war indirectly through the pro-government media. In that background, when I went to the office one morning, Due to a life-threatening situation, the top staff of the News Service decided to assign me to a foreign service and release me from Sri Lanka as soon as possible. I stayed in the Reuters news security shelter on corporate security instructions until my emergency flight was planned and left for India on the first flight the next morning.
I was warmly welcomed by my Reuters staff and colleagues in India and by newspaper photographers in Mumbai, and for three months I was based in Reuters, Mumbai, photographing a number of cities in India. During this time, a new Bollywood film was released in Mumbai. It was called the Kabul Express. The film, directed by Kabir Khan, is a production of Aditya Chopra. Starring John Abraham and Arshad Wasi, it tells the story of an Indian Star News team on a journey to cover the lives of the Taliban in Afghanistan. My colleagues at the Reuters news service in Mumbai knew about this film before it was screened and encouraged me to go see it as it was a story about journalists.
One day I went to the Regal Cinema in Mumbai with my Reuters colleagues Arco Dutt (2004 world news photographer, world press photo winner) and Panith Paranjpe (now senior news photographer French news service) to watch “Kabul Express”.
As the story of the film unfolds, another journalist meets the two Indian journalists on their way from India to the Taliban in Kandahar. As they speak, she turns to them, and then the audience can see that she was taking pictures with a Sony camera. It is not difficult to understand from that point of view that one of the production objectives of the film is to present a Sony camera. But introducing herself to Indian journalists, she told us that she was from the United States and that she worked for Reuters.
It was a funny scene for us back then, not only because the three of us had already worked for Reuters for many years in the war zones, but also because the film’s character was photographed on a Sony camera for Reuters. It’s no secret that international news photographers always work in the background, as we are shown in the film, with Laika, Canon or Nikon cameras at the highest level of professionalism.
Sony would like to give a professional level transaction to all the photographers of the Associated News Service, the largest news network in the world, fourteen years later. Congratulations Sony!