Mukesh Parpiani made his landmark series on the Mumbai police in the1980s and 1990s. The police of Mumbai at this time were of stark difference to the police force of today; they traveled on bicycles, their uniforms were less statutory and they were far less guarded. It is also interesting to note that is was during the ’80s and ’90s that the Mumbai Encounter Squad was formed. This was an unofficial group within the police force itself. The officers from the Encounter Squad soon became heroes and mythological figures in the city. By contrast, the police in Parpiani’s series show them as a much more human force, and not necessarily one equipped to handle the rising criminal underworld in Mumbai at that time.
The photographs shown here are at once witty and playful, distressing and abhorrent. They show both a human side to the force, as well as painting a rather freighting picture of their chaotic and violent world. As a photojournalist, Parpiani’s main objective was to portray the truth. Rather than exaggerating violence or painting a biased picture, he believed in the intelligence of the viewer to make up their own minds.
Mukesh Parpiani is a renowned photojournalist with a career spanning close to four decades. He is the Head of the Piramal Gallery and the Centre of Photography as Art at the National Centre of the Performing Arts in Mumbai. He has also been recently appointed as an Honorary Member of the Photographic Society of India. A true Mumbaikar, Parpiani has been a resident for nearly half a century and it is from this city that he draws his inspiration.