Remembering Guwahati's Legendary Photographer Devi Ram Das or ‘Devi Petla’
GUWAHATI: Let’s talk about a prominent personality of Guwahati who is virtually forgotten today.
Today, with smart phones and DSLRs in hand, everyone is a superb cameraman. People clicking around and others roaming about with fancy cameras is a regular sight in Guwahati.
But Guwahati can boast of one photographer who was a true big name way back around mid 1900. You might not have heard of Devi Ram Das. Or have you?
Well, Das was so good at his work that he even got an invitation from the last British Viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten.
Devi Ram Das, as the older generation of Guwahati fondly recalls him, could be recognised by his trademark golf cap and his box camera that he balanced on his big fat belly even as it hung from his neck, roaming across Guwahati on his bicycle. He was popularly known as ‘Devi Petla’.
Hari Das, his son fondly remembers his father’s love for photography, “My dad was born on 1st August, 1900. Our home is at Barpetiapara, Panbazar (exactly at one corner of the crossroad between Danish Road and Dr. JC Das Road. There was a studio named Ruby Art House in Panbazar. My father probably caught the interest from there.”
Devi Ram Das was a self-taught photographer. At the age of 17, he took to photography professionally. He bought his first still photo camera from Kolkata. Reportedly, there was no shop in Assam then which sold such equipment.
Guwahatians were so fond of him that Das was the one who got the maximum attention when he went to cover the football match between Maharana Club and Friends’ Union at Judges Field in 1946. Das took the only photograph of Shaheed Ranjit Borpujari after he was shot dead in 1969 at the Cotton College hostel. He was also the only civilian to click photos of Lord Mountbatten and his wife at Uzanbazar ghat and post the pictures all the way back to London after the latter went back from India. Das took pride in the fact that he was sent an appreciation letter and an invitation to meet the last viceroy whenever he visited London; he would carry the letter around to show anyone who cared.
Apart from photography, Devi Ram was an eminent actor who played important parts in movies like Bhakta Prahlad, Maniram Dewan, Lachit Borphukan and Loti Ghoti.