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Bombay Jadoo
By John Allan
What do you think about when you hear “Mumbai”, or “Bombay”? For those that have not been there, perhaps a bustling and booming Indian city, under the umbrella of international reports that chart India’s accession into one of the worlds financial superpowers.

Maybe you might associate the heady, humid colours related to its geographical location in a tropical zone. It may be cliché, but there is no denying that such observations of India exists, as much as people from outside the UK might think of Britain as a rainy, grey place populated by football hooligans, where everyone drinks tea and eats chips (arguably a reality).

Photojournalist, Betsy Karel has produced a book documenting Bombay, looking at it through a completely different lens. For her publication, ‘Bombay Jadoo’, Karel has been inspired by the stories told from contemporary Indian novelists with truly contemporary accounts of Indian culture. Novelists such as Ardashir Vakil and Suketu Mehta, who have also contributed their writing to ‘Bombay Jadoo’ (“Jadoo” is Hindi for magic), have persuaded Karel to capture the often-darker themes that they touch upon in their own work, like violence, gangs and the burgeoning sex industry.

There is a very personal vision running through the book. With the use of black and white photography, which is not often used for documenting Indian culture, Betsy Karel has sensitively captured an intimate view of Bombay life that offers an ordered perspective of a place perceived to be less so. Mira Nair, Director of films such as ‘Monsoon Wedding’ and ‘The Namesake’, says Karel is “a true chronicler of the extraordinariness of the ordinary."


Betsy Karel is an award winning American photojournalist who made a name for herself in the 1970s and 1980s. Bombay Jadoo is also a catalogue of Karel’s travels to India and Mumbai over the last nine years. This has been her return to photojournalism, after having a 15-year break.

Bombay Jadoo is available to buy from the publishers, Steidl, at, priced at £22


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