The early 1960s were a turbulent time in world history. The civil rights movement began to pick up in the US, the Vietnam war raged on, US president John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and India and China went to war. But thanks to rampant drug use all over the world—it wasn’t called the Swinging Sixties for nothing—people were able to space out somewhat.
Speaking of spacing out, the early 1960s were also boom years for space travel. Kennedy had set the American nation a challenge to overtake the Russians in the race to the moon through a couple of oft-quoted speeches from 1961 and 1962. Among the first batch of seven heroic astronauts who would spearhead the American venture into manned space travel was Walter “Wally” Schirra Jr.
Schirra was a successful fighter pilot who saw action in World War II and the Korean war before becoming a test pilot. As part of Project Mercury, the US’ first manned space flight programme, Schirra would have to wait till manned flight No. 5 before getting a chance to go into orbit.
Hassel-ed!: Neil Nitin Mukesh and Bipasha Basu in Aa Dekhen Zara
But sometime in early 1962 or perhaps late 1961, before he went into space, Schirra got in touch with the photographers of Life and National Geographic magazines. Taking, as Schirra liked to call it, an “engineer’s approach”, the astronaut wanted to know which model of camera would be the best to take into orbit. He finally settled on a Hasselblad 500c model camera. The still-unknown Schirra walked into a photography supplies store in Houston, Texas, and picked up a piece off the shelf and slightly modified it to use in space.
It wouldn’t be the first camera an astronaut would carry into space but it would be a momentous decision nonetheless. Schirra’s Hasselblad returned to earth having functioned flawlessly, and this would lead to a continuous relationship between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) and the brand. Some of the most famous space photos ever taken would be captured with Hasselblads.
Also taking a bold step in the early 1960s was a 22-year-old, Kolkata-born music composer called Rahul Dev Burman. By 1961, Burman had spent a few years helping his illustrious father, the composer Sachin Dev Burman, with a number of film soundtracks. The young Burman’s first project as a full-fledged music director was for a Guru Dutt movie called Raaz in 1959. But the project was shelved.
So Burman had to wait till 1961 to see the release of Chhote Nawab, a movie starring Mehmood that was entirely forgettable except for Burman’s music. Like the Hasselblad and Nasa relationship, this would be the first step in a relationship between Burman and films that would last for around 300 soundtracks.
Now this week, if you are looking to catch a movie, I would recommend the one named after a smash hit 1981 Burman track, Aa Dekhen Zara. While I have no idea if the movie is any good, at least you get to see the work of R.D. Burman share the screen with another work from the house of Hasselblad. That camera the hero sports is a 1500F Hasselblad, suitably jazzed up Bollywood style. It’s about time those two met, don’t you think?
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