"Hello! Can you give me a few minutes?," Nirav Modi said as he walked into his store at South Mumbai's Kala Ghoda to pose for a photo shoot for a Business Today story. The celebrity jeweller wore a blue Canali suit with a silk red pocket square and he had a Fitbit and a luxury watch around his wrist. But what looked rather weird were his shabby loafers.
Modi seemed a person with calm and poised personality when I met him at the ground floor of his two-storeyed showroom showcasing fine jewellery. This was in August of 2016. His claim to fame was that he was the first Indian designer to have a 1000 square feet store at the famed Madison Avenue in New York. He was also making waves in the international arena for his designs. In the same year, he was ranked amongst the thousand billionaires in the world. In India, he was in the top fifties. My assignment was to shoot him for our once-a-year luxury special edition.
I reached his showroom almost an hour before the scheduled time, which was at 11:00 am. It was too early. The showroom was closed. I was reminded by the security that the entry would be allowed only when the contact person comes in. I decided to grab a sandwich from the nearby bakery. The wait was finally over and I was allowed in. I was also offered a cup of coffee. There was also a good piece of advice; I cannot leave my camera and light bags out in the display area since the store is open for customers. Frankly, I had never seen him until I met him. I had a faint remembrance of seeing advertisement hoardings of Nirav Modi around Mumbai. I had also looked him up on Google. From the pictures, he appeared to be a calm person. I must say a perfect man for the shoot.
Finally, the wait was over. Nirav Modi was ready for the shoot. I first showed him some dummy shots, which I did with his employees. He smiled and started posing for the camera. I found him indulging, unlike many CEOs who are often distracted or look restless while posing. The ground floor shoot was quickly over and done.
The next set of pictures had to be shot on the first floor of his showroom. I had to shift my lights. I requested him to wait for some time as I adjusted the lights. He didn't look in a rush, and patiently waited in his office for some time. I wanted to take his portrait around his showcased jewellery which cost anywhere from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 5 crore. He posed around his creations and followed the instructions during the shoot. He came across as soft spoken and shy person who wanted to have stores around the world.
He gave me my fill. I spent almost half an hour.
Last Wednesday, when Nirav Modi hit the headlines for defrauding Punjab National Bank, the images of my shoot with him started snowballing into my mind. I quickly pulled out those images to see the man. Once again, my eyes were stuck at his completely worn out brown loafers. "Is it a style statement to wear shabby footwear?," is what criss-crossed my mind. I'm sure the banks are also clueless about the man they trusted with thousands of crore of depositors' money.
My camera lens has captured the who's who of India Inc., little did I know that my lens would also capture India's biggest fraudster ever!