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24 frames make a year

You can't buy it. You won't be able to borrow it. Beg or steal seems the best option since Dabboo Ratnani's seventh calendar is one collector's item no Bollywood buff can do without. To be launched in a week's time, the ace photographer's 2006 calendar has 24 of the biggest names in tinsel town coming together on a desk near you.

From Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan to Kajol and Mallika Sherawat, Dabboo has framed every big name like they've never been seen before. 'I have never gone for just one theme for all the pictures,' Dabboo tells Metro. 'I believe if you have the same concept for all 24 pictures on your desk throughout the year, people would get tired to see them. At least I haven't found such a strong theme to hold together so many stars.'

So what Dabboo has done is make each one of the 24 images as different as they get. 'All of them have different styles of photography, different make-up and styling and different concepts,' he says. 'They also look totally different from the way these stars look in magazines. We have done a lot of post-production and background work to the pictures so that each one has a story to tell.'

The prized image for this year's calendar has been Aamir Khan, someone Dabboo has never worked with before. 'This is also the first time Aamir has ever done a photo shoot for a calendar,' he reveals. 'And he agreed to do it just for the concept. What we have done with the Aamir picture is make him look like a modern-day Robin Hood with all the bow-and-arrow accessories in place. I got fashion designer Arjun Khanna to do the styling. With so many people working with each other for the first time, the end product had to look new.'

For Amitabh Bachchan, Dabboo went for a paparazzi shot. 'I shot him in London, coming out of a hotel and getting into a black cab with lots of onlookers on the streets, some reading newspapers,' he recalls. 'Very, very candid. It took me all of five minutes and before I knew it, it was done.'

The Arjun Rampal picture wasn't that easy, though, and that had nothing to do with the model-turned-actor. 'I wanted a set of crows flying in one particular angle to go with the way I have shot Arjun against the blank sky,' states Dabboo. 'But that turned out to be tougher than shooting any of the 24 stars. I just couldn't get that particular angle to be added in post-production to Arjun's image. In fact, I must have gone to seven or eight locations before I got what I wanted.'

No such problems with the Priyanka Chopra shot though, which Dabboo considers to be one of his favourites this year. 'It's shot with her sitting at the steering inside a 1953 Dodge,' he reveals. 'Her entire look ' make-up and hairdo ' was kept very retro. Then we gave a sepia tone to it making it look like the 1960s. Even the street in the background had that very old French flavour.'

If it's a Dabboo Ratnani collection, you can't imagine Hrithik Roshan to look anything but special. And Duggu's shot in Dabboo's 2006 calendar doesn't disappoint. 'I have again shot him bare-bodied like last year,' he says. 'This time, he has this belt of screws wrapped all around him and he has been shot in very dark lighting. It's come out really well.'

But why take so much of effort ' it took Dabboo eight months to finish the whole thing ' for something that is not sponsored and would never be sold' 'It's purely for the sake of art and, of course, my private collection of pictures,' the lensman explains. 'Also, by doing this every year, I feel I am evolving as a photographer. Everyone in the industry looks forward to the calendar. To me, it is priceless; you can't assign a value to such a collection. I wouldn't like to give away this privilege to someone else.'

So how does one get to lay his hands on this' A laugh later, Dabboo concludes: 'It's only accessible to the people I know. It's my New Year Gift to them.'

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