| Dabboo Ratnani at his workshop for IIP at Chrome Hotel on Saturday. (Anindya Shankar Ray)
If not a photographer...
I would’ve been a DJ. I just love music.
You started your calendar in 2000 as a New Year gift for friends and today celebrities wait for it. How did it become so popular and how does it feel?
Everybody was talking about Y2K (the millennium bug). So I thought I should do something related to dates and that’s how the calendar was born. I printed a few copies and gave them as gifts. The reaction and response was tremendous.
The following year I started taking the calendar seriously. The actors who have been featuring in my calendar for the last 14 years, always try to do something new.
I think this calendar has kept me excited about photography. It has helped me push myself and evolve as a photographer. My calendar is my form of art. Usually we do a lot of work commercially but a certain kind of work is important to satisfy one’s creativity.
Actors like Bipasha (Basu), Priyanka (Chopra) and others say they feel privileged to be a part of my calendar. I feel honoured that so many big actors have been a part of it. They are there for me and they do this calendar for free. In a world where everything has a price, the love for this calendar has remained the same.
Apart from celebs, what else do you like clicking?
I like clicking my kids and my dog. But I want to try wildlife photography.
There’s one photograph (which he uploaded to Facebook) in which you are featured with your wife and daughter and three of you are using three different cameras.
We usually do a behind-the-scenes and that day we were shooting Salman (Khan) for my 2012 calendar. One of my assistants saw this moment where all three of us Manisha (wife), Myrah (daughter) and I were clicking away. It’s a beautiful, timeless picture.
Aamir Khan has made it to your calendar only once (2006). Why?
He doesn’t have dates (laughs out loud)!
Why are there so few women photographers in India?
It’s a problem. I have had so many female assistants who didn’t complete their tenure. Then there are those who learn photography but don’t pursue it professionally. I don’t know why! Before a woman photographer, female models will feel more comfortable. Even guys like being shot by female photographers. My wife is a photographer and she has shot Salman (Khan)
that was her first photoshoot. Salman trusted her. The poses he gave her are far better than those he strikes for me (smiles).
How important are today’s tech tools for photographers?
I feel it’s important to keep in touch with technology, software or equipment. Editing is a technical process. We use different packages for different purposes. RAW files are first processed by one software and then exported to Photoshop or other image-editing packages. Then we work on the processed file colour correction or taking care of blemishes, pimples, etc.
Why did you agree to become a mentor to the International Institute of Photography (IIP) in Calcutta?
This is the only institute I have tied up with in this part of the country and I am glad to do so. I wish to impart my vision and experience to the students of IIP. This is my first workshop in Calcutta and I hope to keep coming back more often. Calcuttans have an artistic flair and I am sure some of these students will make it big.
Would you like to shoot any Calcutta celeb?
I would love to. I have photographed Sourav Ganguly a few times in Calcutta. Photography is a profession where you get to meet new people every day.
Favourite photographer: Sante D’Orazio
First camera: Yashika
Your photographer: Manisha, my wife
Favourite lens: Canon 70-200 f2.8
First photoshoot earnings: Zero
Most photogenic Bollywood star: Hema Malini
Most spontaneous: Arjun Rampal and Akshay Kumar
Riya Sen, a fiver on his calendar: I love her face. The first time I worked with her, I realised she was versatile. She is petite but very sensual
Fave male stars: Hrithik Roshan, Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Abhishek Bachchan and Saif Ali Khan
Wants to shoot: Ranveer Singh
Which celeb would you like to shoot? Tell firstname.lastname@example.org