Picture perfect

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By Counting days just got sexier with designer calendars sporting stunning locales, steaming models and superb photography, say Arundhati Basu and Chitra Papnai
  • Published 20.01.07

They have them all — bodilicious babes, eye-candy men, and spectacular locations (all the way from Saint Jean-Cap-Ferrat in the French Riviera to the Nubian Desert in Sudan); dolphins, spectacular skylines, skin, skin, skin …and above all, sensation. It’s that time of the year when you wade your way through a stunning battery of calendars that promise to tell you much more than just the seasons of year.

And all the while these calendars don’t lose sight of the bottomline: brand recall. “While turning the lens at Taj properties worldwide, the look is royal. It reaffirms that while you can be in Udaipur or Boston, the style of hospitality will be the same everywhere,” says Divya Thakur, art director for the Taj Group’s calendar.

This year too, photographers and models have globetrotted to bring home a rich haul of pictures, some have stayed close to home and others haven’t budged from their studios. Yet the results have been dramatic. Young and cutting-edge photographer Vishesh Verma confined himself to the studio when he shot the Elite calendar. “Spectacular locales from around the world only distract attention from the models and the brand,” he points out.

The shutterbugs who have been busy putting together some of the coveted calendars for the year have infused their own sensibilities into their pictures. Ace lensmen Dabboo Ratnani and Rohit Chawla have shot on vastly different canvases, but their calendars promise to keep the 12 months lively. As in his earlier calendars, Ratnani took the trouble to ensure that the 24 pictures of film stars capture them like they have never been seen before. Chawla, for his part, has brought home something quite different from water babies.

So here’s toasting to some of the delicious calendars for the year.














The Scorpio Diaries

It’s exactly as it sounds — a la Motorcycle Diaries of Che Guevara, the Argentine-born revolutionary. Rohit Chawla’s calendar aptly christened The Scorpio Diaries is a veritable visual travelogue that offers a slice of Africa. Just as a 23-year-old Guevara and his friend jumped on an old motorcycle in 1952 and sped out on an eight-month journey across South America, Chawla and his friends embarked on a 96-day journey across 24 countries. The crack team was shooting for a travel documentary film Gondwana Land. Directed by Chawla, the journey also gave him a chance to gather material for his latest calendar.

The road trip started on February 28, 2006 with Chawla and his friends setting out in three Scorpio cars for Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, all the way down to Cape Town .

Each month in the calendar appears as a collage of a particular country visited. “You’ll see some of the toughest and most exciting terrain in Africa as you flip through the months. For instance, there’s the road from Ethiopia to Kenya that’s hardly traversed or the incredibly bleak Nubian Desert which is far more unforgiving than even the Sahara,” says Chawla.

John Unplugged

His six-pack abs, chiselled features and attitude make him the ideal poster guy. And now you can have John Abraham enchant you through the year. It’s John, John and more John who rules all the 12 months in Zee Music’s calendar. The sun, sea and the sandy beaches of Goa make for a perfect backdrop for hotbod John — in black and white.

The shoot, which was wrapped up in just two days, captures him in myriad perspectives. Why John? Samuel retorts: “Why not John? He is a brilliant subject. What’s more, shooting him was a dream — he’s been a model and knows exactly what a picture demands and what the look should be.” If you do manage to look beyond Abraham’s drop-dead good looks, expect to see Goa at it very best. Of the 33 frames, Samuel has short-listed the 12 best.




Splashing stars

This is the eighth one in a row from the ace shutterbug of filmland — Dabboo Ratnani. And yes, as can be expected it is as star-studded as its predecessors. But this time, Ratnani got the actors to set fire to water with a theme, Aqua. “I chose water as the central element because water can be used in photographs in countless ways. In the previous years, I just went with the flow and took pictures randomly but this time it’s different because of the theme,” says Ratnani.

Each of Ratnani’s 24 compositions capture the stars in or around water, be it in a swimming pool, by an aquarium or the beach or even as a water droplet — as a tear in John Abraham’s eye (yes, he surfaces again). Kajol (a Harley Davidson biker last year) frolics by the poolside, Hrithik is caught at a 160-degree angle, just before he hits the pool, engrossed in reading a newspaper, and Bipasha Basu is a mermaid holding a little fish jar underwater.

Some of the other eye-catchers in the much talked about calendar are Katrina Kaif, Abhishek ‘Chhota B’ Bachchan, Vidya Balan, Ajay Devgan, Bobby Deol, Ayesha Takia and Riteish Deshmukh.



Essence of the seasons

The seasons fade, but the limited edition Elite calendar intends to freeze them for times to come. As the stylist, designer Wendell Rodricks has taken the year through its seasons, dressing the models with leaves, flowers, butterflies, feathers, ice or snow to mark passing time.

“The look is in harmony with the theme,” says Vishesh Verma. “When we shot the calendar for the first time last year, we did it in-house and kept it to sepia tones. But with Wendell on-board, we gave free rein to our creativity and decided to spin a fairy tale out of humdrum things like dry autumn leaves.’’

The calendar features 25 models including top names such as DJ Iggy, Aryan Baruah, Neha Kapur, Bipasha Agarwal and Manasvi. The creative team also includes Elite make-up artist, Anu Kaushik, who changed war-paint tactics for each season and New York import graphic designer, David Schorr.


Beauties and the beach

Some things never change. Say skin and sensuality, and think Kingfisher calendar. Lensman Atul Kasbekar’s Kingfisher Swimsuit Special Calendar 2007 transported the flamboyant Kingfisher team to the exotic French Riviera. “The location reflects the brand, which offers the best in terms of everything,” says Kasbekar.

To pick his locations, Kasbekar packed his bags for the South of France a week before the team joined him. And they called The Indian Empress — Dr Vijay Mallya’s fancy new yacht — home for the 12 days they spent shooting in France. Gawkers can take a peek at Mallya’s yacht as it too features in the calendar. Kasbekar’s models also posed around the historic Hotel Negresco in Nice, the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild in Saint Jean-Cap-Ferrat, the La Poache beaches and the Cannes Auditorium. So what’s common to all of the above? The glamorous locations go hand-in-hand with luxury.

If the Kingfisher calendar is all about skin and more, it’s also a hot platform for new faces on the modelling firmament. This year’s finds are Deepti Gujral, Shamita Singha, Nikii Daas, Mia Udeya, Bruna Abdalah and Selma Lasrado — all first timers. And they have flaunted sexy swimwear by designers including Anamika Khanna, Malini Ramani, Namrata Joshipura, Rina Dhaka, Ranna Gill, Shantanu Goenka and Varun Bahl.

Art for art’s sake

Is it a picture or is it a painting? At first glance, it is tough to figure out the JW Marriott calendar. On closer inspection you realise that it’s certainly not portraits that you are staring at. “The theme of the calendar is fine arts and the idea was to make the pictures look like paintings. The sets have been created at Marriott properties in India as well as specially-created ones,” says photographer Jatin Kampani.

Inspired from paintings he admires, the photographer has composed 12 photographs that seem unreal. “The calendar is inspired by a number of artists though it doesn’t replicate anybody’s paintings,” says Kampani.

Achieving the look was no cakewalk. The artful make-up and the outfits worn by the models were carefully selected to impart the vivid, yet static feel of a painting. Also, the dresses worn by models were hand-painted first for the right effect. No surprise then that the pictures pass off for paintings, almost as if composed by an artist.




Regal touches

Flipping through the pages of the desktop calendar, you get an eyeful of stylish women who represent new royalty. That’s the Taj calendar for you. “It’s a celebration of style,” says art director Divya Thakur, who made sure that a restricted and muted colour palette of beige and black brought together Indian and western sensibilities. “The hairstyles and make-up are not elaborate, while accessories have been sparingly used,” adds Thakur.

Less might be more but Thakur has added that touch of class by going with ensembles and accessories from some top brands like Moschino, Christian Dior, Burberry and Fendi. Designers Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla, Rohit Bal, Rajesh Pratap Singh and Abraham and Thakore were enlisted to dress the models.

Fashion photographer Farrokh Chothia, who is also known for his pictures of film stars shot extensively with models Indrani Dasgupta, Bipasha Agarwal and Sonalika Sahay and an Icelandic model Tina. Already some 70,000 copies of the calendar are doing the rounds abroad.