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Unforgettable dates

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What happens when the face of Dior in India, Kalyani Chawla, dons another entirely different avatar? She morphs into a calendar girl, playing muse to ace photographer Rohit Chawla, who dresses her like the subject of painter Ravi Varma’s Woman Staring at a Swan. The task at hand? To design a 2009 calendar for The Bird Group —and pay a no-holds-barred tribute to Ravi Varma.

Rohit went the full one mile. He constructed actual sets to recreate the backdrops of Varma’s paintings. And the reed-thin Kalyani for her part didn’t make a fuss when she was given a plumped-up look to match up to the woman in the original painting.

Zooming in, the Maharashtrian sari Kalyani slipped into was draped on her by none other than top notch couturier, Tarun Tahiliani and her feet were painted with alta (the red pigment traditionally applied by Bengali women) for that perfect look. “I was so proud to be chosen for the most iconic painting of Ravi Varma,” she says, smiling.

It’s that time of the year when you need to keep an eye out for super- exclusive calendars. Once there was only the glorious Pirelli calendar (yes, the Italian company also known for its tyres) and now, right here, there are the must-have date-keepers for every month of the year.

Rest assured, the year 2009 anno domini hasn’t given the bikini babes a rest. Flamboyant liquor baron Vijay Mallya’s much-awaited Kingfisher Calendar has kept its date with a bevy of leggy beauties while Bollywood’s favourite photographer, Dabboo Ratnani, has 48 top Bollywood biggies posing for his personal calendar.

These calendars also bring a global sensibility to your walls with photographers, make-up artists and models roped in from across the world for a brand new touch to the year. For as Francesca Lavazza, corporate image director for the Lavazza Group, puts it: “Calendars do more than mark the start of a new year. They mark new eras of thought, shared values and opportunities to be seized.”

Smoking Aces

Rohit Chawla shot the Cingari calendar in Cuba with local models and ensembles by Tarun Tahiliani and JJ Valaya

Rohit Chawla has done a double whammy this year. One of the calendars under his belt this year is ‘The Smoking Ladies of

Havana’, the Cingari calendar for 2009. And in keeping with the nature of the brand, for this calendar it’s Cuban cigars all the way, shot right there in Cuba. “I was afraid that if I left it for too long, Cuba would change. Cuba for me is about decay,” says Chawla, who has previously shot calendars with unique subjects — he even went on an African safari for one.

Shooting the calendar was an experience in itself. Rohit landed in Cuba alone without any crew (it’s expensive business travelling so far) to photograph local models whose names he finds difficult to recall. “Honey, Lily…,” he trails off. The nameless models posed with fat cigars, dressed in ensembles by Indian fashion honchos Tarun Tahiliani and JJ Valaya.

The backdrops he selected sometimes showed off old-world Cuban architecture. At other times he takes you right inside cigar factories of brands such as Cohiba and Montecristo.

Rohit was his own Man Friday while in Cuba — the stylist, photographer, assistant et al — and therefore turned it into an opportunity to get back to his photo-journalistic beginnings. While the shoot was wrapped up in seven days flat, he did have language and food constraints to grapple with. “To top it all, Cuba is a police state. You cannot just walk around brandishing a camera,” he says.

The thought you will be carrying through the year with the Cingari calendar: don’t be apologetic about smoking a cigar.

Double Delight

This time round, one was not good enough for the King of Good Times, so there were two. So what if times are tough. Vijay Mallya decided to indulge himself by having two calendars — both shot by his favourite photographer, Atul Kasbekar. While on the one hand, the United Breweries Group’s yearly swimsuit calendar has bikini beauties oozing oomph, the second mint new calendar glorifies Mallya’s F1 team.

It flaunts his Force India F1 team, more expressively with Force India Tattoos on the bodies of drivers/models, Adrian Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella. The pizzazz of the F1 cars apart, the hottest models of the Indian fashion circuit including Shruti Agarwal, Monikangana Dutta and Sheetal Menon, are peeping from glossy pages. Mallya says: “The calendar is an ode to the F1 enthusiast and I am sure men will be thrilled to see hot divas and even hotter F1 cars month after month.”

The Kingfisher calendars have what every man dreams about — hot models and hotter wheels

Kasbekar for his part got some new eye-candy to shoot. And for the seventh edition of the Kingfisher Calendar, he captured sensuality at its best. He shot in two of the most picturesque resorts of Thailand — the Six Senses Hideaway hotels in Koi Samui and Yao Noi.

For model Tamara Moss, it was her second innings with the Kingfisher calendar. “In India there are few opportunities for models but with a calendar like Kingfisher one gets noticed and more opportunities come your way,” explains Moss.

Stars All the Way

It started as an idea for a Millennium gift for friends and well-wishers for the year 2000 and went on to become an annual feature. Now in its 10th year, celebrity photographer Dabboo Ratnani’s calendar is as star-studded as always (and it’s extra-large).

His first-time models include Sushmita Sen, Deepika Padukone, Sonam Kapoor, Kangana Ranaut, Emran Hashmi and Hurman Baweja. And by the way, he’s quite proud to have shot Padukone in a sari, an ensemble that’s also making its debut in his calendar.

Of the rest of the roll-call of 48, the A-list includes Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Rani Mukherjee, Kajol, Ajay Devgan, Abhishek Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, Katrina Kaif and Vidya Balan (besides other hot bods). “I’ve tried to capture a certain mood for each of the stars, which I haven’t done in the past,” says Ratnani.

So if you have seen an intense Kajol all this while in Ratnani’s portraits, this time around you’ll find her in an after-party mood sitting atop a taxi holding an empty wine glass.

And check out the vivid black-and-white photo of Sonam Kapoor looking like a diva as she emerges out of a tub of water wearing a chunky watch.

Ratnani says shooting the calendar has always been a smooth process for him because by now the stars are familiar with this yearly exercise. For instance, megastars like Amitabh and Khan repose full faith in him. So when Ratnani settled on a concept with Big B in advance, he came prepared with the look in his dark glasses and his Rolls Royce. And that’s how the picture was shot.

Ravi Varma Recreated

Rohit Chawla’s other calendar — ‘Tribute to Ravi Varma’ — was three months in the making with him ‘re-painting’ the artist’s famous works with his camera. You cannot buy this calendar — and you’ll be given one only if you are a friend-cum-art aficionado.

There are only about 500 copies doing the rounds (and you may not, sadly, be part of the hallowed circle of friends). However, you can still go ahead and buy the photographs at exhibitions that will be thrown open in six cities. The price:

Rs 2 lakhs per picture (Rohit would rather call them his canvases).

Thereafter, the exhibition will move to London and Tokyo. The first exhibition will be open between February 2 and February 6 at Delhi’s Visual Arts Gallery.

Wouldn’t you like to take home photographs of any of the 12 models including not just social butterflies, but women of substance? Playing Ravi Varma’s women are socialites/models Punit Juneja, Feroze Gujral and Ayesha Thapar, Kalyani Chawla, designer wife Sal Tahiliani (wife of Tarun T.) and musician Anoushka Shankar.

The ace photographer went into the minutest details with the jewellery and the nine-yard saris (fabrics and patterns), to ensure that he did justice to Varma’s works. As Rohit says: “It’s been a real labour of love, shot with the discipline of a painter.”

Alice in Wonderland

The Omaxe calendar features the six Miss India finalists and winners of 2008

When crowned beauty queens grace the year, you expect something sensational. That is exactly what photographer Charu Dutt Chitrath set out to do with the Shoot Miss India Calendar 2009 for Omaxe Construction. “Since Omaxe is a builder/construction group and the

subject is the Miss India finalists from 2008, I had to come up with what is common to construction and women. Out popped elements like creation and strength,” he says.

The eye candies in this one happen to be the six Miss India finalists and winners from 2008. You have known faces like the reigning Miss India-World Parvathy Omanakuttan, Miss India-Universe Simran Kaur Mundi, Miss India-Earth Tanvi Vyas and the other finalists.

And it’s not just about the women and their lissome bodies. For instance, you see Omanakuttam adorning a month in an eye-catching white number in a room that has a Garden of Eden feel to it.

“In this shot, Parvathy wants a green home with plenty of plants inside to make up for the concrete jungle outside. So, she is watering the plants and nourishing life,” says Chitrath.

To make sure that his calendar is not just about a beautiful woman, Chitrath has experimented with three-dimensional imagery and played with Photoshop along with digital effects to the maximum potential.

Smells Italian

As refreshing as an Italian espresso, the Lavazza calendar is a first-timer in India. It is high on Italy in more ways than one. While top five Italian models — Eva Riccobono, Elettra Rossellini Wiedemann, Alessia Piovan, Gilda Sansone and Kate Ballo — add splashes of glamour to the images, legendary

photographer Annie Leibovitz’s compositions boast great names from Italy’s world of art, cinema and fashion.

“We believe that espresso and photography, in a certain sense, share the immediacy, the strength and an energising boost. They are both products of our time, instant bursts of flavour and representations of the reality that surrounds us,” says corporate image director for the Lavazza Group, Francesca Lavazza.

The calendar has seven shots including the cover shot with a model behind an instantly recognisable Venetian mask. Similarly, the six other pictures also relate to Italy and each features a little in-your-face cup of Lavazza in the model’s hand

India Iconic

The Taj calendar was shot by New York-based art photographer, Belle McIntyre and portrait photographer Sasha Gusov from London

Are the hotels of the Taj Group icons and easily recognisable landmarks? The group’s 2009 almanac is therefore appropriately enough called India Iconic. And no, it’s not a catalogue just of its various hotels. “It is about art. The medium is art,” says Divya Thakur, the calendar’s art director.

To make sure that everything goes perfectly in 2009, two photographers were flown down — New York-based art photographer, Belle McIntyre, and portrait photographer Sasha Gusov from London.

While McIntyre captured the different Taj properties, Gusov caught the images of global Indian women — in the form of the hottest models in the glamour business like Monikangana Dutta and Tamara Moss (yes, the two are on yet more calendars this year), Lakshmi Menon, Indrani Dasgupta, Elisabeth Haydon, Garima Parnani and Miriam Ilorah.

To add to their perfect coiffured look, Parisian hair stylist Laurent Philippon was also roped in to be present during the shoots. The result is a sense of style that screams contemporary and chic. Time obviously, to make more than one date at a time.

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