When he mentions ‘unique topography’, you are not completely certain if what he means is the exotic locales of the Philippines. Ace lensman Atul Kasbekar gives us his tongue-in-cheek behind-the-scenes account of the 2014 edition of the Kingfisher Calendar.
So here’s the thing...
If there’s someone up there, and I think there is, then I’m clearly one of the ‘special ones’ for ‘he’ has my back or so it seems. Enough has happened over the years at the Kingfisher Calendar shoots for me to be a believer. And now I have proof...
I was all set to shoot the 2014 edition of the Kingfisher Calendar at Da Nang in Vietnam when the venue was changed to Boracay and Cebu in the Philippines. So I went there a week earlier for a recce and slam-bam a 7.2 Richter-busting earthquake shook the island. The producer and me, along with the holidaying tourists, got evacuated from the hotel and spent the better part of the day loitering around without any shade.
The recce had rain, cloudy weather and assorted mayhem, leading to an overall dampener in the mood of the shoot that’s supposed to be the gold standard of the good times.
A week after the shoot, Typhoon Haiyan wreaked pure havoc across the idyllic lazy islands in what was one of the worst storms in decades.
But the two weeks in between, the weeks of the calendar shoot, were brilliant. Crisp sunshine and nature providing us with every colour of the spectrum.
Nobody told us that getting to Boracay would be an episode-and-a-half of Survivor. It is five hours to Singapore. Three hours wait. Three to Manila. Unload 600kg. Change terminals. Check-in again. One hour to Caticlan. One-and-a-half hour in the vans to the jetty. 40 minutes by speedboat to Boracay. Five minutes by golf cart to the villa. Fade to black...
May as well have shot in London then—it’s a lot quicker to get to.
Twelve years is a long time. These days most marriages find that length of time an eternity. This equation of mine with the UB Group and the Kingfisher brand has had a spectacular run so far and I am deeply grateful for the faith they’ve put in me.
While everyone in hindsight is a pundit, one needs to rewind to 2003 to understand the chance that Dr Vijay Mallya took.
So I show up with an unsolicited idea to create a calendar that’s a cross between the iconic Pirelli and Sports Illustrated calendars. Till that point he has only met me at some social dos when I’m suitably plied with much alcohol, hence not to be taken seriously.
At the time, calendars associated with alcohol were generally considered sleazy. And here I was asking him to spend a massive unplanned chunk of money on an untested idea. Agreeing to that took guts and a futuristic vision.
One of the things the Kingfisher Calendar is famous for is the pale gold spotlight we shine on gorgeous girls. And this year’s crop really is quite special.
Miss Earth (former). Miss Bronze. Miss Made-For-Swimsuit Body. Miss Next Big Thing. Four pages in the 2014 edition—a feat that’s happened only twice before by the way. Say hello to the next Bipasha Basu. Or better yet the first Nicole Faria.
Rikee Chatterjee has the elegant grace of royalty and zero interest in Bollywood. In this case, it’s the film industry’s loss. She has the longest legs I’ve seen on a Bengali—ever. If anyone else from the region wants to stake claim to that title, send me a photograph of your bottom half immediately.
You can hear Rochelle Rao long before she walks in. And then she walks in and won’t stop talking. And you can’t get a word in edgewise. But you don’t care, do you?! You’re too busy staring at that ridiculously proportionate body that wore many a clingy outfit during the last IPL. She mouthed many sage facts and figures about the game. But you didn’t hear the facts, did you? It was all about the figure.
Current Miss India, this dusky beauty may or may not make the big leap into Bollywood. The baby of the group, Sobhita Dhulipala watched her seniors closely during the shoot and learnt well. So much so that she went on to win the Miss Photogenic title at the Miss Earth pageant a month after her shoot. She claims she may choose to become a banker. If that happens, the rate of interest will increase for sure and no one will complain.
Miss Universe Canada is focused, hardworking and a complete pro. She totally works the camera, giving it her 110 per cent every single time, for every shot. One day Sahar Biniaz showed up at the shoot in a costume (well, it was Halloween!) and got little gifts and a note for every single person in the 20-strong unit. It was adorable. She’s the only model in the history of the calendar shoot to have carried two personal suitcases to the location, paid excess baggage and never showed up in the same threads twice.
We ignored the northeast for a long time. Then the women in that region made us sit up and take notice of their indomitable spirit. First Irom Sharmila, then MC Mary Kom...and now Ketholeno Kense who shows us just how stunning they also are. Winner of the Kingfisher Calendar Supermodel Hunt, Ketholeno is tall, lissom, gentle and gorgeous. Welcome the new star in the modelling firmament. And remember the name—it will be famous soon.
This article first appeared in January 2014 issue of Hi! BLITZ magazine