Experimental theatre, folk music, kantha embroidery and shola pith crafts are some of the major attractions of this festival in mid-January
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Kingfisher’s glamorous property, the annual Kingfisher Calendar, just launched its 19th edition. It was shot amongst the picturesque emerald and deep blue serenity of God’s own country, Kerala. Known for its scenic locations and fabulous models, this year’s calendar is a tapestry of serenity and beauty, with a dash of high glamour.
Ace fashion photographer, Atul Kasbekar has intricately woven a narrative for the Kingfisher Calendar 2021 amongst the relaxed backwaters and lush greenery of the state. We caught up with the lensman to know more about his experience of shooting the calendar amidst the pandemic.
Here are excerpts from the interview.
What is the theme of the Kingfisher Calendar for 2021?
The Kingfisher Calendar is a location-driven calendar which takes inspiration from the beautiful and exotic locations we shoot at and 2021’s edition was no exception.
Where did you shoot this time?
It was shot in God’s Own Country, picturesque Kerala. We have shot in India many years ago, in the Andamans, Rajasthan, Ladakh and Goa for a special edition, but never in Kerala. The state has always held a special place in my heart and its exquisiteness has left me in awe every time I have visited on holiday.
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This time when I visited the place for work, it was an absolute delight. The dancing shadows of the meandering water bodies, the luscious emerald greenery, the wonderful hotels and the amiable people made this place the perfect choice for the 2021 calendar.
How was the experience of shooting amidst the pandemic?
Given the current circumstances and situation, we worked in a relative bubble where no one was allowed to go outside of the hotel. Meals were strictly monitored at closed-off buffet areas. The cutlery was sanitised and individuals were advised to use a tissue to hold the serving spoons at the buffet table. The wearing of masks was mandatory at all times, as was social distancing.
We ensured only a few people were allowed to board the buses and cars at a time than would have been the capacity of the vehicle. The properties ensured temperature checks at all points as a measure of precaution, and handwash and sanitisers were everywhere. Beyond that, we each took it upon ourselves to follow strict protocols.
All in all, we also crossed our fingers and toes hoping we came through the experience unscathed and without a COVID casualty. Clearly, when the Gods are thirsty they reach for an ice-cold Kingfisher, as they have over many years; because when it comes to great weather and good luck, I have been truly blessed over the 19 years of this shoot.
How was the overall experience of shooting the calendar in Kerala? Which places did you choose as shooting locations and why?
The state has always had a special place in my heart, where I have had the opportunity to visit many times for a holiday but never in a professional capacity. Therefore, I was thrilled and the entire journey of shooting the calendar was an absolute delight. The dancing shadows of the meandering water bodies, the luscious emerald greenery, the wonderful hotels and the amiable people made this place the perfect choice for the 2021 calendar.
The shoot took place amongst a host of properties in Kochi and in and about Kumarakom. From the converted Baker’s Retreat, Taj property to the eclectic Coconut Lagoon and the tranquil Marari Beach, Kochi. The picturesque journey went onto a Victorian-style boatyard called the Brunton Boatyard, and finally to the heritage resort, Chittoor Palace. This year’s calendar features five enchanting models - Gehna Mahiarya, Krithika Babu, Adline Castelino, Sumita Bhandari and Anukreethy Vas. Each of these lovely models had something unique to bring to the table.The entire shoot was a triumph and I must thank my stellar team, stylist Allia Al Rufai, make-up artist Maniasha Fialkina, hairstylist Flavien Heldt, my assistants Vinay, Yogesh, Rahul, Abhijit, who always had their A-game on. My solid and veteran producers Vidyut and Vandana made the Kingfisher Calendar 2021 shoot smooth and effortless. As a rule of thumb, we always work as a democratic setup, where one has the floor to voice, share and bounce off ideas. You never know which could possibly be a total winner! My professional experience in Kerala was such a pleasure – especially given the current testing times.
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Kerala has a thriving Malayalam film industry, so our access to equipment and quality personnel to help us was a given. It is a delight to work with noiseless, and a professional, crew that make your workday efficient as well as fulfilling. The Casino Group and the Taj properties deserve a special thanks for their unbelievable attention to detail, service and making Kingfisher Calendar 2021 a success. Also, for making it a point to spoil me with the hospitality and cuisine.
How has the pandemic impacted the fashion industry and how has fashion changed in the times of the pandemic?
The retail part of fashion has taken a big hit. People have, I think become a little more circumspect about impulse spending. A lot of people that I know lost their jobs or at least had pay cuts. I believe a little humility and need-based purchases will be the norm now.
Please tell us about the models that were chosen to be featured in the calendar this year. How was the experience of working with them?
All five models exude confidence and have something unique to offer.
Be it the absolute sensational Gehna Mahiarya, the flawless moves of Adline Castelino, the all natural poser Sumita Bhandari or the south icon Krithika Babu - these models have woven a tale of beauty that has translated to the vivacious identity of the Kingfisher Calendar.
What would you like to tell aspiring photographers who have had a rough year due to the pandemic?
Keep your head up and do not lose hope. Ensure you keep working hard, developing and nurturing your skill set. We have the world at our feet with only a tap away, therefore explore and research as much as you can. You never know when the right opportunity lands on your doorstep!
What are your personal favourite travel destinations and shooting locations?
If I had my way, I’d shoot everything I had to between Mykonos and Cape Town. Both are amazing places with stunning light.
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