Shooting a calendar is no easy feat, especially if it's done during a pandemic and lockdown.
Wrapping up 2020 in style, Photographer Atul Kasbekar surprised fans with the Kingfisher Calendar 2021, which is a visual treat.
Shot in Kerala during the pandemic, the Kingfisher Calendar 2021 introduces five new faces: Gehna Mahiarya, Krithika Babu, Adline Castelino, Sumita Bhandari and Anukreethy Vas.
In an e-mail interview with Anita Aikara/Rediff.com, Atul Kasbekar reveals how he shot the calendar during a pandemic.
"The Kingfisher Calendar is known for its glamorous portrayal of exotic destinations and for the 19th edition I thought it was prudent to bring the calendar back to home base," says Atul Kasbekar who unveiled the Kingfisher Calendar 2021, which hopes to usher in the New Year on a super glamorous note.
Each month features a stunning model, showcasing her gorgeous curves in a bikini, in the signature Kingfisher Calendar style.
"(The calendar) gave me a reason to go to one of my favourite states, Kerala," adds Kasbekar.
"The state is an absolute joy to visit and I have been there more than a dozen times. This was the first time that I have shot there in a professional capacity."
The calendar has been shot at properties in Kochi and Kumarakom.
"From the converted Baker's Retreat, a Taj property, to the eclectic Coconut Lagoon and the tranquil Marari Beach, the picturesque journey went onto a Victorian style boatyard called the Brunton Boatyard, and finally to the heritage resort, Chittoor Palace," says Kasbekar.
"We ensured each image shot spoke a thousand words. The state's poetry was translated through the calendar," he adds.
Quiz him about the precautions they took while shooting the calendar and he explains, "Given the current circumstances and situation, we worked in a relative bubble where no one was allowed to go outside of the hotel and 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," he adds.
"Wearing 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.
"All in all, we also crossed our fingers, and toes, hoping that we came through the experience unscathed and without a COVID casualty."
This year's calendar features Gehna Mahiarya, Krithika Babu, Adline Castelino, Sumita Bhandari and Anukreethy Vas.
Anukreethy was crowned Miss India in 2018. Krithika has danced to Prabhu Deva's choreography in the song Mercury.
This year, with the pandemic and the lockdown, Kasbekar channeled his creativity into creating a memorable calendar.
Lady luck was by his side. "When it comes to great weather and good luck, I have been truly blessed over the last 19 years of this shoot," he says.
"Backed by a stellar team including stylist Allia Al Rufai, make up artist Maniasha Fialkina, hair stylist Flavien Heldt and my assistants Vinay, Yogesh, Rahul, Abhijit, everyone was always on top of their game."
"The calendar is a stunning visual journey through the lush vegetation and meandering water bodies of God's Own Country.
"My overall professional experience in Kerala was fantastic -- especially given the testing times we are in," says Kasbekar.
"From the local arrangements of the hotel properties and the grip crew that was assisting us, it made a seamless, noiseless and extremely conducive set up to creating terrific images."
Photographs: Kind courtesy Kingfisher Calendar 2021 and Atul Kasbekar