All eyes on 2019! Go behind-the-scenes with Kingfisher Calendar models Shubra, Sushrii and Diva
It isn’t every day that you get to chat with three gorgeous models at the same time!
And it definitely isn’t commonplace if the models in question are set to be the most sought-after faces in the country’s entertainment and fashion industries.
But, the Kingfisher Calendar is anything but usual. With celebrity photographer Atul Kasbekar at the helm, the Kingfisher Calendar, now in its 17th edition, is easily one the most coveted keepsakes around (our personal copies of previous editions remain safely under lock and key).
As is the case each year, the calendar is shot at an exotic new location. And this year, Sardinia, a gem of an island in the Mediterranean Sea, was the chosen destination, lending a breathtaking backdrop for the 2019 shoots.
While the Kingfisher Calendar is known to have served as a launchpad for stars like Deepika Padukone, Katrina Kaif, Nargis Fakhri and Lisa Haydon, among others over the years, it also serves to set the mood for the year, setting a visual standard for photographic masterpieces that are timeless, and extremely desirable.
This year, we were presented the opportunity to chat with three of the models who share the spotlight of Atul’s A-team of stylists and designers — South Indian actress Shubra Aiyappa, beauty queen from Orissa Sushrii Shreya Mishraa, and supermodel Diva Dhawan.
All three are immensely talented — Shubra has appeared in a handful of Tamil, Telugu and Kannada films so far, and is looking forward to more roles in 2019, while taking forward dance and fitness regimens for her online followers.
Sushrii, who represented India at the Miss United Continents 2015 pageant, is also a trained dancer and even has a few medals for horse racing to her name, while Diva, who was born and raised in New York, is already being hailed as a fashion prodigy, being a model as well as a designer. Read on as they give us their takes on the landmark shoot.
Indulge gets chatting with models Shubra Aiyappa, Sushrii Shreya Mishraa and Diva Dhawan, who take us behind the scenes of the stunning Kingfisher Calendar 2019 in Sardinia, Italy. Excerpts:
Congratulations on the shoot! You look stunning in the previews we have seen of the 2019 calendar shoots. How did you get this offer, and how was the experience?
Sushrii Mishraa: Thank you so much! I’m eagerly waiting the calendar release. Shooting for it, especially with Atul (Kasbekar) was always a dream, and it came true when I shot for it first for the 2016 calendar in Seychelles. When I got to know about the auditions for the 2019 calendar, I wanted the same magic to happen all over again. Before I went for the casting, I stepped up my workout regimen, my eating habits, and finally, when I got the call saying that I’m going to Sardinia, I was on cloud nine!
Shubra Aiyappa: I got the offer from Atul, who was convinced that I should do the shoot. As I’d never done a swimsuit shoot before this, I did have my initial fears. But thanks to a great team, this turned out to be one of my most memorable shoots ever. Every member of the team, be it the greatest make-up artist Kapil Bhalla or the spectacular stylist Allia Al Rufai, and the entire team, made this first experience my best. I’m very thankful to each of them for making me look my greatest.
Diva Dhawan: The experience was lovely. It was really nice to be a part of the shoot, because it has been around forever, and it embraces Indian beauty like no other fashion magazine. I think they were the first people who were not afraid to shoot Indian women in swimwear, and helped us get over the stereotype of this being something vulgar.
Are you excited to be seen in a swimsuit? Did you get to pick out your costume?
SA: Yes! I was thrilled to see my pictures. Every single person who has seen it has only positive things to say. And that makes me so happy with this decision. With a stylist like Allia, I didn’t have to worry about choices in costumes. They knew exactly what looks great on me, and I entirely trusted their judgement.
SM: I’m more excited to be seen in pictures clicked by Atul, working his ‘Kasby Magic’, to be honest with you. My followers have been so supportive always that I’m expecting positive responses, and they are eagerly waiting for the release too. I’m so grateful for such unconditional love and constant support. I had Allia picking gorgeous swimsuits for me, and thank god I didn’t have to pick! Otherwise, you would probably have seen me in a pool of all the lovely swimsuits, confused and unable to pick one!
DD: I am quite excited to be seen in a swimsuit. In my whole career, I don’t think I have ever shot in a swimsuit. I think once or twice before, but not in a way where I have been a part of such a big brand. It is quite exciting to be associated with a brand that has definitely raised awareness, and been so confident about the people they have chosen to be a part of the venture.
Shubra, do you think your fans in the South are ready to see you in this gorgeous new avatar? What manner of reactions do you expect from your followers?
SA: My fans would welcome this shoot with only appreciation and well wishes. My fans have always been encouraging in all my efforts, be it with my shoot for jewellery or saris, stage performances, and dance or fitness videos that I keep sharing with them. I fortunately don’t have a divided fan base, and this shoot will only help grow my fanbase further.
Sushrii, you’ve had a milestone year in personal terms, and you’re set for bigger things this year. Give us your year in retrospect. What were the highlights? Apart from your debut film, of course.
SM: The year 2018 was surprisingly incredible for me. I didn’t realise there are so many things I ticked off my bucket list, both personally and professionally. I was a part of three successful different theatre productions, and we even performed at the Royal Opera House in London. I shot campaigns for brands like MAC Cosmetics and Mia Tanishq Jewellery, to name a few.
And working in Zero and this calendar was huge for me. I travelled a lot this year too — to Thailand and Vietnam, but the best of all was a month-long trekking trip in Ladakh, which definitely changed me, and moved and inspired me, as a person and an artist.
Diva, tell us how you see the Indian fashion industry evolving, given your background overseas. Is diversity the new mantra?
DD: I definitely see the Indian fashion industry evolving in a way that things are becoming more modern, and more open to experimenting. Yes, one hundred per cent, people are more diverse now. I think people think less about what the mass market wants and are more willing to take risks, which is what I like.
This year has been amazing because of shooting for some huge brands, and then being able to travel for this shoot, and having a show on the air for Fox Life, called Styled By Neha. TV has been a huge passion of mine and I think I am moving in the direction that I have always wanted to, transitioning into something that has been my passion for a really long time.
Take us through your time in Sardinia. Tell us about the sights and scenes...
SA: Sardinia in Italy is nothing short of paradise on Earth. The pristine waters, sandy beaches and mountainous interiors make this one beautiful island. We got to see the Nuragi, which are mysterious Bronze Age stone ruins that look like beehives. The people in this beautiful city are as gorgeous and courteous as their land, and I came back with many friends alongside great memories.
SM: Sardinia was an absolute treat to the eyes, and my soul. Every day, we would shoot at breathtaking locations. Hotel Luci di la Muntagna, where we were shooting, was such a beautiful and tastefully done place. It was overlooking a harbour and a church, and the sounds of the bells during the day were just so beautiful. The Cala Luna beach and caves were my personal favourite, and I would definitely want to go back there. All the locations were so beautiful, which is why I cannot wait for the calendar to release, and take a walk down memory lane!
DD: I have never been to Italy before, so being able to visit the country for the first time and end up shooting at one of the most beautiful places I have been to in my life, was incredible. From the food to the people to the sights... the mountains, and the Mediterranean Sea. One of my favourite locations was when we shot in the Cala Luna caves, for which we took a 20-25 minute boat ride to the beach, where hikers come often, and there are gorgeous caves that are super high, but we climbed those and made it one of our locations.
We shot there, and it was stunning, because the backdrop was the caves — and when you look in front of you, it was just the ocean. So there was nothing else in the way, and I don’t think I have felt more in touch with nature ever before.
Tell us a little about your fitness and diet regimens.
SA: Fitness for me is a way of life, and it’s hard work to stay fit and look great. I am constantly challenging myself with various forms of fitness routines, dancing, yoga, weight training and running, and I am conscious about my diet. I eat healthy and I do eat well, but I balance it out with all my workouts.
DD: My fitness and diet regimen is something that is really important to me, because fitness is a really important part of my life. I strongly believe in the hashtag that I have created called #andthenwestretch. Two of the things I believe in when it comes to my fitness regimen is pilates and ballet bar. I am a certified pilates instructor, and I am really grateful for the opportunity to be able to travel and do it wherever I go.
SM: I workout, I dance, I kickbox and I follow a good healthy diet. I make sure I get enough sleep. I have hypothyroidism, so I have to be very particular with my meds. And yes, I drink tons of water, and I focus on staying happy and positive.
How was it to work with Atul Kasbekar? How different is this experience from ramp walking, and from acting for a camera?
SM: Every director and photographer is different. And what’s incredible about working with Atul is the absolutely love that he brings in. He knows exactly what he wants, and at the same time, he’ll give you the space to do your own thing. That works the best for me, because I get the direction and I know what’s expected out of me. At the same time, I can explore and thus in the process, we get amazing pictures, making magic.
SA: Atul is brilliant at his craft, and he has an eye to discover talent. He has managed to put together the most amazing team in making the Kingfisher calendar one of the most-awaited calendars. This is a lot more challenging than ramp walking, but no different from being in front of a camera. The planning of these shoots is as extensive as any movie shoot.
DD: Atul is an absolute star. He is someone who guides you, and you have a connection with, right from the beginning, because he is just such a cool guy, and he makes you feel comfortable. One of the best things about him is that he understands each model and understands individual personalities. When he shoots you, he really plays on that, and I think that is really important.
Sushrii, we picked up a recent post of yours on social media, where you say you want to be 'a Renaissance woman'. Give us an idea of what that means, and the different things you've set out to do.
SM: Ha ha! Yes. I want to be able to do everything, and be the best at it. I don’t want to be confined to just being a Miss India or an actor or a model. I want to get into direction and business, and so many more things in the near future, and be the best at it all!
Also, what are your New Year resolutions?
SM:I'm not very big on New Year resolutions, because I set goals every three months. But 2019 is all going to be about making the most of everything that comes my way. Onwards and upwards!
SA: Stay fit, stay focussed, eat healthy, live happy, remain humble and take one day at a time.
Shubra, you're a really good dancer too. Did you have fun with the other girls at the shoots?
SA: I am a dancer at heart, and it only gives me immense joy to keep dancing. I had a lovely time with the other girls, and I was amazed at their commitment and good-heartedness. One of my most memorable moments was building my own makeshift gym using suitcases and chairs in my balcony. I posted this workout video on social media, and it got picked up by some TV channels down South.
Any funny anecdotes or incidents you'd like to share with us?
SM: We all had a blast! All the dinners used to be just so nice, and filled with funny conversations with the entire team. I remember the boat ride to the Cala Luna caves was the best, because all of us were just having an incredible time.
DD: I had a lot of fun with all the girls at the shoot, and I think that everyone brought their best energy, and we all had something really different to give. I think that was super nice. One of the funniest things we all had to deal with was because of how cold the water was, and how much we had to freeze and console each other through that.
But other than that, I think our funniest anecdotes were from dinner every night, where we laughed and giggled over wine and food, thinking about the next day, when we had to get into bikinis again.
Could you pick out your favourite designs of 2018, and name your all-time favourite designers. Also, any designers on your wishlist, whose creations you'd like to wear?
SM: Cult Gaia and Sabyasachi are on my wishlist and my most favourite designers.
DD: I have too many favourite designers to name, and I think that would be too long of a list. But I will say, one of my favourite designer looks from the shoot that I am looking forward to were of Tommy Hilfiger and Shiv Naresh. Those are my two favourite looks. I hope you enjoy them, and I hope you can experience Sardinia through these beautiful photos as much as I did.
SA: 2018 has been a year of great design. I have worn Rohit Gandhi & Rahul khanna and Neeta lulla for SIIMA. I wore Shravan Kumar for numerous Southern events and also, Gavin Miguel. I love the work of Zuhair Murad, and I also love the work of Sabya and Manish Arora.
Tell us a little about your other upcoming projects, and anything else we need to look out for.
SM: There’s so much happening, but I will let time do its magic, and share the news when it’s the right time.
SA: I am waiting for the completion of my Kannada movie by director Simple Suni. That would be something to look forward to, and I hope to close a few more acting opportunities. I strongly believe 2019 will be my year, and I will hope and believe in the best.
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OTHER 2019 CALENDARS TO LOOK OUT FOR
Sahodaran and male harmony
For the 10th edition of its calendar, Chennai-based NGO Sahodaran works with the theme, ‘Symphony 2019’, focusing on the relationship between men and animals in their natural habitat. The raw appeal of the shoots is intact as in previous editions, overseen and conceptualised by Sunil Menon, the fashion designer and social activist who founded the NGO.
Their 2019 calendar celebrates “our Indianness and specifically, our South Indianness,” emphasises Sunil, expressing delight over a landmark year for the LGBTQ community. The initiative serves to change social perceptions about the community, even as the cover image — of male models posing in front of elephants — makes for a breathtaking shot.
Shot by Kabilan AP & Vinoth DK, styled by Varun K & Sunil Karthik, with jewellery design by Gina Joseph (Zola India) & Raj Anand Designs. INR 1,500, available at the Sahodaran office in Chennai.
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Albert Watson for Pirelli 2019
Albert Watson, one of the world’s most highly reputed photographers, takes forward the legacy of the Pirelli calendars with an extraordinary series of pictures that prove to be more cinematic than anything else, and reflect the nature of dreams and ambitions in the 21st century.
Watson’s vision for the 2019 Pirelli calendar is captured in four timeless stories, in a manner like they’re a script for an auteur’s film. Shot in Miami and New York, the pictures let us enter the lives of four women — and their partners — exploring their dreams and ambitions, and accordant feelings.
Watson, who is known for his iconic portraits of Steve Jobs, Alfred Hitchcock and Kate Moss, among others, visually narrates the individual journeys, understanding the power of dreams, turning points in their lives, and moments of victory and defeat.
The shoot features stars from the worlds of fashion, film and dance — supermodel Gigi Hadid plays a wealthy, accomplished woman with a hint of sadness in her glory, relying on her mentor, played by fashion designer Alexander Wang, to bring back meaning to her life.
French actress and model Laetitia Casta plays an artist dreaming of her future, while her boyfriend, played by Ukrainian ballet dancer Sergei Polunin, offers her support. Ballet star Misty Copeland plays a dancer dreaming of joining the Opera Ballet in Paris along with her boyfriend, portrayed by fellow ballet performer Calvin Royal III.
Finally, Hollywood actress Julia Garner plays a photographer who works in the botanical gardens, capturing still life portraits of rare plants.
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Ami Vitale for the environment
Six art installations — set in the Rhône Glacier of the Swiss Alps, Kenya’s Gazi Bay, Colombian coffee estates, the forests of Thailand, Belgium and the Moroccan desert — all set in nature, form the 2019 Lavazza Calendar, themed ‘Good to Earth’.
Shot by legendary photographer, Ami Vitale, the initiative offers some good news, by way of documenting virtuous projects for reforestation, protecting biodiversity, and the conversion of industrial areas into green spaces.
Francesca Lavazza, curator of the calendar, describes the effort as “a process of co-creation with the environment... (as) nature becomes art to inspire behaviour that respects the environment, done through a contemporary art form that is totally immersed in nature, with the works of internationally renowned urban artists.”
Ami offers her take on the effort: “I am enthusiastic about how art talks to us about the future of nature, which is the future of all of us. Because while we need nature to survive, nature doesn’t need us. In a world of more than seven billion people, we must begin to see ourselves as a part of the landscape. Our fate is linked to the fate of the natural world.”
The initiative also invites enthusiasts and others to partake in a “photography call to action” to carry on the ‘Good to Earth’ mission, with the objective of realising a virtual archive of iniatives people encounter every day, with respect to nature. The 2019 Lavazza Calendar is available for browsing online.