Serious-sombre player Vidya Balan, who once hid a magazine that carried what she claimed were stark sexy pictures of her, from her father, effortlessly slipped out of a dress into, well, nothing for a 2010 calendar shoot.
Celebrity photographer Dabboo Ratnani gets stars comfortable enough to be in their own skin.
The celebrity calendar that he’s now synonymous with dates back to a one-off project he planned in 2000. He decided to compile images of actors he had shot, and turn it into an unusual gifting option to ring in the new millennium. "I put together photos of stars I’d shot. And the response was terrific. The next year, I began shooting exclusive pictures for the calendar," he says.
Dabboo’s pictures are talked about for showcasing celebrities in a never-seen-before light. So, December carries an oomphed up Vidya Balan in nothing but a feather boa strung around her neck, and Priyanka Chopra wearing little but Goth eye-make up and a male blazer clutched to her chest.
The first Hindi film actress who agreed to be shot in little by Dabboo, was friend Pooja Bhatt. He photographed her in a swimsuit. "I ended up learning a lot from Pooja; by then she’d done lots of photoshoots. It was a crash course in how to deal with shoots of this kind."
The selection process involves drawing up a list of 35 celebrities, and zeroing in on finalists depending on dates available. Dabboo has his favourites, of course. Kajol, Kareena Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek and Aishwarya Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan and Shah Rukh Khan come out tops. But it’s the new faces that get him equally wound up. So, Kangana Ranaut and Konkona Sensharma find a seat too.
"We think up concepts that haven’t been tried before. But I don’t like putting stars in an uncomfortable place," he says, often preferring to explain details of the shot in a pre-shoot meeting. The crew is kept to a minimum: Dabboo, wife Manisha, and a hair and make-up artist. "The ambience needs to be right the lighting, music. Manisha accompanies me on most days. It’s not like I’m this sleazy guy, but actresses feel comfortable with her around," he laughs.
Trust perhaps, plays as crucial a role as creative vision. Vidya managed to take a look at the final picture only when she arrived at the calendar launch. But Dabboo admits convincing the stars can get tricky at times. The 2010 issue sees actor Imran Khan bare his torso for the first time.
"I knew he was working out for a film, and asked if he’d like to try some bare shots. He wanted to know if I was convinced. I said, if they don’t turn out great, we won’t use the pictures. The final shot worked, I thought."
The image you ogle at, is a bare-all one, but illusion plays a role too. Most of the stars prefer keeping security clothing on, whether a towel, silicon cups or a tube top, Dabboo confesses. "Deepika wore a tube and tiny shorts. Vidya too was wearing something."
And if you thought the stars were born with celestial bodies, it’ll help to know that Kangana worked on her abs for a shot that focussed on her mid riff, with a sheer black top skirting her breasts.