For the last 18 years, Dabboo Ratnani, the man behind the cover shoots for all leading fashion magazines in India, has been treating us with his star-studded calendar. The 19th edition of the calendar, which recently came out, takes the oomph quotient a few notches higher.
The shutterbug, who was one of the judges on MTV’s India’s Next Top Model, says that the calendar is his and his wife Manisha’s baby as she is very much a part of the concept behind the calendar shoot. “Manisha works through the course of the year and is the driving force. I just do the creative part and she takes care of everything else. If an idea comes to me, I first share it with her and if it excites her, then we go ahead with the concept. We work in complete sync and she is as involved as I am,” says Dabboo.
Dabboo and Manisha’s Instagram handles are a proof that their children —Myrah, Kiara and Shivaan too are equally involved in the making of the calendar. “My children are a part of my calendar shoot. The actors chat with them and that kind of breaks the ice and helps make the atmosphere light and fun. My children’s presence completely takes away the stress that we go through during the shoot,” says Dabboo.
The photographer, who kicked off his career doing publicity stills for films with Sanjay Dutt-starrer Aatish, keeps working on the concept all through the year. “The process is non-stop and whenever an interesting idea comes to me during the course of the year, I make a note of it and use it as reference later. We know that we have to outdo ourselves year after year. So, our competition is our own previous work. The challenge is to do stuff that we haven’t tried before. Although somewhat the same actors — Aishwarya, Abhishek,
Mr Bachchan, Shah Rukh, Arjun Rampal, Kajol, Hrithik — have been appearing in the calendar since the beginning, the real task is to do something out-of-the box and make them do something unique each time. We keep looking for new ideas and concepts and share them with the actors. Whatever excites them the most, we freeze on doing that particular shot for that actor,” explains Dabboo while talking about the concept behind the shoot.
This year’s calendar showcases stars like Aamir Khan, Farhan Akhtar, Amitabh Bachchan, Varun Dhawan, Sidharth Malhotra, Alia Bhatt, Sunny Leone, Vidya Balan, Hrithik Roshan and Miss World 2017 Manushi Chillar making a debut. When asked how do these celebs contribute to the shoot, the ace photographer says, “Since they are actors, they bring a lot to the frame. Whenever we give them an idea, they take it to the next level because they are such accomplished artists. Their aura, personality and them just being in the frame adds so much depth, drama and fun to the picture.”
Along with the actors who have been a part of his calendar since the beginning, we also see a few new additions every year. Talking about the selection of the actors, Dabboo discloses that for the calendar, about 20-21 Bollywood stars are kind of fixed with whom he has either worked with or who at some point have been a part of his calendar. “One or two faces keep changing to add some variety and freshness to the calendar. New faces infuse a new life into the calendar. It also depends on the availability of the stars — they have to be available around November-December, because that is the time when we shoot the calendar.
However, we always list two-three extra names, just in case someone is unable at the last minute,” he divulges.
Talking about his experience of shooting with Manushi, Dabboo says that initially the diva felt pressurised as she was being featured among the top Bollywood names. “It was the first time I ever shot Manushi and it was great working with her. She was very excited, so were we. India has got a Miss World after a really long wait and it was a great way to celebrate India’s and her victory. So we thought it would be great to feature her in the calendar. She is very new and easy to work with,” says Dabboo.
For Dabboo, his calendar is his way of seeking ‘creative satisfaction’. While shooting with a particular actor, he tries to utilise his/her uniqueness by blending it in his concept. “I try and pull out an idea which I feel will suit the particular actor I am shooting. For instance, while shooting with someone like Tiger Shroff who has an amazing level of flexibility and great body, I ensure to give him stuff that he can pull off with élan. This is the second year that Tiger shot with us; his last year’s shoot where he was suspended in the air, was very well received. So even for him, it was a goal to outdo what he had done the last time. We try to capitalise the actors/actresses’ strengths and do something that excites them, so that they can do full justice to the concept,” says Dabboo.
The Dabboo Ratnani calendar will complete two decades next year, and we can’t wait to see what he has in store for us!