Since he got good grades, Atul Kasbekar decided to pursue chemical engineering at the start of his career. But half way through, he left everything to become a photographer. The following years he trained with names like Dennis Gray, Ron Slenzak, James B Wood, Jay Silverman and Jay P Morgan. “Now I don’t work. Only five per cent of all people enjoy their job. And for them, work isn’t work. I joined that gang. Photography is not just about glam and money, it’s a lot of hard work,” says Atul, who has shot the Kingfisher Calendar for nine years apart from film, editorial and advertising work. Two of his calendar models — Deepika Padukone and Nargis Fakhri — even got their big breaks in Bollywood through him.
‘Nargis has a great sense of humour’
We had booked a yacht and everything was set at Koh Samui Island in Thailand, but then it started raining. So we reworked the concept and used the plastic covers as a prop. Directors who are technically inclined admire the shot. They enquired about how it was taken and who the model was. Nargis has a great sense of humour.
‘Sachin and Sehwag are our prizefighters’
This picture was shot just before the 2003 World Cup. Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag hadn’t established themselves as the best opening batsmen in the world. This picture’s composition borrows the boxing concept of a combination 1, 2 punch. We got a professional boxer to tape their wrists and show them how to pose correctly. We wanted to show them as the country’s 1, 2 knock-out punch as they were going to open for Team India. We wanted show that if these two click at the top of the order, then it’d difficult to beat India. They are our prizefighters.
‘This shot helped define Deepika’
This shot is iconic. It helped define who Deepika Padukone has become. She has always been lean and hungry about learning and was focused and determined to learn with every shot she gave. She always was incredibly resilient and tough. This picture was shot at the Kangaroo Island and there was an extremely cold wind flowing in from the Antartic that day. It must have been about seven degrees and all of us were in our pullovers and there she was posing in a two-piece swimsuit.
‘Sonam is like a supermodel’
Sonam is a chameleon in front of the camera. She is like a supermodel and can look different in each picture. She has more knowledge of fashion than most stylists. There is a grungy charm about this photo. We created a retro picture where the paraphernalia is wider. There is junk lying all around her endless legs.
‘I call him a gentle giant’
I’m six feet three inches tall and I rarely feel short in front of anyone. But Kieron Pollard at six feet five or six inches made me feel like a dwarf. He is muscular and reasonably knowledgeable. And for someone who is so huge, he’s incredibly fast on the field. Contrary to his go-getter image on the field, his aggression is internalised in real life. He is kind. I call him a gentle giant. A fun guy from Trinidad, Pollard has a very singsong non-gruff accent. I’m a sports junky, so I enjoy shooting sportsmen.