It’s early morning on a sunny day and our flight to Kochi, where the Imagine show Hunt For The Kingfisher Calendar Girl is being shot, is delayed by an hour. All eyes in the boarding queue are on Purab Kohli, who stands on the sidelines and waits for the rush to clear. At noon, we land in Kochi. There is someone waiting with a ‘Purab Kohli’ placard, and we are told he is also our guide and driver to the hotel.
Kohli tells us he’s also part of the show. “I don’t know what exactly I’ll be doing. Atul (Kasbekar) told me to just come by and have fun,” he says. It’s a three-hour journey to the venue. On the way, Kohli recommends a newly opened eatery for lunch. After lunch, we hit the road again, driving past lakes, coconuts tress and of course, Kerala’s famous backwaters.
At around 6 pm, our car drops us at the picturesque Zuri Resort. At first glance, it seems like almost the entire resort has been taken over by the show’s crew. We bump into Rahul Khanna who is a guest judge on this particular episode. “It’s kind of cool to be with all the beautiful girls. But it’s also embarrassing, you don’t want the girls to look like performing monkeys,” he says.
Close to 9 pm, we are told the shoot has been delayed due to the heavy downpour. By the time it restarts, it’s already midnight. The sets for the episode have been laid on a lagoon. The white ramp cuts right through the middle of the blue water. The area is flood lit like a stadium and there are more than 100 men at work. We watch the action from a lagoon-facing cottage.
The show is a hunt for the sixth girl to feature on the annual Kingfisher calendar. Most of the 15 participants that we encounter are blondes. Every day, these girls are put through one main task, like Do It Yourself, which was being shot in our presence. In the afternoon, the girls had picked up chits to decide whether they would be doing Bollywood item girl or cabaret themed tasks. Girls in both the groups have designed wardrobes for themselves. They are shot in these outfits and their pictures are reviewed by the judges: Atul Kasbekar, Milind Soman and Khanna.
“These girls have to deliver on celluloid what we need,” says Kasbekar. You just have to look good and not end world hunger.” At 2.30 am, this segment of the shoot ends. It restarts in an hour, but we are already in bed by then. The best pictures will be decided later in the day by the judges. Within a few hours, we head back to the airport for a flight home.