Curves and the verve

There is more to the Kingfisher Calendar girl than just the bikini-body

Eighteen years after the Kingfisher Calendar made its debut, it still has the perfect blend of everything that is sexy, elegant and luxurious. Published by the United Breweries Group and shot by ace photographer Atul Kasbekar, the calendar is not only about foxy models but also features some of the world’s most picturesque destinations. And the calendar for 2020 is shot in the land of astounding diversity­—the universal home of beauty, South Africa.

According to Atul, the Kingfisher Calendar girl needs to have a certain ‘X-factor’ apart from obvious features like an interesting face and a toned, athletic body. “This X-factor or quality is not easy to define but when photographed, it is clear as day to the viewer that there is something special about the talent,” says Atul.

Kingfisher 2020 Calendar features four models—Aishwarya Sushmita, Zoya Afroz, Pooja Chopra and Aditi Arya. The models tell Smart Life about their diet and fitness regime, their journey and some inside stories.

Photo for the Kingfisher 2020 calendar by Atul Kasbekar Photo for the Kingfisher 2020 calendar by Atul Kasbekar

Aishwarya Sushmita

I am a conscientious model!”

Her name is an amalgamation of the names of former Miss World Aishwarya Rai and former Miss Universe Sushmita Sen. Singer, belly dancer and national level badminton player, this 25-year-old, from Darbhanga in Bihar, says, “A model should be confident and hardworking. But the most important rule of modelling is to be patient and passionate.”

Aishwarya says the calendar shoots are very challenging. “It requires a lot of stamina, hard work and patience to deal with tasks that we are given. In the recent shoot, I was in freezing cold water in nothing other than my bikini. I was shivering and my teeth were clattering,” she says.

To show solidarity with the frozen model, Atul jumped into the water. “I had someone hold an umbrella to save my camera as we were shooting under the waterfalls.”

Apart from modelling, Aishwarya enjoys painting and reading. “I look forward to my leisure time; sometimes, when I am not painting or reading, I hit the gym,” she says. This is her second appearance in the calendar after winning the Kingfisher Calendar Hunt in 2015.

My diet

I am not finicky about food but I prefer to keep it healthy as much as I can. I start my day with green tea and lemon or just lemon grass tea followed by coconut water. I drink a lot of water throughout the day.

For breakfast I take a small bowl of sprouts and a full bowl of fresh cut fruits or juice.

Lunch is usually simple; a bowl of rice, chapati and dal with some vegetables on the side.

In the evening I munch on some dry fruits or have a homemade smoothie.

Dinner totally depends on my mood; it is sometimes south Indian dosa or north Indian home-cooked mutton rice.

Fitness regime

I think it is very important to take care of our mental health along with physical, since both are closely connected. Mental health plays a huge role in our ability to maintain good physical health. If you want to start your journey to have a better body, exercise daily for at least an hour, eat right since 70 per cent of your body weight is what you eat. I make sure that I work out regularly; either I hit the gym or go for a swim or do yoga or boxing. I play badminton on a regular basis to keep myself fit. Apart from all this, make sure you get good sleep and stay motivated.

Zoya Afroz

Don’t you think I am stunning?”

Photo for the Kingfisher 2020 calendar by Atul Kasbekar Photo for the Kingfisher 2020 calendar by Atul Kasbekar

She made her first on-screen appearance as a child artiste in 1998. She played the role of Baby in the Star Plus soap opera Kora Kagaz. She also did a couple of commercials. In 2013, she won the Pond’s Femina Miss India Indore 2013 and Pond’s Femina Miss India International 2013. With all these titles in hand, Zoya Afroz, from Lucknow, says, “The biggest strength of a model is being secure in one’s physical appearance. Models should not be affected by prying eyes of others and give their best at every click.”

Zoya says that everything related to the calendar shoot continues to be an experience, but nothing compares to being on that stage of Miss India and winning the coveted crown. “The calendar girl shoot was a lot of fun; it extended throughout the day. One memorable experience during the shoot was when we went up the Table Mountain on a cloudy day. The view was breathtaking and I was awestruck. I will definitely visit South Africa again,” she says.

According to Atul, Zoya’s story is nothing less than inspirational. Once overweight, the 25-year-old trained hard to be worthy of calendar images. “I personally tend to gravitate towards duskier women for the calendar, but with Zoya, it has been nothing less than revelatory,” he says.

Every profession has its set of challenges, even modelling. “The initial stages were difficult for me but it took a great deal of focus and discipline to get to the place where I am today. Nothing beats the thrill I get when I walk on that ramp,” Zoya says. According to her, beauty is often wrongly perceived. “It is about the kind of person you are and the good deeds that you have done for those around you. This defines true beauty. I have had to make many sacrifices; I’ll keep it a secret though. But all of the sacrifices have been worth it,” she says.

My diet

I believe in lifestyle and not diet and hence, I don’t have a fixed one. I strive for balance and I make sure that I don’t hit the extremes. I eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables and protein in any form most of the days. I don’t have a fixed diet plan but I have a variety of small meals throughout the day­—all of it home cooked and healthy. I also keep a tab on the portions I consume and make sure that I drink a lot of water.

Few days in a month are cheat days. That is when I let myself eat whatever I please; it mostly involves spaghetti.

Fitness regime

Staying fit is very important to me. I work out at least three to four times a week and it is all high intensity training. For an actor, every day is not the same. Some days, I wake up at 5am, hit the gym and work for 12-14 hours. There are also days when I stay late in bed, eat an extravagant brunch and go out with my friends. It is all about staying focused without missing out on the fun side of life.

Pooja Chopra

I’d call me spunky”

Photo for the Kingfisher 2020 calendar by Atul Kasbekar Photo for the Kingfisher 2020 calendar by Atul Kasbekar

She won the coveted Femina Miss India East title in 2009; she also got a direct entry into the top ten finalists of the Femina Miss India 2009. A week before the 2009 Miss World pageant, she sprained her ankle but that did not stop her from going for the competition. Pooja Chopra won the ‘Beauty with a purpose’ title at Miss World 2009, thanks to her charity work in Project Nanhi Kali, which supports the education of underprivileged Indian girls. Despite the many titles, the model, from Pune, is grounded and says that she has always been prepared to persevere for her share of work. “I have always sought good people and fortunately, I got them as well. It is necessary for every human to find their purpose; the rest will follow,” Pooja says.

According to the 34-year-old, the difference between any other commercial modelling and Kingfisher Calendar is the person who shoots it and the place where it is shot. “Atul scouts for the best of talent and, not to forget, the most picturesque of locations where you’re darn sure that your pictures are going to come out looking like it is worth a million bucks,” she says.

Although Pooja did not visualise herself as a calendar girl, Atul did. “Working with someone like him was a great learning experience. He told me about the angles, what works and what doesn’t and the right attitude—he just knows everything. And also, I like all the challenges that my profession throws at me. I do not see them as challenges but as an opportunity for personal growth,” she says.

According to Atul, Pooja has done an excellent job of maintaining her shape. “She has had a lot of experience in front of camera prior to this but never anything like the calendar shoot. However, she blended with the mix pretty well,” he says.

My diet

I don’t have a specific diet; I have five-six meals a day, keeping it healthy and wholesome. It primarily consists of eggs, oats, fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts. Since I am a vegetarian and also gluten sensitive, my food options narrow down considerably.

Fitness regime

I start my day with 10 minutes of meditation. I work out 5-6 days a week. It includes cardiovascular exercises, weight training, functional training. I also do a session of full body stretching once a week. I prefer engaging in some form of outdoor activity since I’m not a huge fan of staying confined to the gym.

Aditi Arya

I am sensible. Period.”

Photo for the Kingfisher 2020 calendar by Atul Kasbekar Photo for the Kingfisher 2020 calendar by Atul Kasbekar

Though her acting debut in Tollywood failed to click at the box office, the glamour diva did not let it bog her down. Model, research analyst and Femina Miss India World 2015 titleholder, Aditi Arya, from Chandigarh, has come a long way in the fashion industry. “I used to always underestimate the effort put in by models before I actually got to try modelling myself,” Aditi says. The 26-year-old feels that every model should know how to have fun while maintaining a strong sense of discipline. “Models should be patient and must learn to take the day as it comes and live in the moment. Having the balance is the key. The camera captures every detail, so it is essential to be alert, present and agile,” she says.

According to Aditi, shooting for the calendar has been a lot of fun. “There was this one shot which Atul had to take from a top angle while leaning off the edge of a stilt. He made his assistant hold his pants behind him so that he doesn’t fall. It was both comical and scary at the same time,” she says.

Aditi believes that the Kingfisher Calendar campaign is a balance of beauty, fashion and commercial modelling experience in equal doses. “You feel like an active contributor to the final pictures. The campaign not just celebrates the location, clothing and brand but also the beauty of its models and that makes us feel special,” she says.

Atul calls her the baby of the group. “She is simply sensational; reminds me of a very young Nargis Fakhri,” he says. As for the bubbly model, she is looking forward for the calendar launch and the release of her Punjabi film in February.

My diet

My diet chart varies according to my monthly fitness goals. Last year I had phases where I moved from high protein to keto to dairy free diet regimes. Currently I am back to simple, balanced vegetarian meals with zero sugar.

Fitness regime

I am an early riser, but that is a fairly recent development. I think it has been one of my best decisions; it has made me very productive. My fitness routine alternates between dance and functional workouts. I switch dance with martial arts classes every month. MMA and functional training spread over five days a week. I try to make it beyond an hour a day.

All four models got into training mode almost a year prior to the shoot. Atul says that it is not just the preparation period or the shoot that is difficult, even the journey to the shoot site can be a challenge. “One of our shoot locations was in an area called 22 Watervalle. It is an area with waterfalls, about 2.5 hours away from Cape Town. Getting there involved a drive and a very steep climb up walkways and stairs. But we got some of our best shots there,” he says.