Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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© Copyright 2004





In Fashion…Calendar style

Often style is set by the most unlikely of people. In 2003, India’s Vijay Mallya, the man who has often been called the country’s liquor baron, hit upon a wonderful idea of promoting fashion through a calendar of swimsuit models. Chairman of United Breweries, with its renowned Kingfisher beer that even foreign visitors to India relish, and founder of Kingfisher Airlines that provides luxury for a song, Mallya walked into the arena of style through the sexy pin-ups.

One of the models
Admittedly, his idea was not original. Italy’s Pirelli has been publishing a calendar of some of the world’s most beautiful women, including artistic nudes, since 1964, though the publication ceased after 1974 because of a global recession brought on by the oil shock. The calendar and its lissom lasses were resurrected a decade later, and it has never, since then, failed to inspire us with its breathtaking beauties, including Penelope Cruz, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Kate Moss and even Sophia Loren. This year’s edition has this aging Italian actress as one of the models.

Mallya’s Kingfisher Calendar was born much later in 2003, and has more or less followed Pirelli’s line and length: the models pose in the most provocative of swimsuits, often bikinis and sometimes topless with just the G-String.

The 2007 swimsuit designs are flaunted by six stunning women – Deepti Gujral, Shamita Singha, Nikii Daas, Mia Udeya, Bruna Abdalah and Selma Lasrado. Selma is also a flight attendant on Kingfisher Airlines.

And framing them in all their sensuousness was photographer Atul Kasbekar, who chose the south of France to create his artistic canvas of breathtakingly haunting locales and lovely lasses. From the historic Hotel Negresco in Nice to the legendary Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild in Saint Jean-Cap-Ferrat, the calendar offers a great peek into the world of aesthetics and fashion.

Which was created this year by renowned designers, such Anamika Khanna, Malini Ramani, Nandita Basu, Rina Dhaka, Ranna Gill, Varun Bahl and Rohit Bal among others.

Most of the models in the 24-sheet calendar – two girls for each month – taunt you with their itsy-bitsy biknis. Which is not quite new even in a staid country like India. Once made popular by film stars, such as Ursula Andress in James Bond’s “Dr No” (remember the scene where she emerges from the sea in a two-piece bathing suit clutching a sea-shell, a scene that Halle Berry recreated with a flaming orange suit in the 2002 Bond’s “Die Another Day”), Sharmila Tagore in the 1967 “An Evening in Paris” and Dimple Kapadia in the 1973 “Bobby”. Since then, any number of other Indian actresses have slipped into the bikini and slipped out, promising never to be photographed in one. The latest to don a bikini after losing oodles of weight is Bipasha Basu in “Dhoom 2”, where some have said that she looks divinely oomph. Now, she says she will not pose in a bikini.

The bikini has been around for 60 years, though years ago archaeologists discovered Minoan wall paintings from 1600 BC and Roman mosaics from 300 AD that depicted the bikini.

But much of the bikini’s modern history began in 1946. It was invented and launched almost simultaneously by two French fashion designers: Jacques Heim and Louis Reard. Heim was a swimsuit designer who had created a two-piece suit to be sold in his beach shop at Cannes in the south of France. He marketed the swimsuit as the “Atome,” (named for its small size and meant to be compared with the atom, the smallest particle of matter yet known).

The same summer of 1946 in which Heim was introducing his “Atome,” Louis Reard was creating his own similar, two-piece swimsuit. He named and marketed his swimsuit as the “Bikini”, proclaiming that it was “smaller than the smallest bathing suit in the world.” Reard christened his swimsuit the bikini in honour of post-World War II experimental atomic bombs being detonated in the South Pacific, near the Bikini Atol.

The bikini swimsuit caused a similar earth-shattering reaction as the mushroom clouds of the atomic bombs had, and Reard’s label proved more enduring than Heim’s Atome. Over the decades, the bikini continued to evolve, shedding fabric as it swam along, covering precious little, and leaving even less to imagination. There are occasions now, when the two-piece stuff has divided itself into a three-piece affair. Should we call this a “trikini”? I am sure there is more to come out of the bikini. Or, more to vanish from this in a string of sensation. Who knows?

(Webposted January 2 2007)