Thursday, March 01, 2007

Why doesn’t Delhi make quality ad-films?

When I entered the adbiz in the early seventies – JWT Kolkata – Delhi was a great place to get a letter from! No kidding! In the ad map it was really nothing from nowhere. When I relocated to Delhi in the late seventies, things had definitely improved, but it was still continents away from being a truly professionally driven zone. Crucial inputs were still outsourced.

Today in the year 2007, saadi Dilli is rocking! Clients, agencies, talents, infrastructure, drive, energy – the ad scene (in terms of growth path relating to both revenues and categories) is zooming north giving traditional Mumbai a solid run for money! However, the moment film or electronic media comes into focus, Delhi retracts into stone-age mode and registers a blank! Be it a ten-seconder or a sixty-seconder, anything relating to an ad film is instantly sent to Mumbai. Why? Doesn’t the otherwise booming, prospering and efficient ad scene in Delhi have the professional infrastructure in terms of facilities, equipment and trained personnel to deliver the goods? Isn’t there one solid, confident, result-oriented production house to make it happen? What about the much touted Film City in Noida – doesn’t a single outfit in that vicinity have the core competencies to stop this mass exodus to Mumbai?

“No, It doesn’t and I can’t see it happening for a long long time!” That is Gulu Sen, Dentsu Marcom’s Head honcho in Delhi. “Let’s understand one thing. Setting up a few studios doesn’t reflect film culture. It has to be ingrained and tradition-specific. Beyond investment and infrastructure, we are talking about solid trained professionals. Mumbai is streets ahead because it is traditionally THE film city – the land of Bollywood. Infrastructure (of every conceivable kind) is available in a flash. All we have to do is access anything we want and its there… DOP, music, post, crew-the works. Everything is just one phone call away. It’s a joy!” Regarding Noidas Film City, Sen paints a grim picture. He says he’s heard only complaints from Mumbai ad film directors regarding their experience while shooting there.
 
Sam Mathews (Ex Creative Director JWT & Lowe Lintas and now an independent Delhi-based corporate/ad film maker) however blows the whistle, roots strongly for Delhi and believes that all this Mumbai-halo fever is bull-crap! “I think it’s the done thing to immediately hail Mumbai as the final and ultimate frontier of ad-films and rush off in that direction or else you’ll be perceived as a ganwaar!” The truth (according to Mathews) is that this move is mostly initiated by the client servicing guys who look at it as a nice 5-day break from work! Mostly it’s a planned affair between the client, ad Agency & the production house & has little to do with the so-called professionalism constantly brayed about.” Mathews believes that most of the essential requirement (infrastructure & trained personnel) is available in Delhi at much cheaper cost. “Also, don’t forget Delhi is NSD city, so trained actors come a dime a dozen.” He is convinced it is herd-mentality, mind-set, self-indulgence, the done thing… and has nothing to do with reality.

o of the Delhi-based Street Life & ex VP of Bates) doesn’t quite see it the way Mathews does. A one-time partner of film-maker Pradeep Sarkar (they had successfully set up an ad-film outfit together in Delhi) Chowdhury is perhaps the most eminently qualified of the lot to speak about the issue. “There are two or three aspects as to why Delhi can never hope to swing in the ad-film scene. Historically, the city has never ever been central to any film related activity. There is no local film industry… and ad-films can never ever begin to support an entire industry that has no base. Ad-films by nature are turn-key business with infrastructure and talents drawn from the mainstream feature films. Since that is non-existent, there is bound to be a problem of assured, sustained work. Admittedly there is talent and skill in the city but ironically, due to a lack of opportunities here, they invariably gravitate to Mumbai, where the action is.” Chowdhury agrees that for a brief spell when he and Sarkar had their thing going in Delhi, the ad scene looked pretty good, but sustained work was difficult.

“Besides, the moment a guy started doing well here – models, designers, production people, directors – they moved to Mumbai. Its inevitable. For TV, news or low-end work which does not demand hi-end specialisation & expertise, Delhi is okay. Anything beyond that……..” Amit and Aleya Sharma who were a part of Pradeep Sarkar crack Delhi team but moved to Mumbai later to form their own (CHROME) production house agrees, “Apart from infrastructure, the mindset, mentality and attitude of the Delhi guy is way off centre. Mumbai is a can-do, will-do city in a 24*7 commitment mode. It is truly professional! Delhi by comparison is real “Dheela” and quite clueless about being on-the-ball. The drive, pace and energy of Mumbai is both infectious and addictive.”

The last words must however come from a passionate & furious Sandeep Marwah – the top gun of Noida’s celebrated Marwah Studio – who is determined to set the record straight. “Who are these people with their allegations and accusations? They obviously are clueless about the Noida phenomenon and choose to live in their own ivory tower! In the 15 years that I have established and run my studio, I have churned out over 2,500 TV programmes for more than 70 channels and over 70 feature films – pan-India – across various languages. Ad films constitute a very small part of the film-making process and we have successfully aligned ourselves to this area as well. Ad films are no big deal. The infrastructure that I provide here – from pin to plane – can match the best of Mumbai. However, remember, there are no free lunches. You want great facilities, you better have good budgets!” Sandeep points that most (if not all) big automobile ads have been shot in his studios. Several hot shot agencies (JWT, O&M, LOWE, ULKA, CONTRACT) and clients (Pepsi, TVS Scooty/Motorcycle, Honda, Usha Fan, Horlicks, LG, Whirlpool, Samsung, Polar Fans, 7up, Santro, Swift, Maruti, Baleno, Alto, Esteem) grace his distinguished roster. “So what’s all this crap about nothing happening in Delhi?”

His take on the Mumbai fixation is simple. In the last few years the stars have completely wiped out the models in the aAd scene. Stars live in Mumbai and hence it makes more sense for all ad guys to connect with them there. That’s all. “In terms of equipment facilities, responsive, trained and proactive staff, Marwah Studios can give any production house in Mumbai a run for money. So if the Delhi ad frat is looking towards a production outfit that promises to deliver everything and more… look no further, brother!” Touché! 

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