Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dil maange more

4Ps B&M's Monojit Lahiri ventures a close-up of the recent double-role being played out by an increasing number of gifted ad-film makers, balancing ad films with the biggest lure of ’em all – feature films!

In the beginning came the great god Ray – Satyajit to 7-stars morons! – who after doing time in the hi-profile D. J. Keymer in the fab ’50s (as a distinguished Art Director) left, for two reasons. One, as a passionate film aficionado (he started the iconic Calcutta Film Society with noted film critic Chidanand Dasgupta), he was getting increasingly drawn into the world of feature films. Two, he discovered that ‘hawking cigarettes, biscuits and tea, day in and day out isn’t really the best stimuli for creativity!’ Dry wit at its acerbic best from the master!

Over the years – Shyam Benegal, Muzaffar Ali, Robin Dharamraj, Zafar Hai, Chidanand Dasgupta, Harisadhan Dasgupta – there has been a decided shift-of-focus happening, with the to-day guys really turning on the heat. Shoojit Sarkar, a brilliant ad film maker, switched lanes a couple of years ago to give us Yahaan. Pradeep Sarkar, another renowned ad film maker and ad agency veteran took the leap with Parineeta and Laga… while Lowes hi-profile NCD Balki let loose Cheeni Kum with the customers begging for more. The brilliant Abhinay Deo – another outstanding ad film maker – threatens to join the club any moment. Some other eminent players in this ad films-to-feature game include Dipankar Banerjee (Khosla Ka Ghosla), John Mathew Matthan (Sarfarosh), Mahesh Mathai (Bhopal Express), Rakeysh Mehra (Rang De Basanti), Rajiv Menon (Sapnay), Ram Madhvani (Let’s Talk)…

What’s the problem? Why this ‘khujli’ to move towards the bigger format? Is the 30-seconder getting a bit too restrictive, limiting and tight? Over time, are these guys getting bored doing the same old stuff – after all how hot can your creativity get in this time frame? Having learnt the critical aspects of the art and craft of the discipline, are they now in the mood to embrace the real thing?

Abhinay Deo opens the batting with typical panache and starts scoring immediately. Contrary to popular belief, he does not believe that it is a “logical or automatic transition because both have their respective – special – areas of challenges and opportunities. For me, as a passionate film lover, they are both amazing avenues because they come under the common umbrella of film making.” However, he is quick to confess that the ad film-maker, sometimes, has an edge over the feature-wala because of the former’s constant, 24x7 drive towards creating, achieving and delivering a product that is fresh, unique and clutter-bustling.
 
“This makes innovation a part of our DNA. After all, selling products and services to a new-gen, promiscuous target-base in a way that delights and surprises, is no easy task. It demands speed with quality and provides us with a fantastic sense of perspective that certainly helps in the long run,” he explains.

Pradeep Sarkar who made his debut into the world of feature films at the “young” age of 48, has a different take. He believes that ad films and feature films are definitely inter-connected, in some fashion. Both have a product to sell and in both the disciplines, the aspect of “story-telling” is critical. Both are audio-visual mediums with their own compulsions.

Balki believes that the attraction for the big screen for most ad-film makers is natural because “once you’ve tasted blood, you want to go for the big one.” However, it’s not as easy as it sounds because from 30-60 seconds to holding audience attention for close to three hours can be very daunting.

A sharp media tracker who has seen this phenomenon grow over time believes that all these guys are suddenly and unnecessarily playing coy and cute. The real reason for this shift, he believes, is simple and two-fold. One, every creative animal, after a while, feels hemmed in by continuously doing stuff that has a limited creative bandwidth. The motivation and hunger – despite all the clich├ęs about constantly re-inventing oneself blah blah – wears thin and soon technique rather than inspiration, take over. The solution is (literally) the big picture… a canvas he can truly take-off with. Secondly, hey c’mon guys, who doesn’t want to hit the big time, rub shoulders with glamorous stars, be perceived as a successful film maker, appreciated by the media, classes and masses instead of just cranking out (as Ray rightly said) stuff hawking tea, cigarettes and biscuits… and now colas and condoms!

Beyond the incestuous and industry-specific tamasha at Cannes and ABY’s, their product gets to be seen and loved by the most significant and desired target-audience they can dream of – the hydra-headed creature called the aam junta! That is the real high – and let no one kid themselves!

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