Pradeep Sarkar is one of the few people in the profession who still draws his story boards himself, and being from an art background, he even designs his sets himself. He heads production house Apocalypso Filmsworks, which has been behind several well-known ads such as Tata Yellow Pages and Onida KY Thunder, which won Abby Awards; campaigns for Aaj Tak and ICICI Prudential, among others.
Sarkar has also directed two feature films – Parineeta and ‘Laaga Chunari Mein Daag – Journey of a Woman’.
Another unique thing about Sarkar’s style of working is that he likes working with an audio board. A habit that he developed after working with Aamir Khan on the Coca-Cola commercials.
After graduating from the Delhi College of Art in 1979 with a gold medal, Sarkar joined Tulika Advertising Agency as Creative Supervisor. He began his career in Contract Advertising, Delhi and after 17 years of pure mainstream advertising, he left Contract as Associate Vice President Creative and jumped into ad-film making.
Chilling is not his cup of tea as he likes working all the time. He says, “Some people call it being a workaholic, but I say, ‘yeh nashaa hai, peshaa nahin’.”
In conversation with exchange4media, Sarkar speaks about the changing scenario of ad-film making in India, his production house Apocalypso Filmsworks and the ‘big idea’
You are a veteran in the industry. How would you describe the journey and changes in the ad world?
To be very honest, in those days big idea was the winner, now also it is the big idea that is the winner. I don’t think the big idea bit has ever changed nor will it ever change, because if the idea is not there, it will never work – as simple as that. Keeping that bit aside, the style has completely changed – in terms of visual styling, in terms of people styling, in fact, the way ads are seen these days, all that has changed a lot. When we started, it was mainly English; of course, Piyush was the one who brought in the change from English to Hindi. Hindi then became mainstream from a sidelined language. Another change that is very prominent is the change in the outlook of the people. A few things that were taboo in those days are no more now; the audience is smarter and we don’t have to say very much since they already have a point of view, and in this process we have changed as well.
Amid so many production houses, where do you see your production house?
Where it stands now, I would myself like to ask people; where I would like to see it, is the question. I would definitely like to see it in a different way altogether. I don’t want Apocalypso equal to Pradeep Sarkar and frankly, I have learnt this from Yash Raj Films. Yash Raj could have been Aditya Chopra or Yash Chopra. As an outsourced person working with them, I learnt that you have to build a brand in totality. We will soon get two very fresh and different kinds of directors on board. So, I really don’t want Apocalypso to be known as Pradeep Sarkar or any particular name, I want it to be known as a whole team altogether with a very strong production team.
You have worked with the likes of Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan. Do you think brands benefit more if associated with such big names? In fact, don’t you think they tend to overshadow the brand name?
Yes, a brand definitely benefits when associated with a celebrity name, since these celebrities have a fan following, they are well-known and there is an ‘aura’ they create for the product, which helps the brand and audience connect better. Now, the question of whether a celebrity name can overshadow a brand name, it totally depends on the idea; if the idea is big then nothing can overshadow the product, no matter how big the celebrity name is.
Since you direct movies as well as ad films, how different are the two and which of the two do you enjoy more?
For me, it’s always the same, because you are inching forward to tell a story. Of course, in movies it is a longer process, whereas an ad film is done in two days – but story telling is a part of both. I enjoy both equally; it’s not fair to ask which of my two babies is dearer to me.
How do you see the future of the Indian ad-film industry?
When I started, Sayeda, my creative boss, suggested that I create an in-house production house. I was not very comfortable with the idea since the ad would get stuck with one kind of client. But that definitely looks like the future, where there will be one person (the agency producer), the cameraman, the director, etc. – this kind of a scenario is on its way. This can be regarded as one of the things that will happen. The market and agencies will obviously become bigger and better, so there will be changes. What will remain the same is that big ideas will still win.