Filmmaking is a fine art. More so in the case of an ad film where the story needs to be summed up with a few quick takes.
For Ravi Deshpande (script writer and ad-film maker) who runs his own production house in John Baptist Road, it’s all been a case of ‘been there, done that.’ He’s the creative genius behind British Petroleum’s ‘Mera naam Harisingh Mediratta Hai Ji’ testimonials, the Mother Diary ‘Khud Khushi Kar Le’ TVC, the Glycodin ‘Khasi Ki Chuttti’ commercial and the LICHF ‘Chutkara Pinjaronse’ campaign. A more recent venture has been the immensely popular Zee’s ‘Are you ready for your big break’ campaign (with spoofs on films such as Bhoot and Darr) which has managed to draw overwhelming reactions from aspiring youngsters. A man of many talents, Deshpande has written the feature film, ‘Terrorist’ starring Ayesha Dharkar, in addition to the film ‘Malli’ and has researched on the life and times of Asoka for the film starring Shah Rukh Khan in title role.
When asked about the Zee success venture, Deshpande states, “To cut a long story short, a friend suggested my name to Gajendra Singh of Zee and I was approached for the task. So, there was my dear friend Chetan Shashital (voice over artiste)…we sat up in the office all night and came up with thirty-six concepts. Zee guys loved all our concepts and picked six from the bunch. The contract was signed and, well…what can I say…we were well on our way towards addressing the small town youth.”
Deshpande adds, “Initially, Zee was intending the commercials to be at best, 15-second spots. But it was our opinion that a 15-seconder would only result in clichés. The idea was not to spring polite smiles, but to tickle the fancy of the viewer. Zee quite saw our point, and they shifted their media priorities accordingly. What resulted, thereon as the tremendously successful Bachchan act, the ‘Bhoot’ spoof and the flawless Shah Rukh imitation! The duration varied from 45 seconds till around one minute.”
In order to spice up things, Deshpande decided to go through with a massive manhunt and around 300 people from Pune, Nashik and Mumbai were auditioned for the task. Says Deshpande, “The very idea of devising those promos, was to address the SEC B, C and D which are so often sidelined by mainstream talent hunts. My point was, if we are trying to engage them in the process of story telling, why not let them enjoy the entire affair? So, as a prelude to the actual hunt, we auditioned fresh young faces for the various commercials and it added life and excitement to the entire process. Here, it must be said that people like Sunil Khanna (President, Zee) and Ajay Trigunayak backed our efforts in every possible way and made it all worthwhile.”
Wouldn’t it be a lot simpler to employ a few models instead? Deshpande says, “That’s the whole point. We wanted to target the small town guy, who has his head full of celluloid dreams, a guy who has done a full round of Amitabh imitations in front of his mirror. We would never have managed the same, with filmi look alikes or established faces.”
Muralidharan (cinematographer) from the Ram Gopal Verma make ‘Ek Haseena Thi’ was used for the commercials in order to get the ‘filmi’ touch.
On another tangent, what role does a filmmaker play in the success of the entire TVC? Can a really drab or worn-out concept stand out on account of the efforts of a good filmmaker? Deshpande states, “Absolutely so. A filmmaker makes a big difference to a mediocre idea, assuming that he is talented enough. But I am choosy about any initiative that I take on…the concept has to excite me and set my creative juices flowing.
In terms of volumes, my work may not speak much…but quality wise, it definitely makes a statement.”
Like, they say, a picture does speak a thousand words. And perhaps, there could not be greater tribute to the filmmaker, as he is the man who lends his soul and life to the picture.
Deshpande, trained at FTII Pune, has made several documentaries for different NGOs, which include the much talked-about ‘Manav’ (a film on the life of eunuchs), which is archived at Pompidou Centre, Paris. Up next is Aditya Bhattacharya’s film ‘Dubai Returned’ which is a spoof on Mumbai gangsters (written by Deshpande) and ‘Invaders’, directed by Roland Jaffe.