Video: Shekhar Kapur & R Balki on diversity & its role in creativity

Film director and producer Shekhar Kapur and R Balki, film maker and Chairman of Lowe Lintas speak to exchange4media as they gear for their session @Cannes Lions

e4m by Noor Fathima Warsia
Updated: Jun 19, 2012 9:15 PM
Video: Shekhar Kapur & R Balki on diversity & its role in creativity

Cannes Lions could not have asked for a better duo than Shekhar Kapur and R Balki to talk about creativity and advertising in India. After all, both Kapur and Balki are known to challenge norms in their respective fields of creativity.

Oscar-nominated director, producer, actor and new media entrepreneur Shekhar Kapur very recently was a subject of conversation in the ad industry for his tweet on the social impact that advertising had and the fact that advertising agencies were not doing justice to the role they played.

R Balki, film maker and Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of Lowe Lintas, on the other hand, is known to abstain from any advertising award there is because he is yet to come across a platform that is transparent enough and leads to fostering creativity in the industry.

In perhaps a first-ever session on the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity stage that will delve on India and the considerable influence that the country has on global creativity, Kapur and Balki will talk about what stands out about Indian creativity. As the duo prepare for their session, they take some time out to speak to exchange4media on some of the thoughts that can be expected from them in their session on June 19. Excerpts

Let’s begin with some of the things that you want to talk about in your session tomorrow?
Shekhar Kapur:
One of the things that we want to talk about is that as a global village, we often forget that diversity is the very advent of globalisation. There is no one answer for everybody or one creative idea. Even the future of social media lies in the idea of cultural fragmentation. The world is heading to a state of culturally diverse and yet unified. And we need to understand this culture diversity. So what we will talk about is why and how are we culturally diverse. Why one solution doesn’t fit all. Therefore, one must see how we adapt the same idea to cultures that have different forms of storytelling.

Contrary to what most people think, India is the most adaptable country in the world – it jumps. It jumped from no phones to cell phones; on the internet, it jumped from no PCs to internet on mobile. It is starting at a lower ground technology level, and so people are fresh to new ideas – they don’t have investment in old technological ideas. The new ideas and the adaptability to change is enormous and in that, some of the best ideas in this new world are going to come from India and India is going to become a showcase to the world on how do you experiment with new ideas in the world of new technology, especially in the world of mobile and social media.

Your comment on this, Balki...
R Balki: As Shekhar said, our conversation tomorrow is about how diversity is really interesting in the field of communication. How we sometimes lose the interest value of certain cultures by having an idea that fits all. We also question why communication should travel – people are meant to travel. Why tom-tom about ‘communication that travels’? I would much rather tailor my conversation to the person or group of people I am talking to. If I try to talk to everyone at once, chances are that for some TG, and it may be for the most relevant TG, that my conversation loses interest. It is very important to preserve diversity. There is too much of similarity and diversity is what will create interest.

Would it surprise either of you that India, despite being one of the most fastest growing mobile markets, did not have a single shortlist in the Mobile Lions awards announced today?
R Balki:
No, it won’t. Though social media, the number of applications on the mobile and things we can do are still far lower. There is so much more that we can do. For us if we can just access our social media, it is good enough. So a lot of advertisers are still not experimenting with mobile media. It is purely a case of technology than creativity. You will find a difference next year because people would be more prepared.

Shekhar Kapur: Also, we have been caught by surprise. I have a social media company in which the investors are one of the largest technology companies in the world. And till about nine months ago, they said, what do you mean smartphone – India will not be able to afford smartphone. It is the pace of change in India and the fall in costs of technology that has caught everyone by surprise and unfortunately advertising decisions take a long time. But if you notice, companies such as WPP have gone ahead and bought a mobile company in India. The fact is that everyone is waking up to it. It is not because India is not waking up to it. It is because the creative heads in companies were unaware of that pace of change.

How does Cannes Lions help the creative industry?
R Balki: I don’t think it affects the Indian creative industry as much as people think it does. A lot of what is shown over here has got nothing to do with what is really happening in the Indian advertising industry – a lot has been tailored for this platform, so it is not a reflection of the diversity of things that are happening in India. The day that truly happens and the Festival is truly able to capture the fascinating thing happening in the country and for the country, is when I would say India has arrived at Cannes. Right now, it is more like Cannes has arrived in India.

Shekhar Kapur: In India, we have always aspired to be known internationally. If it is then showcased in a Festival like this, then it is fantastic. That desire is very innate, natural and preferred because it pushes us to go out, compete and show the world that we can do it better. The fact that India is going out and making a statement is a new thing and it is a good thing. The rise of consumerism in India caught everyone off-guard again. If someone would have asked any of us five years ago that was it it possible that the second or the third largest sports franchise in the world would come from India, we would have said No. But then came the Indian Premier League.

There are some inherent things happening in India that surprise the world. We are struggling to catch up with ourselves in India because the market is changing so rapidly. Some of the owners of ad companies are saying that India is where were want to be, India is where we want to buy and the reason why they want to buy is because they don’t have the essential creative ideas that can only come from the creatives that live in India. In a few years, you may find that Cannes would become pretty dominated by a lot of work coming from India, and a lot of it would specifically be a showcase of the country’s culture.

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