Harmandar Singh aka Ham
We had just
finished lunch in this exquisite Italian restaurant along Mumbai's beachfront when Prasoon and I decided some Bloody Marys would be in order to round off the sumptuous spread. His gorgeous wife Aparna just smiled knowingly, as she knew full well we were just the kind of ad folk who would go ahead and do such a thing.
But the best surprise was yet to come. As we sauntered our way out of the longest lunch I ever had, save for the one time with Neil French and Rishya's mob at the Mango Tree in Bangsar, a young teenager rushed across the street and accosted Prasoon like he had just seen a vision. It was a fan and he spoke non-stop, as most Indians do, about how much he admired Prasoon, his work, reciting his songs word for word, and on and on... Aparna and I looked at each other and I completely understood what it meant to be in the limelight and yet not have a shadow that's yours. But then that's Prasoon. People walk up to him on the streets, in restaurants, in malls, in parties.
Like this one time we went for a big party thrown by the Times of India Group at the Mumbai Oberoi with equally iconic figures like Piyush Pandey and his entourage of socialites:
Prasoon couldn't go further than the reception area before being mobbed by the television cameras who were ready complete with a make-shift studio and stalled him for a 10-minute interview.
My friendship with Prasoon Joshi is almost five years old now, but it seems we've known each other for a lifetime. My wife and I even had the honour of staying with the Joshis during one of our trips to India. He has come to Malaysia twice to judge the MC2 Awards and I've had him as Jury President for my ADOI Advertising Awards (AAA) of Indonesia too.
At a subsequent awards night for the AAA in Jakarta, I invited him onto stage to give out the trophy for best radio. As the winner waded her way through the 1500-strong auditorium crowd onto stage, Prasoon calmed her to wait until her radio spot finished playing before she received the prize. He insisted on giving the winning spot its due hearing before the crowd! And the crowd knew then that this man who had just picked up 2 Golds at Cannes was humble enough to accord a local radio spot the same respect and dignity befitting a winner.
I was in Cannes a few years back when Prasoon picked a double Cannes Gold for his work on Coca-Cola, and I recalled Jury President Dan Weiden telling him, "I wished I had done that. Congratulations!"
Indian advertising was never the same again after that. The following year Indian ad legend Piyush Pandey became the first Asia to become Jury President in Cannes, and Asia went delirious!
Prasoon is a man of many talents. Even though his first language is Hindi he is equally at home with English. He wrote his own collection of poetry at the age of 17 and is himself an accomplished ghazzal singer. A celebrated lyricist, Prasoon has penned songs for many hit movies in recent years, and even though he has millions of fans, his most famous fan must be the illustrious Godfather Neil French himself, who affectionately calls him Josh.
Prasoon is full of surprises. I remember a time when we were cabbing in Singapore and he was reading his lyrics over his Nokia Communicator phone complete with a tune in his mind to someone on the other end of the line, probably a musician in some studio in Mumbai. A few months later, I heard the same song in a cinema in KL and it went on to become one of the biggest Hindi hit songs of 2005!
I am not a big Hindi movie fan, the rest of my family is. But Prasoon's fame has turned me into an ardent follower of Hindi movies in recent years, especially those with the Joshi trademark on them.
While Ad Age has called him the "Andrew Lloyd Webber of India" with another popular Indian lyricist, Javed Akhtar, Pasoon is more popularly known for helping move Bollywood films beyond the standard formulaic love stories.
I saw "Rang De Basanti"(Paint It Yellow), which he described as "a film about awakening." The story tracks a group of college students who become idealistic revolutionaries before India's independence in 1947, and the message is a warning for Indian youth to uphold idealistic principles and patriotism.
The film struck a tremendous chord with young Indians as the connection transcended into real life when demonstrators replicated the final scene of the movie outside government buildings in New Delhi by singing a song from the film.
Faana, his latest movie featuring all his new songs, has scored a records of sorts: it is the most successful box-office movie debut ever, when it became the highest grossing movie in its first week, in the entire history of Indian cinema! And Prasoon is now a true legend.His success as an ad man (Prasoon is Creative Head for McCann WorldGroup in Southeast Asia and South Asia) and a Bollywood song-writer reminds me of our own homegrown heroine Yasmin Ahmad.
Last year, I had dinner along Mumbai's Seaface with Prasoon, Yasmin and Ram Madhvani, another acclaimed Indian ad film-maker. It was an enchanting evening about life, love, politics and movies. It made me wonder, where do these people draw the line. It was a tale of two loves: advertising or the big screen. Torn between two passions, time will tell where these talented people will head in the next few years. Watch this screen...
© 2006 agencyfaqs!First Published : July 04, 2006