How Hrithik became the Pied Piper of Reliance

By Devina Joshi , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | November 09, 2009
afaqs! takes a peek at what went behind actor Hrithik Roshan's Pied Piper look, as well as the creation of the 'rats', in the Reliance Mobile commercial

The 14th century legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin is no longer restricted to English textbooks. The Pied Piper, using his flute to drive away 'rats', is on-air on most television channels these days. And there's quite a science behind the recreation of this legendary tale.

The new commercial for Reliance Mobile has actor, Hrithik Roshan playing a blue-robed, modern-day Pied Piper of sorts, playing the flute and luring 'rats' - all sorts of 'restrictions' and 'conditions' in the telecom space - ultimately leading them over a cliff, where they fall to their 'death'. The implication, of course, is that with Reliance's new offering, there are no limits or restrictions to an enjoyable mobile usage experience.

& #BANNER1 & #The commercial has been created by Cartwheel Creatives, and has been directed by Abraham Cherian of MAD Entertainment. Prime Focus has done the post production. The film has been produced by Sunil Manchanda.

Pied Piping hot

The commercial was created within a tight deadline, with just about a week's planning, reveals D Ramakrishna (Ramki), director, Cartwheel Creatives. Furthermore, Roshan's look as the Pied Piper had to be achieved around his current hairstyle, which he is sporting for his forthcoming film, Guzaarish. Considering Roshan's long hair, the team's inspiration for his costume came from rock band, Jethro Tull's frontman, Ian Anderson's look.

Moreover, it was decided that while the fairytale character had to come forth, it was also important to build in elements of modernity. And presto -- Roshan was made to wear a velvet blue tailcoat, but over jeans and boots; quite a diversion from the original Pied Piper's "queer long coat from heel to head", which "was half of yellow and half of red". The 'remixed' costume was designed by Surily Goel.

"We chose blue as the colour, as it is also the dominant Reliance Mobile colour," Ramki says. The flute, too, was modernised to a concert flute.

The team wanted to initially shoot the commercial at a hill station -- what with the shot of the rats falling off the cliff -- but this was a luxury of time that could not be afforded. Ultimately, a set was built at Filmcity, Mumbai -- which had a nondescript, yesteryears small-town feel to it -- and was made to look like a typical shopping street in a hill station. The shoot itself took two days.

Roshan's quaint dance moves have been choreographed by Prabhudeva -- apparently Roshan's idea, as the two had worked magic for a song in the movie, Lakshya.

"The only brief to Prabhudeva was that the ad shouldn't look like an out and out dance film, and he did a neat job of integrating the dance moves with the storyline," says director, Cherian.

The flute music track has been composed by Sameer Uddin, who tweaked the Reliance signature tune to make it more playful, in sync with the theme.

We smell a rat

It was the post production that kept the team up for nights. The film demanded that the 'conditions' text from hoardings and signboards transform into digitally created rats, emerging and following Roshan to the top of a cliff where they fall off.

Merzin Tavaria, chief creative director, Prime Focus and the VFX supervisor on the project, says the first job was to select the right kind of text after various stages of experimentation, and then to get it to look like a rat through concept art. The shape and outline of a rat was studied so that the text could be warped into the outline. "Essentially, these text rats are just silhouettes or outlines of rats," explains Tavaria.

Next, the characteristics and movements of rats were worked upon, such as the scampering or the hurried, skittish movements. Say, if the 'head' of a rat moved to show attraction towards the music, then the corresponding 'body' (comprising the clayish text) had to be adjusted accordingly. This was taken care of by 3D animation (the stage of deciding which part of the rat's silhouette moves/turns/curves was the rigging stage).

Keyframe animation was used for some rats; while the rest of them were made to scamper around with the help of the simulation technique (the creation of a mass of rats running together, without making the movements too identical to each other).

The cliff, the hoardings and the signboards were created digitally in post production. Roshan's shot on the 'cliff' was an effect of matte painting -- which also decided the depth of the valley and other parameters.

"We were sceptical that Hrithik's dance would overshadow the rats moving around, so we even threw in some choreography for the rats in two frames, where they jump in synchrony to the rhythm of the beat," Tavaria says, adding that the difficult part was to strike a balance between the real life-like movements of the creatures and the surreal feel of the transformed textual characters. The post production took about 10 days and involved 30 people.