Defining Moments: Kailash Surendranath: All angles covered

By Devina Joshi , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | July 01, 2011
Surendranath, the ad filmmaker who has over 3,500 ad films to his credit in a 35-year-old career, reminisces moments that shaped his filmmaking style and made him a popular figure.

Kailash Surendranath, the ad filmmaker, with over 3,500 films under his belt in a 35-year-old career, has a host of defining moments to choose from.

Call it destiny, or a stroke of luck. Back in the 1970s, I was at Marine Drive, Mumbai, driving to college on a rainy day, when I spotted two women trying to hail a cab. I offered them a lift and it turned out that they were from Lintas. One of them, Mubi Ismail, was the films chief at the agency.

When they got to know that I was assisting my father as an ad filmmaker, we got chatting and the next thing I knew, I was invited to their office for a 'breakthrough' film project -- the first ever Liril soap film for Lever. However, Alyque Padamsee and Gerson da Cunha were sceptical about me -- I was all of 17 and "just a kid".

To convince everyone, I shot some unusual angles of waterfalls all over India (and, this was without taking an advance). I scoured Ranchi, Kodaikanal, Kerala and Khandala, and selected footage from all these. Everyone was blown away by the footage in the audio-visual (AV), and decided to take me on board. That 'Waterfall' film, shot with a model in a bikini -- Karen Lunel, whom I found -- became a breakthrough one, so much so that the falls in Kodaikanal where it was shot, are still referred to as the Liril Falls by local guides. Suddenly, I was hot property.


The next breakthrough ad for me was for Sunsilk. I met my wife Arti (who modelled for it) during the making of that film. This was done in Kodaikanal, with no special effects, whatsoever. Back then, a shot with the wind blowing the hair was a stereotypical shot to take, but the texture of the hair never got captured. This was because one had to brush the hair after every shot to remove flyaways manually (airbrushing and digital corrections didn't exist back then).

It was purely through correct angling that we managed to get the texture right with real hair.

Gabbar and his biscuit

My third breakthrough moment was a television spot for Britannia Glucose biscuits. This was the first time we thought of using a villain (Amjad Khan, in his character as the dacoit Gabbar in the blockbuster film Sholay) as an endorser for the brand. It was a bold decision, and we had a brave client who believed in us.

We used a terrain similar to Gabbar's hideout in the movie, and the same camera angles used in the movie -- so that it looked like the movie. It was a breakthrough in sales and children loved it, too.

Mile Sur Mera Tumhaara

Made for Doordarshan, the brief for the series of national integration movies was given directly by Rajiv Gandhi. Suresh Mullick and I were told to "make something that would make the younger generation feel proud to be Indians".

We thought of sports and the Olympics Torch. Stalwarts in various sports would pass on the torch, which symbolised unity and pride. We had a soundtrack that gave it the 'Chariots of Fire' feeling. Since it vaguely sounded like the National Anthem, we decided to end the track with 'Jaye He'. A lot of people were opposed to it, so we were compelled to give the track an alternative ending. But, when Rajiv Gandhi heard the original track, he told us to go for it.

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