From the likes of Satyajit Ray to Shyam Benegal and the more recent successes like Pradeep Sarkar, Dibakar Banerjee, Abhinay Deo, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and Rajkumar Hirani have all added to the magnetism of 70 mm. And it's not just the ad filmmakers who have started directing feature films - people from varied advertising backgrounds have worked on different aspects of feature filmmaking. The list is quite long. Even Shinde's husband R Balakrishnan, better known as Balki, is comfortable riding on two boats as head of an agency and a feature film director.
And now comes news of Vinil Mathew making a directorial debut in an yet unnamed film by Anurag Kashyap and Karan Johar. The venture stars Sidharth and Parineeti Chopra. Mathew, a director with Footcandles Film, has directed commercials for a wide range of brands including Cadbury, Airtel, Surf Excel and Titan.
Though, the two worlds - advertising and feature films - may have different approach towards storytelling, there are immense similarities as well. afaqs! Reporter discovers the common points between the ad world and the feature films, while they still try to stand apart.
The first step
Advertising creatives mostly follow a different style of storytelling and those nuances also influence their filmmaking when they enter the world of movies.
It's a fact that both advertising and features require equal amounts of passion, craftsmanship and a good understanding of the audience to make a project successful. However, what differentiates the two is that advertising is far more structured. It tends to discipline people because there are so many levels in the hierarchy.
Working on a 30-seconder also forces a filmmaker to have an eye for details. An ad filmmaker is habituated to thinking in terms of frames. He tends to do more minute work. In advertising, every dialogue, every movement, every hand gesture is important. "When you see Delhi Belly, you will realise that there are a lot of small things hidden. You realise it only when you see it for the second or third time," says Abhinay Deo, noted ad filmmaker and the director of the movies Delhi Belly and Game.
"A non-ad man wouldn't worry about 30 seconds in a two-hour long feature," Deo states. "When an ad filmmaker directs a movie, it ends up looking much better," he insists.
In ad films, all processes are driven by the client's requirement. This limits the thought process. Most ad filmmakers can be found complaining about this. Ad filmmaker, Sabal Shekhawat recalls how a client rejected a film on the basis of strategy even after the film was shot.
As Rensil D'Silva, ex-executive creative director, Meridian Communications, who has written screenplays for several movies and has directed the Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor starrer Kurbaan, comments, "Movies are a form of self-expression. They are purely from the point of view of a writer and the director. Ad filmmaking, on the other hand, is a democratic process. People have to agree on the story being told."
However, many are wary of this as well. According to Pradeep Sarkar, director, Apocalypso Filmsworks and a noted ad filmmaker who has also held senior positions at Contract, the presence of the agency acts as a filter for the ad filmmaker and finally, helps get a better finished product. The marketing and the research teams also try to fill in any lacuna. These filters are often missed by the feature filmmakers.
Sarkar, who directed the widely acclaimed and awarded movie Parineeta, claims that he was lucky to have had Vidhu Vinod Chopra as the producer of the movie.
It's not just the limited arena of thoughts, even to come up with an idea within the deadline is a thorn in the eye for many. Creative people often find it limiting when they have to think of an idea in the limited time of 24 hours to a week.
Gauri Shinde is of a similar opinion. Interestingly, Shinde too, had her crew from advertising for English Vinglish, including the cameraman. "This was a huge advantage as I did not have to depend on my producer to make the choices for me. Otherwise, being a first time director, you need to depend on the producer to make the choices for you."
Features not a cakewalk, either
The longer duration of the film allows the storyteller to develop characters better and improve the pace of the film. For instance, one could talk about a span of a few years in the movie Gangs of Wasseypur. "The same can be achieved in an ad film as well, but in a restrictive manner," says Deo.
Shinde makes an interesting observation on this. "You want to make every frame count in advertising, whereas you want every scene to count in features. At the same time, you don't want to lag and have unnecessary scenes that don't make sense," says Shinde.
The new gen
One reason why ad filmmakers have experienced better acceptability from the audience of late is that the audience itself has changed. As R Balakrishnan, chairman and chief creative officer, Lowe Lintas India and director of the movies Cheeni Kum and Paa, says, "Today's movie audience have become more receptive to new ideas, concepts and stories."
Many feel advertising itself has evolved because the audience for advertising has evolved. "Advertising has to move very quickly - whether it is styling, acting, colours, shocking dialogues or sound effect," says Deo. In ad films, an idea or a concept can work only twice or thrice. In the fourth attempt, it is most likely to turn into a blind spot. Whereas in feature films the same formula can be used for years.
Lessons to learn
Ad filmmakers come loaded with experience when they turn towards feature films. The advantages are many but one also needs to be cautious about not making the age-old mistakes.
It is said that freedom comes at a price and this holds true in this situation as well. For instance, in the case of ad films, budgets are frozen before production commences and one is also not playing around with huge amounts.
Many ad filmmakers go overboard with budgets in feature films to achieve a high level of creative satisfaction. For features, too, one needs to keep a tight budget. "There should be some method in the madness. That is where producers and line producers keep a check on the director," says Sarkar.
The other common trend among ad people entering the feature film arena is the desire to make a different kind of film. Says Deo, "To succeed, one needs to be obtuse and yet have a sense of commercialism."
As mentioned earlier, ad filmmaking is a disciplined affair but this discipline also has its disadvantages. As Deo puts it, "In an ad film, a film director is used to shoot a 30-second film in two days. But the same doesn't apply in feature films. For instance, if a 100-minute feature film is shot at the same pace as an ad film, it would take 400 days to complete the film. In fact, in feature films, the director has to shoot around four scenes in a day, which many ad filmmakers find excessive."
The movement from ad films to features continues to strengthen. In the past, an ad person working on a feature film was a matter of surprise. No longer. They are accepted today as natural migrants. Agrees Sarkar, who made his first feature film after he crossed 50. "The success of many have influenced many more."
The list of these names is already long but there is an even larger number of ad folks who have their stories ready and approaching the feature film business. They are either writing the stories on their own or taking help from others in the film industry.
'Filmmaking' as a profession was looked down on by many Indian families, says Balki, who himself got into advertising with an intention to do features, but continues to do both.
The differences between the two exist, and the line between 70 mm and advertising is getting closer by the 'mm' with each passing day.