N. Shatrujeet

Ashutosh Gowariker ties up with Cornerstone for ad films

The director has entered an exclusive tie-up with Cornerstone Productions to direct ad films for the Mumbai-based production house

If Lagaan's success at the marquee made filmmaker Ashutosh Gowariker a household name, Coke's runaway hit campaign - ‘Thanda matlab…' - has firmly put him in the list of most-sought-after ad filmmakers in the country. With clients and agencies increasingly wanting him to direct their commercials, Gowariker has inked an exclusive tie-up with Mumbai-based production house Cornerstone Productions, wherein he would direct ad films for Cornerstone. The arrangement, however, does not in any way affect Gowariker's long-standing association with Aamir Khan Productions.

For Cornerstone - promoted by veteran production consultant Ravi Uppoor and communication and media professional Sailesh Chandrakant - this association translates into exclusive representation for Gowariker. "There are a lot of professionals in the ad industry who want to work with Ashu but don't know how to get through to him," says Chandrakant, speaking to agencyfaqs!. "Cornerstone will now provide that interface. Ashu will be directing all the ad films produced by Cornerstone." Of course, Gowariker would also continue directing commercials for Aamir Khan Productions. "Whenever Aamir wants me to do a film for him, I will. But otherwise, it is just Cornerstone for ad films," Gowariker told agencyfaqs!.

Interestingly, it was Gowariker who planted the idea of an association with Cornerstone. "Sailesh and I have been good friends for about 20 years now," he says. "And I know Ravi from the time I was an actor and a model in feature films like Holi and commercials like Lifebuoy. So when Sailesh told me that he was relocating to Mumbai (Chandrakant was previously a creative consultant with Chennai-based PentaMedia) and might be teaming up with Ravi, I felt it was a good opportunity for the three of us to work together."

Despite Cornerstone being a new outfit, Gowariker sees some immediate synergies in the association. "Sailesh has vast experience in advertising, Ravi's capabilities in production were never in doubt, and I bring a certain understanding of filmmaking. I think all of us will benefit from this. Plus Sailesh and I share many ideas and passions. I see this as a perfect fit."

Chandrakant is also convinced that the tie-up has everything going for it. "I have a passion for media and advertising, Ashu knows films like few people do, while Ravi being there in production is like the Rock of Gibraltar," he says. For the record, Uppoor started Genesis Films with Prahlad Kakar and the late Mandeep Kakkar way back in 1978 (Uppoor moved out of Genesis in 1998). Prior to Genesis, he assisted Shyam Benegal in the production of such films as Ankur, Nishaant, Manthan, Bhoomika and Junoon. Incidentally, Uppoor is a production consultant to Benegal for the filmmaker's new Rs 25-crore project, ‘Netaji Subash Chandra Bose'. Chandrakant, for his part, has spent an 18-year career in diverse areas of visual communication that include traditional advertising, television software, ‘new age media' (the Net and interactive multimedia) and ‘themed' entertainment.

With Gowariker and Cornerstone formally joining forces, the question uppermost in most minds would be whether this signals a greater devotion of time and energy to ad filmmaking on Gowariker's part. After all, he has already directed four ‘Thanda' ads for Coke (all produced by Aamir Khan Productions) and the Anupam Kher-endorsed Close-up film (produced by Raj Kaushal and Fuel Films). "With Coke and Close-up, I have realized that I enjoy making ad films," Gowariker admits, although he adds that his next feature film is already into pre-production. "So if I can find ad scripts where I can add value as a filmmaker, I will do them. But the critical thing is that the scripts have to be good and interesting."

He also clarifies that by ‘adding value' he does not mean tampering with the scripts. "I believe that the writer is supreme and that the hours that he has put into the script need to be respected," he says. "For me, the message is sacrosanct, and I will not twist the fundamentals of the message for the sake of creativity. Yes, what I will do is flesh out the script, the characterization and all that to make it more engaging and entertaining."

Cornerstone is also clear about the quality of scripts. "We would not be doing every film that comes our way because we do not want this to turn into a factory process," says Chandrakant. "We would have to like the scripts, and they would have to like our costs - and there is a cost attached when Ashu is directing the film. Once we agree on those two, we would like to be co-creators of the ad." He informs that Cornerstone is in talks with a few clients and agencies, but does not reveal identities as "nothing has been finalized yet". © 2003 agencyfaqs!

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