Dentsu India nearly succeeded in retaining the founder save for some divine intervention.
“I was in this dark conference room and my work was going up on a big projection… I thought I was wasting my time.”
It was this moment in 2021 — folks from the various Dentsu agencies were sharing some of their best work up on the screen —when Titus Upputuru realised, he had to leave Dentsu India after 12 years, and do his thing.
A year later, The Titus Upputuru Company was born.
The conference room epiphany was the big stimulus he needed but the seeds for it were planted back in 2019 when he directed ‘Parcel’, a murder mystery for Harper Collins, a publishing house.
It was released to great acclaim, it won a Dadasaheb Phalke award, and Upputuru received letters and emails of appreciation within the network. “That stood out for me and made me think but I did not take it seriously… I was like let me do my job.”
However, Parcel’s success gave birth to an important question in his mind — Direction or writing?
“For the longest time, I was caught between filmmaking and the joy of writing. When you join a production house, agencies send you scripts and you execute them which is good. But, writing and directing yourself is a trip altogether.”
Upputuru wanted to mix the offerings of an advertising agency and a production house, a proagency if you will. And using his experience, he wished to bring back the human touch.
“Great brands are never transactional; they drive you with a human emotion and that's what I wanted to bring to the fore with whatever I do with this company.”
The company is also open to producing ads for agencies. "I have been receiving scripts from creative directors of other agencies for which I am grateful."
Upputuru cites Bob Isherwood who was with the Saatchi group for a long time as his inspiration. “When he quit Saatchi he said I want to live more than one life in a lifetime. That stuck with me, saying maybe I should also live more than one life in a lifetime”.
And another person who inspired Upputuru was Kamal Amrohi saab, a veteran filmmaker who made Pakeezah which was 13 years in the making.
The two inspired him to do this thing, and the inspiration for the company’s name came from his brother Daniel, an art director who told him, “You've got such a unique name, why do you have to call it something else, call it by your name.”
Upputuru put down his papers in January 2022, but Dentsu was not ready to let him go. "What do you want? You direct here only, you direct our films,” was the network’s response to his resignation he reveals.
He stayed on and in May he thought to himself, “Man these people are not letting me go."
The network once again tried to hold him back but Upputuru was resolute and had God’s words to lead him. He’d prayed to God about whether he should join Dentsu and he did the same when it was time to leave.
‘Go Thy Way’, a verse from the Bible helped Upputuru. “… told Dentsu that God told me to go my way and I am sorry I can't stay here.”
Like a seasoned director, he cut five short films to tease the launch of his new agency. It was Daniel’s idea he reveals. “I started drawing these different faces saying why should it be one kind of face… I thought I should launch the company with some videos and each video should have a story to tell,” he remarks.
The Titus Upputuru Company has only one investor and it’s “God” says the founder. “I didn’t want to get into any funding so I put in what God gave me be it computers, gadgets, stationery, and all of that,” he states.
The company has done work for Greenlam, PVR Cinemas, and DCM Shriram, among others. Uputturu found “the whole registration process with clients” more exhausting than the work itself. “There are so many forms you need to sign,” he exclaims.
What is noteworthy is Upputuru has already received an offer from another agency-holding network. “Another network asked me to join them saying we're going to buy you… Thankfully I didn't take it up although it was quite tempting because they were luring me with a whole lot of things.”
The Titus Upputuru Company has an office in Gurgaon and operates on a hybrid model.
"One of the perks of being a filmmaker is that your office keeps changing. Sometimes you are in the middle of a jungle, sometimes inside a fort palace. Sometimes, in a dreamy set and at other times, you are in the middle of an ocean. The office keeps changing and you are not stuck in a glass cabin," he remarks.