‘I Am Mumbai’— the 2011 Mumbai Mirror campaign, crafted by Ramesh Deo Productions and Taproot — bagged a gold lion in the best direction category in the Film Craft awards at the Cannes Lions in 2012. The commercial was directed by Abhinay Deo, an advertising and commercial filmmaker who gifted us films such as Delhi Belly.
Cut to the present. The TOI-owned English daily has launched a video-series titled ‘Mumbai Mirrored’.
The journey from Bombay to the commercial capital of India, is narrated by 5 legends who have somewhat helped to shape it into its present form. The legendary tales of the city are told by Gerson Da Cunha – a renowned theatre artist, actor and celebrated adman, Pushpa Bhave – a fearless Dadar girl whose activist gene transformed her into the Iron Lady of Mumbai, Shirish Patel – who will forever be known as the architect of Navi Mumbai, JV Pawar – the founder of Dalit Panthers in the city and Julio Ribeiro – the man responsible for law and order during turbulent times in Mumbai.
The fact that they have used the lesser-known residents (not all born here, mind you) to take us down memory lane through the journey of these individuals as Bombay became Mumbai, indeed appears refreshing. Additionally, the ‘reflections’ format introduces some really interesting stories of the past which went digitally unrecorded.
“The Seven Islands of Bombay/Mumbai were chosen from 10 images corresponding to the original map of the city that featured 7 islands,” informs Senthil Kumar, director of the video-series.
These mirror images were shot by Prashant Godbole, an award-winning photographer, Senthil Kumar, chief creative officer, JWT and art director Sandeep Bagga composited along with images sourced from the BCCL(Bennett Coleman and Company) archives.
Godbole is the director of photography for all the black and white portraits of the 5 legends featured in the #MumbaiMirrored Campaign along with Srinivas Rao for the videos.
Visually the campaign seems to leverage the old Bombay charm in black and white apart from celebrating the glory of iconic structures of Mumbai, which in a way simply reflects the journey of Bombay into Mumbai.
The print jacket also appears as an interesting extension of the ‘reflection’ theme.
Godbole’s journey began in an art school in Aurangabad, from where he eventually moved to Mumbai’s renowned Sir J J School of Art. It was while in college, he developed a passion for the visual arts. Over his 25-year long career he has worked with many advertising agencies, before owning one (ideas@work). Some of his landmark works have been created for Indian Outdoor Association, Rin and Mumbai Mirror.
In a candid chat with us, the Mumbai-based photographer recalls Senthil's brief for the campaign.
“A series of reflections. Five great visionaries, some are over 90. We are going to interview and unravel their stories, and their view of how the city shaped them,” is how Senthil narrated it to Godbole.
“The stories were what I was interested in, even more than the photography. I tagged along with the editor and the shooting crew. I sat in a corner listening to stories about Thackeray, Keny, Dawood, George Fernandes. And I was so immersed in the stories that every now and then I had to remind myself that I was there to take portraits,” he goes on.
"How many people get to hear such incredible stories in person, and take photographs of moments like these?" He considers himself very lucky.
What's also interesting to note here is the fact that this campaign is certainly a complete shift from the brand's previous campaigns in tonality — from hard-hitting to warm-hitting.
Was it a conscious effort to extend the brand’s domain from activism to a passionate story-teller? We try to find out.
Shubhojit Sengupta, executive creative director, Enormous Brands, prefers the previous campaigns run by Mumbai Mirror.
“They were hard-hitting and raised relevant issues in a very creative way,” he reasons. Whereas, the recent videos are more on the line of branded content than driving a point or standing up for something bigger. But, nevertheless, he agrees that the campaign is certainly different in the category.
“My take on these videos would be that of a little comfort that you derive from watching a nice tele series. These somehow do not provoke me into having a fresh perspective on this great city. I think it was a conscious decision to keep it informative,” he says.
The Meenal Baghel one is his pick since it opens up the ways as to how lands were simply taken away with the false promises of providing affordable housings by developers over a long period of time.
“The mirror as a device could have been further exploited visually the way it was used in the press. The length of each videos could have been shorter even if there is a hankering after long formats,” he argues.
Shashank Lanjekar, head- strategic planning, Taproot Dentsu, feels the recent campaign is true to its purpose, engrossing and a charm to watch.
“This also reflects the category in which Mumbai Mirror operates — that of a city-focussed daily. Compared to the previous work done by Mumbai Mirror, the video series opens up another dimension of the brand and that’s what I like about this campaign. It expands the brand’s territory from being a courageous activist to a nostalgic, passionate Bombay fan,” he explains.
He loved the Julio Ribeiro video the most but that’s also due to his personal bias towards the subject of crime and law and order. “The others were eye-openers in their own way as well,” he reveals.
He seems curious about whether this campaign could have been packaged in a more active manner. “Certain aspects core to Mumbai Mirror like courage, activism, uprightness were conspicuous by their absence. Having said that, I also feel that it would have been considered, attempted and kept aside in favour of what has been released,” he points out.
Anjali Malthankar, national strategy director, Tonic Worldwide is of the opinion that the video series is a genuine attempt to take the brand to the millennials.
Every interview, she feels emanates a sense of pride about the city. “Strategically, this series continues to throw light on who/how/what is Mumbai? Which has been the aim of the brand even for the ‘I am Mumbai’ campaign,” she states.
According to her, ‘Mirrored’ is a fascinating theme to peg more stories on. Her pick from the lot? “My favorites are Julio Ribeiro and Pushpa Bhave as the videos were more nuanced and insightful.”
She thinks the storytelling was more engaging in Mr. Ribeiro and Ms. Pushpa’s videos and she's left wondering why it was not as consistent in the rest. “Also, why repeat visuals when Times Group has such vast archives? While the idea is good, the treatment does not 'plus' the script or take much of a leap,” she shares.
However, she finds the way stories bridge the old with the new as endearing, the simple black and white look and usage of archived visuals cue authenticity and the treatment of everything past is packaged tastefully for the present. “The stories leave you with a sense of wanting to know more about Mumbai from the lens of Bombaywallahs. The key difference between earlier campaigns and ‘Mirrored’ is that the latter evokes a sense of love, pride and connection with the city, whereas the earlier campaigns evoked positive anger,” she signs off.
Print Campaign Team:
Chief Creative Officer : Senthil Kumar
Executive Creative Director : Sundeep Sehgal
Copywriter: Senthil Kumar, Binoy Sarkar, Vedika Duggal
Art Director: Sandeep Bagga, Photography: Prashant Godbole, Senthil Kumar, Sandeep Bagga, BCCL Mumbai Historical Archives
Retouching: Surinder Verma
Senior Vice President & Managing Partner: Joy Chauhan
Senior Vice President & Executive Business Director: Neetika Aggarwal
Account Director: Amrita Hazari
Account Executive: Pia Singh
Senior Vice President & National Planning Director: Pinaki Bhattacharya
Vice President & Strategic Planning Director: Shweta Khosla