Shreyas Kulkarni

“But my hope is rising…” croons Titus Upputuru in a video yearning for and celebrating hope amid darkness

From the music video’s life story to what fuels creativity to adland in 2021; a chat with Dentsu One’s NCD and Taproot Dentsu Gurugram’s creative head.

Change is the only permanent rule of law, say countless cultures and mythologies. From stories passed down generations to artworks across mediums to ruins laid bare around the world and songs spanning genres, it’s what we’ve been taught all our life.

2020 was, perhaps, the most vivid example of all. All it took was a microscopic virus to create an upheaval, and in a year, we can barely recognise the world we live in.

As the year enters its last week, we have an opportunity to look back at the year of the pandemic. We lost over a million souls and countless jobs, economies were shattered, the mental health of over half of Earth’s populace suffered and so much more… And yet, we humans have this spirit of bouncing back.

We look up to our respective Gods for hope, direction, and the courage to continue and rebuild. No wonder then that despite the many plagues and wars, we’ve persevered… Change is the only permanent rule of law, we embrace it or we fall.

From the damages of the COVID pandemic to the creeping shadows and everyone seeking answers and looking for hope and courage as we adapt to the change, Titus Upputuru’s music video is about what is on the minds of most people. Scored by music composer Hanif Shaikh, it’s sort of the year-ender soothing balm that we needed.

We (afaqs!) asked Dentsu One’s NCD and Taproot Dentu Gurugram’s creative head a few questions about how this video came about, what fuels creativity, and how adland will communicate in 2021.

Edited excerpts:

How did the song come about?

I have to thank God. I never planned anything like this. There was a fear of sickness, death and financial losses. The businesses weren’t looking great, with factories shutting down and people losing jobs. Big Bollywood stars were losing face due to the drugs scandal. Many died. There was just bad news all around.

But one morning, as I was reading the Bible, I was moved by three verses from the Book of Psalms, chapter 146. God said, in those verses, not to fear even if mountains roll into the middle of the sea or the earth begins to sink. That settled it. I was like why should I fear anything because God is saying even if mountains roll into the middle of the sea, don’t fear. I thought of that visual and compared it to what we were all going through. It felt like nothing.

In the same week or so, Hanif Shaikh, a lovely soul, called me. It was a Sunday afternoon. He said, why don’t you write something and I will compose a song. I immediately thought of these verses and told him that I wanted to write something spiritual. He said okay. I wrote the song right after the call.

Tell us about the process, from writing the lyrics to the music and recording.

It was a beautiful experience. A couple of extended weekends, because of the holidays, helped me find the time. After writing the song, I sent the lyrics to Hanif. Soon after, Hanif shared a rough track.

I remember it was late at night, and it was such a heady experience when I heard it. I was so moved. I was dancing. I can’t forget that moment. I told him that I will sing it. I enjoyed recording the vocals.

My brother Alfred turned up and shot me while I was singing and more in the beautiful greens near his place. It was an amazing experience. I was completely immersed in the song and went with the experience. I was so much at peace.

People remember God when they can't answer or understand what's happening to them. Do you think 2021 will see us become calmer, or as one would say spiritual, thanks to the 2020 experience? Or, will the mad rush for profits and unhealthy lifestyles continue?

I think people have started acknowledging God and that’s a good sign. Everywhere, people’s faith in themselves, their wealth and position was shaken. I hope all of this makes us more humble. I hope we won’t forget what we went through, are going through, so easily.

I can’t believe a tiny virus that is invisible to the naked eye caused so much havoc, wrecked lives and ruined the world economy. But we human beings have a short memory. And the moment things begin to look up, we will begin to take pride in ourselves again, thinking no end of ourselves.

There is an eternal debate on what fuels creativity. Is it positivity or negativity? What's your take, and how did 2020 affect your creative skills?

Pain is good. At least for me, it works. Whether I go through it physically with intense workouts, or I go through some sort of suffering in the heart and mind, it always moved me towards a positive direction. Not without God’s help, of course.

2020 was very trying. Soon after the (COVID-induced) lockdown, I felt this urgent need to break free. I was feeling contained. I was like ‘ab kya’. So, I started creating a lot of stuff. I was creating user-generated content. I began to collaborate with lots of artistes. I began to experiment with new technology.

So yeah, in a sense, it was great because I was pushed out of my comfort zone to newer territories. Alongside, I was also doing the digital marketing course where I learnt many fascinating things, like attribution models. So while physically one was under lockdown, it was actually very liberating.

A good amount of communication in 2020 was around COVID and precaution. What will adland talk about in 2021?

Hopefully, we will get busy with newer ways to engage the consumer. Performance marketing is important. But we must let creativity come into play in providing marketing solutions, because everyone eventually will have the same intelligence through data.

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