Ashwini Gangal and Suraj Ramnath
Digital

Paperboat's Neeraj Kakkar on new ad film 'Rizwan': "We were careful not to overdo it"

In 'Rizwan', Paperboat's recently-released digital film, a visually challenged character highlights the strong connection between smell, taste and memory. Animation is used as a tool to portray his childhood memories.

Much of what you taste is what you smell. And, smell is one of the strongest triggers of childhood memories. In sync with its broader theme of nostalgia, Paperboat, the ethnic drinks brand from Hector Beverages, has released what it calls its "first short film," one that's animation-based, in part.

Titled 'Rizwan', the three minutes and thirty seconds-long film is "Paperboat's first foray into legitimate fiction story-telling on film," says the brand, adding by way of explanation, "It's not a 'video' (as per) our new age understanding of that term, but is really small-scale cinema. A little tribute to the full range of liberties that the craft of film-making allows... we're taking baby steps into that realm."

Paperboat's Neeraj Kakkar on new ad film 'Rizwan': "We were careful not to overdo it"
The film takes the viewer into the recesses of a visually challenged character's childhood memories. Rizwan, the character, is played by Bollywood actor Ram Sethi. "Paperboat believes in the power of the tactile. With our drinks, and through the sense of taste, we hope to revive bygone summer holidays squandered in the sun. And by extension, we appreciate what the sense of smell can rekindle. Rizwan is our tiny effort towards that - a film that celebrates this insight," says the brand team about the effort.

The film has been created by Humour Me, a firm that describes itself as a 'premium content generator in the realm of branded entertainment'. The company has interests in areas like entertainment, arts, music, and video production.

Paperboat's Neeraj Kakkar on new ad film 'Rizwan': "We were careful not to overdo it"
It took the team nearly a month-and-a-half to ready the film. Quizzed about the execution, Neeraj Kakkar, founder and chief executive officer, Hector Beverages, tells afaqs!, "We decided to go the animation way because the story is about imagination. Rizwan is blind and his story is what he imagines it to be. And, imagination can be best depicted through animation."

Kakkar adds, "In our heads, when we are making any beverage, the benchmark is not the actual home-made beverage. When I make Aam Panna, for instance, the benchmark for me is not the natural Aam Panna you had as a child. Rather, the benchmark is the memory of that drink, of that taste. The memory is always sweeter than the actual drink was at the time."

What was the most challenging part of working with this script (written by Dhruv Sachdeva)? Kakkar answers, "The biggest challenge was telling the story in an honest manner, without being pretentious. It should not appear as though we're trying to earn some sympathy votes. It is a sensitive matter; we had to be extremely careful not to overdo, or downplay, anything while telling the story."

Impressed?

Kailash Surendranath, ad film maker and founder, Kailash Picture Company, a film production company, is not impressed. He feels the film is too long and too subtle to impact "the average viewer."

Paperboat's Neeraj Kakkar on new ad film 'Rizwan': "We were careful not to overdo it"
Paperboat's Neeraj Kakkar on new ad film 'Rizwan': "We were careful not to overdo it"
"The story seems to ramble on for a bit too long without making a very strong point. Agreed that his sense of smell is enhanced, but do we have to see such a long, roundabout story to arrive at this conclusion? Any communication with a disabled protagonist must convey some sort of super heroic winning ability to be memorable, or else it may seem like a very deliberate attempt at gaining the viewer's sympathy," he critiques.

Surendranath adds about the creative execution, "The animation in the film is probably its saving grace. It's a cool technique. The style is nice, simple, old-fashioned and unpretentious. It works well with the words and the live action, and maintains the viewer's attention for more than three minutes. It would be a difficult film to watch without it, considering its length."

Suresh Eriyat, founder and creative director, Eeksaurus, an ad film production company, likes the basic idea of smell and taste fuelling one's imagination, but prefers Paperboat's previous ad films (for instance 'Drinks & Memories' and Postcard campaign) to this one.

About this film, he says, "It is nicely portrayed and beautifully executed, with a lot of nice animation," adding, however, "If the point is to move people emotionally, then that didn't come across. The ingredients are all there, but it didn't evoke the kind of emotion I was looking forward to while watching it. I wish the animation merged with the story better. The two are not in synergy."

Eriyat says that Paperboat is a national product and is very popular in the South. "But, this is such a strong Hindi ad film. Will it work in the South?" he wonders. "It is not going to strike a chord with the people there. And, without the narration (voiceover), this film won't have any impact. That is something they could have thought about," he says.