Ashwini Gangal

Anti-smoking ad featuring Sunny Leone crosses 2 million views; "We expected it to do well, but this is unseen!" says Manish Bhatt

'11 Minutes', the anti-smoking ad film featuring Sunny Leone, Alok Nath and Deepak Dobriyal crosses two million YouTube views in 60 hours. Overall, it has crossed three million views. A quick chat with the creative agency, the director and the producer of the film.

'11 Minutes', an anti-smoking public service advert featuring Sunny Leone, Alok Nath and Deepak Dobriyal crossed the big 'one million' milestone on YouTube in 48 hours, and the 'two million' milestone in 60 hours.

Anti-smoking ad featuring Sunny Leone crosses 2 million views; "We expected it to do well, but this is unseen!" says Manish Bhatt

As it crosses the three million mark, we chat with Manish Bhatt, head of ad agency Scarecrow Communications, producer Dileep Nair and director Vibhu Puri.

Given the cast and idea, was this kind of digital popularity expected or is the team pleasantly surprised?

"We didn't have a benchmark as such. Sure, given the 'ingredients' of the film, we were expecting it to do well, but reaching two million views in such a short time is something we haven't seen..." Manish of Scarecrow tells us.

Anti-smoking ad featuring Sunny Leone crosses 2 million views; "We expected it to do well, but this is unseen!" says Manish Bhatt

His descriptor for this ad film is "an intense tragi-comedy, an entertaining PSA, unlike the usual dark, dingy PSAs we're used to seeing."

Manish, of course, is no stranger to digital success of this kind. Recall his 'dog film' for the Eye Bank Association of India? "Soon after I shared that film on Facebook, I got a call from YouTube's editorial team... it was highly trending and among the most popular videos on YouTube at that point in time... So there we saw a lot of organic views..."

"But this," he adds, about the anti-smoking film, "is unseen."

Vibhu, the director of the film, says about 11 Minutes clocking two million views on YouTube in less than three days, "This is overwhelming. We never imagined it."

He recalls hearing about this idea for the first time at dawn. "I heard the script for the first time at 7:00 am. I remember Manish telling me about it. I stay at Madh. The network is always poor. So, I heard half the things and had to 'construct' the other half on my own! I thought it was a crazy script with a lot of potential. I realised the possibility."

Vibhu and team were this close to taking the slapstick route for the film. "Often, the slapstick route cuts through better with such commercials. There was a dilemma, but finally we took the more realistic route," he says, adding about the final cut, "Here, the characters are inherently funny. They're not trying to do things that are funny," unlike slapstick.

The biggest challenge while shooting the film, he says, was the frenetic race against time. "Manish called me on the 29th of last month. By the time it got commissioned, it was the 1st of February. We had only four-five days of pre-production."

The casting bit was a crazy ride as well. "Production constraints were looming large on us. We were making last minute phone calls at 1:30 am to our actor friends, saying, 'Are you free tomorrow?'.. 'Would you like to come in and do this?'... we put in all our collective resources. Within three weeks, it went from an idea on paper to a film on screen!" says a breathless Vibhu.

Dileep, the producer, says, "We did this film in a day's time, with 62 shots. That was the biggest challenge, in terms of production."

He goes on, "There has been a lot of work on anti-smoking, there have been a lot of campaigns around this theme. That was another challenge was... see, we haven't shown any cigarette in this film. We haven't shown any smoking at all."

The script and cast, by the way, were already in place before team Scarecrow was approached. "The script was fairly detailed. It had been in the offing for around seven to eight months," shares Manish.

Anti-smoking ad featuring Sunny Leone crosses 2 million views; "We expected it to do well, but this is unseen!" says Manish Bhatt

How was such an unconventional cast finalised, and more importantly, convinced to be part of an anti-smoking PSA? Aditya Bhat, whose brainchild this film is, and head of Business of Ideas, says, "This guy, who's never had sex in his life, wants to have sex. So that's when I thought – why not cast the most Google-searched woman in India?"

Why Alok Nath? "From a marketability perspective, I thought of casting the 'anti-thesis' of Sunny. That's how Alok Nath came to my mind. He said 'yes' on the phone itself..." Bhat shares, adding, "And we agreed on casting Deepak Dobriyal because we wanted the video to be in a 'fun zone' and not in a 'serious zone'."

"The concept itself was the clincher. They didn't need to be convinced at all," he sums up.

"Everybody has slogged a lot. This is the best team work I have ever seen," Scarecrow's Manish' signs off.

Speaking of team work, a look at the long list of people who helped put this film together.


Creative Agencies: Business of Ideas (a company with interests in content, media and entertainment) and Scarecrow Communications (an advertising agency)

Creative Supervision: Aditya Bhat & Manish Bhatt

Story, Screenplay and Dialogues: Ankit Sharma, Manish Bhatt, Vibhu Puri

Creative and Executive Producer: Harshit Desai

Creative Director: Ankit Sharma

Production House: Escaping Elephant

Directed By: Vibhu Puri

Producer: Dileep Nair

Director of Photography: Savita Singh

Music Conceptualisation and Lyrics: Manish Bhatt

Music Composition: Rooshin Dalal

Singers: Aditya Gadhvi and Vatsala Patil

Sound Engineer: Kunal Dabholkar (Sounds Good Studio)

Executive Producer: Raza Surti

Art Director: Ram Chavan

Line Producer: Jigar Shah

Costumes: Nivedita Das

Client: Harshit Desai & Ankit Sharma

Initiative produced & supported by: Aneel Murarka & Manish Murarka (Ample Mission)

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