It All Ads Up

While Alanis Morrisette belts out Thank You India in the background, the camera pans on Azharuddin, who spots a couple of kids playing cricket on the road and joins them. Azhar is about to start batting, when he suddenly looks up and spots Wasim Akram at the bowling end. The ad ends with Azhar and Akram in a hunky-dory hug.

Shot in Calcutta, this advertisement for Reebok is about the cricket scenario between India and Pakistan and how cricket is a great leveller The commercial was taken off-air post-Kargil, but will be back on-air soon courtesy the fact that the ad-director, 30-year-old Jasjit Singh won the IAAFA (Indian Academy of Advertising Film Art) award for The Best Debut Director, 1999.

“It was really great to get that award. I have been getting calls from everyone in the ad world since then. I have finally got recognition from within the industry,” says Singh, who was presented the award in a glittering ceremony in Mumbai last month. However, he’s also quick to add that advertising is the “worst form of capitalism”

Good or bad, advertising was something Singh was always interested in. After graduating in Commerce from Chandigarh he moved to Delhi and begun his career as a copy writer with Hindustan Thompson Associates (HTA).

He left for Canada soon after, where he joined a two year course in Advertising and Filmmaking at Vancouver Film School which he describes as a “one of the biggest film schools there.”

The two years he spent abroad were, “an education. I learnt everything from editing to props, makeup, costumes, and directing to production,” says Singh. But as soon as the course finished Singh headed back home, not because of lack of opportunities in Canada but because “I wanted to come back, and there was nothing to hold me there, while my family, friends were here,” explains Singh.

After he got back, he freelanced for a short while before setting up his independent production house, Spellbinder Productions last year. “It isn’t easy breaking into filmmaking, especially if one is Delhi-based. Advertising is happening in Mumbai, and Delhi filmmakers are not taken very seriously. But fortunately, I had a good grounding and my talent and good ideas helped too,” says Singh. Modest, he certainly isn’t.

A slew of ads for Candico, Phoenix shoes and Tuffs came in 1998, but the big break happened when Philips approached him to shoot the Mobile Savvy ad. “I was given a script by Philips, but the rest was entirely my concept. I was the first one to shoot an ad in the 35 mm format which is usually used for full-length. films,” claims Singh.

Currently, Singh is working on ads for SDI vards, Arvind Foam, Yamaha and Apollo.

And no, he will never direct a Bollywood potboiler, since he feels, “the director has to work according to the producer and the demands of a previous hit. There is no originality.” But Hollywood producers are welcome to contact Singh since he
thinks “you can put your own intellect in a Hollywood movie.”

And when not exercising his intellect, Singh watches “movies on DVD which is a passion with me.” The rest of his time, necessarily, is spent “partying”