‘You have to get the poetry of life into advertising’

Q&A with McCann Worldgroup’s Prasoon Joshi, who won his second National Film Award as lyricist recently, for Bolo Na from Chittagong

‘You have to get the poetry of life into advertising’

McCann Worldgroup’s Prasoon Joshi’s Bolo na from the film Chittagong won the Best Lyrics award at the 60th National Film Awards announced in Delhi this week.

Campaign India caught up with Joshi for a chat on the co-existence of the two writers - ad writer and poet - within him, and how they complement each other.

How does the national award compare with advertising awards? How gratifying is each for you?

They are both in recognition of good work, be it for films or for songs. But I know one thing. My father called me the second time when he saw the news of me winning the national award. The first time he called me was when I won the award the first time, for Taare Zameen Par. For middle class people like us, an honour coming from the government of India has a far deeper meaning. I also feel very honoured with this because it was a very humble attempt.

When the director Bedabrata called me, he told me how he was making the film. He put in everything he has into it. I feel very honoured to have been a part of it. It was a humble and sincere attempt and my humble contribution was to do the lyrics without compensation. So many people chipped in to support him, like Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy. No one knew when the film came and when it went. So this recognition is extra special.

Also, this is a national award. Even within film awards, at most other awards, there are market forces at work. A national award is special.

As a writer for ads and films, do you have to switch from one mode to the other? How does it work?

For me, it is a kind of therapy. When I get stuck with something, I say, ‘Let me write a poem’. It’s a different world and you switch to a different gear, but there are similarities. While it is a different world of emotion, human relationships and craft, you’re still trying to create the perfect piece of work and connect to the audience with it. If I have been able to put my finger on the pulse of the viewer, I connect.

And the best therapy is when you can switch off. People do different things to switch off; there are different kinds of therapies. Poetry is therapeutic for me.

Sometimes, with advertising, brands can have specific requirements, and it can be frustrating for creative people. They end up doing scam. I don’t get frustrated because poetry gives me an outlet to release my creative energies.

Again, while the two are different, the way I write for ads is not different from how I write poetry. When I write dialogues for an ad or lyrics for an ad, I write them like I write for film. That’s why I don’t like it when people call the ad lyrics ‘jingles’ – I write them like I write poetry; I don’t write four lines, I write the whole poem. Whether it is Ummedhon wali dhoondh, sunshine wali asha, or Haan main crazy hoon, they are written as poems, not as ‘jingles’.

How else do movies influence and contribute to your creating advertising?

Advertising is a great tool, but it has to draw from life. It has to draw from other arts. I draw inspiration from other art forms, just as I draw inspiration from life. You have to re-circulate life into advertising; you cannot re-circulate advertising into advertising. You have to get the poetry of life into advertising.

Watching ads all the time cannot help you create great advertising. You have to watch life, people, and the other arts. I learn a lot from films. I am greatly inspired by people like Majid Majidi’s work. It contributes to my evolution as a creative person.

What gives you greater satisfaction as a creative person, writing poetry or for ads?

The excellence is what gives me satisfaction. It could be a Happydent ad or it could be Bolo na.

If I feel I could get the nuance, the precision of expression, that gives me satisfaction. Whether it was the poem that I wrote after the Mumbai terrorist attack or something I wrote after the Delhi rape case, if I could precisely express emotion that connects with people, that gives me satisfaction. I must do justice to what the communication was meant to do.

Watch 'Bolo Na':

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MAGAZINE
Campaign India
Campaign India
25 July 2014