10 months ago| article
A tête-à-tête with the co-founders of ZigZag Films, Abhijit Sudhakar and Anupama Ahluwalia, to take a closer look into the founding blocks, work culture and brand work conceptualised by the production house
Mar 27, 2023 09:00:00 AM | Article | Campaign India Team Share -
‘Kaun Shalu?’ (who is Shalu?)
This memorable line from the PhonePe IPL campaign made us say ‘Kaun banaya?’ (who made it) leading to our first production house tête-à-ˈtête with the team at ZigZag or “Jog Jag”, “Zing Zong”, “Zog Zog”, “Jhig Jak” Films.
"We have been called all of these and every other twisted variation so many times over that we now simply accept that we are all of these", said Abhijit Sudhakar and Anupama Ahluwalia, ZigZag films.
Set against the backdrop of a customised wallpaper that proudly displays these variations of the name ‘ZigZag’ in their office, our meeting takes off.
Why ZigZag as a name?
Because they loved it! Also, because (retrospective wisdom) life is all about it - the highs and lows, the night and day, the yin and the yang and all such impressive-sounding thinking.
They met by chance. Cold calling. Each had heard about the other but never worked together. Nor were they socially connected. They met, laughed, ate and realised they had common goals and similar ways of viewing things. It felt right, and that was the start. It was a complete leap of faith.
While very different as personalities, their common goals of committing to give each project the best, being fair in their dealings with everyone and most importantly, having fun while working defines their relationship as partners, as workers and as founders of ZigZag, even today, four years and a few months later.
Was it hard getting work in the beginning?
They consider themselves lucky and blessed to have gotten their first project a week after announcing ZigZag. The agency creative asked Abhijit for a video narration of the treatment/vision of the film, and so the client, JG Hosiery, commissioned them to execute the campaign. From there on, they steadily started building their portfolio and have done campaigns for PhonePe, Flipkart, Tata Salt, Macho, Grofers, Chupa Chups, Slice cards, Khatabook, Berger, Myntra etc.
Is there a tendency to get slotted?
"That is human nature. We slot people as well when we think of music directors, production designers etc", said Anupama.
"Getting slotted isn’t a bad thing", shared Abhijit. "It means that you are seen as the go-to person for a particular brief. Earlier I would never get films that had celebrities in them because my reel didn’t have any work with celebrities. The PhonePe campaign helped others in seeing our work in a new light and in the recent past our work has mainly been with celebrities. It's important to keep evolving and reinventing yourself and showing people that you are capable of delivering in other genres as well."
That means stepping out of their comfort zone and taking risks which is something they hope never to give up. They give the example of a campaign they did for Slice Cards. The brief was unlike anything they had done before. An alternate world inhabited by animal-headed humanoid beings is not your regular brief for a campaign. Everything from casting to production design to costumes was new. Even shooting one of the ads which required miniatures was new to everyone on the team. The risk paid off and the campaign was loved.
How has the ZigZag journey been?
Everything in their journey has happened organically. It gets crazy, it gets hectic, it gets chaotic and then…one of them laughs and poof! The energy is back. Neither takes the other one too seriously. No self-importance here. Only a purpose of getting somewhere together. That's what they look for in their team as well, which they’ve built one person at a time.
From a head spot boy who is now their production manager, to a DA who is now their in-house producer, poached very successfully from Abhijit by Anupama and from trainees who are now their in-house resources, to a godown which became their office, everything has happened organically. They believe that when you trust people and believe in their worth, you usually get a lot of loyalty in return. And in this business that's very important.
So naturally, their office is a riot most of the time. People even come in to just chill or eat some homemade food which the resident office cook cum spot boy rustles up every day.
So what is it that ZigZag wants to achieve?
Currently, it's to do good work and take things as they come. Against the backdrop of this, entered Shreya Shroff and Bopanna Ganesh, their new in-house talent of young directors!
Shreya was an established and very in-demand DA. On a shoot with Abhijit as his DA, she ended up directing almost 30 digital films with a celebrity that sprung up a day before the main shoot! Abhijit went on to shoot without a DA and she went on to shoot the digital films. It couldn’t have worked out better as the start of her directorial journey.
She went on to do a bunch of projects with different people before joining ZigZag as a full-time director.
In her words, "It was like a homecoming. Knowing they have my back and they’ll put everything behind my film sets me free to only focus on the creative bit. Never has anything I wanted for a film been denied …. even the decision of taking a film to Manali instead of Vasai when I knew I wanted to shoot in Manali was taken in a snap because I was sure it was best for the film! I know I can call either of them anytime if I want something or feel stuck. For a young director, that trust and support are everything."
Bopanna is much like Abhijit. Total fun and whacky as hell. Extremely detailed and rigorously demanding, he is sure at all times that there is someone to step in and solve problems and smoothen the way.
Bopanna said, "It's never a question or discussion of why...it's always ok, how best to get something done."
Which is great because he can then go back to playing with the resident kittens as he briefs his team for the film.
When not working, the motley crew of ZigZag are often lunching or planning pot lucks. Till the next film project comes along. The ZigZag continues.