Raahil Chopra
Sep 22, 2014

IAA Mentorship Programme: 'The best ads don’t follow but lead consumers; and that is an art' - Balki

Lowe's R Balki and Stefan Haves in discussion with Anish Trivedi

IAA Mentorship Programme: 'The best ads don’t follow but lead consumers; and that is an art' - Balki

The IAA Mentorship Programme was launched on 19 September at the Bombay Stock Exchange with a panel discussion. It featured cirque director Stefan Haves, alongside Lowe Lintas and Partners chairman and CCO and Bollywood director and producer R Balki. The discussion was moderated by author and radio jockey Anish Trivedi.


'We are ignoring the most important gadget'


Haves spoke about the importance of theatre. He said, “In our culture right now, theatre is not very important. But, it’s the only job in the world where you can’t replace yourself with a robot. I think with the gadgets around, we are getting too involved with them and ignoring the most important – our minds and bodies.)”


“The world is going faster, but theatre is where we can all be together and relax. The only way we can slow time down and celebrate is by doing public performances etc. The world is more surprising when you’re not in control,” he added.


'Have a virgin mind and not be ruined by college'


When Trivedi brought Balki into the discussion and asked him when entertainment became an industry, he replied in jest: “When the bankers moved in.” 


He added, “I don’t think the size or growth rate should determine whether someone should be in this industry. There are enough people who are outside the industry, who want to join it. That’s a fair way to evaluate it.”


“I joined the industry (advertising) because I couldn’t do anything else. I think 80 per cent of the people in the industry are like me. I was thrown out of college and did nothing till I discovered advertising. For anyone to join advertising, the most important thing is having 0 per cent qualification. One needs to have a virgin mind and not be ruined by college,” added Balki.


Haves responded, “Even I could do nothing else. I was not a terribly good student and I had an ‘Attention Deficit Disorder’ before people even knew about the disease. But, I loved telling stories and that’s what got me into the entertainment industry.”


Balki spoke about his passion for making films: “I don’t think there could be anything more interesting than writing and making films. I don’t think I’ve found anything else more interesting.”


This led to Trivedi asking Haves whether what he does (being a cirque director) was easy. Haves replied, “I used to take some lectures in colleges. People would come and ask me ‘Do you think I’ve got it in me?’. I said 'No' as a standard reply to people. The people who heard that and came back for my classes, were the ones who really wanted to do it and were successful.”


'Writing is a like a puzzle'


Quizzed about writing and how people from outside the industry don’t realise the hard work, Balki said, “When you’re writing you need to sit down and work in a disciplined manner. There is no science to it. It’s like a puzzle that can come together any moment.”


Underlining the importance of hard work, he added, “I don’t think there’s anyone who has more charisma than Amitabh Bachchan. But, you still see him doing extreme hard work when he wants to achieve something.”  


On advertising, Balki said, “Advertising is a game where people pay you to have fun. Sometimes you win, lose or tie. I think people are extremely lucky to be in it.”


So many more options...


Trivedi posed the talent question - whether in today's day and age, the need for a substantial paycheck has made people move away from their passion.


Balki noted that in the present day, there was 'so much more money available' for people to earn while pursuing their passion. "Who thought there will be money in Kabaddi?” he asked.


Haves reflected, “It’s fascinating. I was teaching theatre at a school in Ahmedabad. I met people who were very passionate about theatre but said they couldn’t be in it for some reason or the other. In the 20s, you should find out what you don’t want do. It’s the time to experiment.”


The subject of understanding and innately knowing whether a creative product would 'connect with the audience' was introspected upon next. The Lowe Lintas chairman said, “The moment you define the business as ‘This will connect with audiences’, you’re finished. You have to create new ideas that you hope will connect with the audiences. People who create successful films are trying to connect with themselves with the hope that it connects with other people (audiences)."


Presenting another perspective, Haves pointed to his use of social media to gauge what young people want, for his shows. “They’re spending the same or more money at night clubs, I want them to come to watch theatre,” he explained.


Can art be a business?


The eternal debate on 'art as a business' was discussed next. 


Through the advertising lens, Balki replied, “The best ads are those that don’t follow consumers, but those that lead consumers. And that is an art. Business and others borrow from one’s life, but art gives something back to the consumer.”


“The entertainment business is different compared to other businesses. If someone could tell you or give you a set of formulae to follow which would deliver an Oscar, do you think it’ll have any value?” he questioned.


“I’ve been a part of juries at Cannes (for advertising). I’ve been shocked by what kind of work could work for people,” Balki added.

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