o forge a friendship in the world of media, and one that lasts over the span of careers in different agencies, cities and initiatives, is something that Arindam Mitra says is quite a rarity. In his case, it’s something that he and Abhijit Chaudhuri have managed to foster since their early days at JWT Kolkata in the early 1990s, through their moves across the country to Mumbai, and now in their new visual content company, QED Films.
Chaudhuri (popularly known as “Dadu”) started as an assistant with Arindam Basu, a documentary filmmaker in Kolkata. He then worked at Clarion’s film department, before joining JWT between 1992-94. After this stint, he freelanced for a year and a half before joining Arjun Gourisaria at Black Magic in 1996. When the production company moved to Mumbai in 1999, he followed a year later. Mitra has a background in client servicing (though he has written a few ad film scripts as well) and has worked at Ogilvy & Mather, JWT and Contract in Kolkata before relocating with the same agency to Mumbai. He also worked on the client side at Kotak Mahindra for a year, and spent seven years at MiD Day, where he started the films division; the company went on to produce Black Friday. “Thereafter, I’ve been writing, producing and directing as an independent, mostly documentaries and features,” he said.
Though they’ve been to the same school in Kolkata (Mitra jokes Chaudhuri is 20 years his senior), the two were introduced at JWT Kolkata. “Post that, Black Magic and I have done films together,” said Mitra. “We’ve been working together on various parts of filmmaking, both commercial and non-commercial, advertising, longer corporate documentaries and features. In fact, Dadu just finished his feature The Accident, which I wrote and produced.”
The idea for QED was born in a conversation a few months ago. “My ex-business partner Arjun wasn’t getting any joy out of advertising; he’s an editor from FTII and he wanted to get out of the process. There’s nothing bitter about it,” explained Chaudhuri. “At that point, I had spoken to Arindam and we thought it would be better if we started something together. We complement each other well, not just in what we do, but in the operations side as well. He’s good with business, and I’m very bad at pushing other people and marketing myself.” Mitra added, “When we sat down and started talking, I realised Dadu was not just talking about making the 18-20 films that he makes and making a handsome margin on these, but he was talking about something beyond all that.”
The “something beyond” was to create a company out of QED, not just in terms of investment, but also in terms of working with new directors. According to Mitra, while the concept of an entity that dabbles profitably in visual content (ad films, television software and other multimedia) isn’t anything new, it’s something the duo hope to make successful because of their backgrounds steeped in advertising. The fact that many ad film production houses are run as “mom-and-pop” stores, makes the prospect all the more promising. “There’s a large opportunity to consolidate, create a larger entity, and then when we have a financial base, we’re able to invest for the directors working with us and allow them to do things beyond just ad films: maybe a documentary or a feature or even something for television in Brazil,” said Mitra. The clients too would get their money’s worth. Mitra said, “[We’d like to] Also invest from the client’s point of view, which is about not counting your pennies. Then you can decide to do things you wouldn’t be able to do, and take your work to the next level.”
According to Mitra, Chaudhuri’s equity in the business ensured the flow of ad film scripts with just a simple mail three months ago that read “My company isn’t called Black Magic anymore, it’s called QED”. Six months to a year is the timeframe the duo have given themselves to achieve the “financial engineering” of the business by ramping up the number of ad films they make initially. This would give them the bandwidth to sustain an environment in which creativity can thrive, a goal both are keen on. On the one hand, that would help bring more young directors like Imraan Khan (from Ramesh Deo Productions) and Chinar Gupte (from Nomad Films) on board. “Even with younger directors, we will be constantly behind them, I think that helps a lot,” said Chaudhuri. “We’re consciously trying to pitch them in certain genres, because that makes sense. So Imraan would be more towards beauty and style, and Chinar is also narrative-inclined, like me, but new-generation.”
On the other hand, a strong financial base would also give Chaudhuri (who’s known for his heavy-on-narrative films) the freedom to experiment with different visual possibilities on his projects. “You’re only as good as your last film,” he said matter-of-factly. “When you get promoted to a certain bracket, you have to keep innovating. We’re also trying to look for different ways to shoot, grade and edit films.” The first major film created by QED was for McCann Erickson’s “Alchemist”, which runs almost like a feature. “It’s an interesting film; we got Raj Zutshi to play the lead character, and a lovely location near Manali,” said Chaudhuri. “However, it hasn’t got as much exposure as I thought it would.”
Other plans for the three-month old company could be international tie-ups; a significant one could be sealed in the next few weeks. “I don’t think it’s up to the two of us to achieve everything,” said Mitra. “We need heavyweights in the other spheres, who acknowledge and appreciate our creative abilities and then translate it into other spheres of visual content. We will partner with them and take those verticals forward.”
Formed QED Films Pvt Ltd 2006-2010 Independent producer, writer & director2001-2006
Client servicing, Contract Kolkata & Mumbai1991–1994
Client servicing, JWT Kolkata1991
Client servicing, O&M KolkataAbhijit Chaudhuri
Formed QED Films Pvt Ltd1996–March 2010
Formed Black Magic Motion Pictures Ltd1992–1994
Jwt Kolkata (films)1988–1991