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Seven creative minds who quit advertising to become filmmakers

LiveMint logoLiveMint 13-07-2017 Saumya Tewari

New Delhi: Rajiv Rao, national creative director at advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather India, recently resigned to pursue his passion for filmmaking. Rao joins an elite club of ad folks like Shyam Benegal and Satyajit Ray who went on to create history in the Indian cinema. Mint takes a look at seven creative minds from the advertising fraternity who were lured by the magnetism of 70mm screen in the last 15 years.

R. Balakrishnan: Veteran adman R. Balakrishnan, popularly known as Balki, bid adieu to his 30-year career in advertising to become a full-time filmmaker. Last year, he stepped down from his position as group chairman of Mullen Lowe Lintas Group after juggling between films and advertising for the past couple of years. A cinephile and Amitabh Bachchan fan, Balki made his directorial debut with the film Cheeni Kum, featuring Bachchan and Tabu, in 2007. He followed it up with the National Award-winning film Paa, which also starred Bachchan, in 2009. He turned producer with the movie English Vinglish, which was directed by his wife Gauri Shinde. His latest release, Ki and Ka, starred Kareena Kapoor and Arjun Kapoor.

Gauri Shinde: Shinde worked with advertising agencies like IBW and Bates Clarion before moving to Lowe Lintas, where she met life partner R. Balki who was the creative director. During her advertising career, she made over 100 advertising and short films. She ventured into filmmaking with a heartwarming comedy drama English Vinglish, released in 2012 and featuring actor Sridevi. The film was inspired by Shinde’s own relationship with her mother a Marathi-speaking woman, who didn’t speak English well. Her second feature film, Dear Zindagi, starring Shah Rukh Khan and Alia Bhatt was released in 2016.

Nitesh Tiwari: A software engineer by education, Tiwari got bit by the advertising bug while he was doing a project for advertising agency R.K. Swamy BBDO, while studying at IIT Bombay. He joined as a copywriter at advertising agency Draftfcb Ulka in 1996 and went on to work at Lowe Lintas and Leo Burnett. He quit as the chief creative officer at Leo Burnett to venture into filmmaking. He co-directed his first feature comedy film Chillar Party with director Vikas Bahl in 2011. It was followed by supernatural comedy Bhootnath Returns and romantic action comedy film Kill Dill. Tiwari recently directed Aamir Khan-starrer sports biopic Dangal.

Ashwini Iyer Tiwari: After starting her career at Leo Burnett, Tiwari briefly worked with McCann Erickson. She returned to Burnett and eventually became the executive creative director spending over a decade at the agency. She decided to quit advertising and joined film production company Opticus Inc. in 2013. In 2016, she made her directorial debut with feature film Nil Battey Sannata, a touching story of a household help who educates her daughter against all odds.

Dibakar Banerjee: He joined advertising as a copywriter with ad agency Shems Combit and then TBWA Anthem. But it was when he joined Contract Advertising, Delhi, that the seeds for his film career were sown. He met copywriter Jaideep Sahni at Contract, who later wrote story, screenplay, dialogues and lyrics of his directorial debut comedy drama Khosla Ka Ghosla in 2006. Ever since, he has directed films like Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye, Love Sex aur Dhokha, Shanghai, Bombay Talkies and Detective Byomkesh Bakshy.

Rensil D’silva: With over two decades of experience in advertising, D’silva has worked with agencies like JWT, Rediffusion, Saatchi & Saatchi, Mudra and Ogilvy and Mather. He also started Ogilvy’s second agency Meridian in 2008. D’silva had simultaneously worked on scripts of movies such as Aks and Rang de Basanti before making his directorial debut with crime drama Kurbaan in 2009. He has also directed India’s first seasonal fictional television series 24, featuring actor Anil Kapoor, and vigilante drama flick Ungli.

Pradeep Sarkar: After graduating from the Delhi College of Art in 1979, Sarkar joined Tulika advertising agency as creative supervisor. Later, he moved on to Contract Advertising, Delhi and after 17 years of working in mainstream advertising, he left the agency as associate vice-president - creative to venture into ad filmmaking. In 2005, he made his directorial debut with the film Parineeta, which earned him the National Film Award for best director. Sarkar ended up directing his next three films under the Yash Raj Films banner. His films included Laaga Chunari Mein Daag, Lafangey Parindey and Mardaani. Most of his films highlight socio-cultural issues like prostitution and child trafficking.

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