Here’s How Virat Kohli and Amitabh Bachchan Shot Ads in Lockdown

Here’s why the lockdown didn’t stop the advertising industry from churning out terrific ads.

4 min read

Video Editor: Puneet Bhatia


All of us are slowly adjusting to what looks like a new reality, with work from home, physical distancing becoming a part and parcel of this new game to survive both the virus and the corresponding fear. As meetings over Skype and zoom, video calls and Whatsapp group discussions become the norm, how do we manage something like film making that has always been a collaborative effort. Is it possible to direct actors remotely? How does one put together the many departments that work in tandem on projects like these and shrink all into zoom meetings and video calls?

The advertising industry has been quick on its feet in adjusting to the changing scenario and we spoke to some of the top advertising professionals and ad film makers of the country to find out how even in lockdown they are managing to churn out ads.

Prasoon Pandey who heads Corcoise Films directed the much talked about “Family Film” which went viral for all the right reasons. The idea was to come up with a message that is positive which can instill in people the confidence that they can stay connected even during the lockdown by following all rules. The fact that names like Amitabh Bachchan , Rajnikanth, Ranbir Kapoor, Alia Bhatt came together for this film of course peaked the curiosity but the fact that Pandey conceptualised the whole thing and remotely directed his super star actors became the talk of the town. Everything from the sound design and editing was also done with professionals who were working from home.

“The thrill of it was that it hadn’t been done before. I look at a project as a crossword puzzle. Now if I knew the answer would I pick up the puzzle?”
Prasoon Pandey, Corcoise Films

Of course, this in a way set the benchmark and we have seen many ads since then conceptualised and executed completely from home. He hopes that once the crisis is over and we get back to doing what we love in the way we do, hopefully the stories would have evolved.

“For far too long we have been dealing with some flippant premises and stories in our ads but this crisis would definitely re-orient us to give more weightage to relationships and what really matters in life.”
Prasoon Pandey, Corcoise Films

Harshad Rajadhyaksha and Kainaz Karmakar are the Chief Creative Officers of Ogilvy and they hit the ground running ever since the lockdown was declared.

“We have been quite busy since a lot of our clients deal in products that are crucial at a time like this. Teas with medicinal value, Savlon, sanitizers , soaps, etc. We have been more busy than what we were when in office. Our day starts typically at 9 and doesn’t end before 10pm.”
Kainaz Karmakar, Chief Creative Officer, Ogilvy

But what happens to all the client feedback and the back and forth that inevitably happens?

“The creative team and director do their job and we send it to the client. We make WhatsApp groups and then give our feedback on the shot. Everything takes more time but we are getting better at it.”
Kainaz Karmakar, Chief Creative Officer, Ogilvy

But what does this mean for advertising? Is this the future that we all have to get used to? Harshad Rajadhyaksha feels that while currently we are reacting to events and the crisis these temporary arrangements are fine. If in the future we want a quick output then the current norm will be a benchmark but when it comes to a standard business of creating a work of art that moves you and stays for eternity, the true procedure will not go out of the window.

What is most heartening is to see is the coordination cooperation and willingness from all quarters .

Neha Kaul, director with Corcoise films, executed and directed remotely the two Asian Paints ads, and also the Maskforce campaign which featured Indian cricketers.

“We jumped at the opportunity to do something for Asian Paints because all of us were so frustrated. While we enlisted help from our family and friends and roped them in for the ads we knew the biggest challenge was that since they weren’t professional actors they would freeze or be a little self conscious and we tried as best as we could to make them feel comfortable and calm them down. From the recce, to assessing the best lighting in the room, all was done through video calls and pictures.”
Neha Kaul, Director, Corcoise films

Cyrus Pagdiwala, Executive Producer with Corcoise films says that not having a director on ground of course comes with its own set of challenges. Because then one solely relies on instructions from the Whatsapp calls and Skype videos. Things are slightly better while dealing with professional actors he feels since they have an understanding of how the framing would be. But technology and the absolute dependence on it can be frustrating.

Cyrus Pagdiwala, Executive Producer, Corcoise films

While a lot of ads now use images and montages, how does one direct non-actors to not just face the camera but also emote? That’s the challenge that ad filmmaker and head of Nirvana Films Prakash Varma had to deal with while shooting the latest Vodafone ad during lockdown. The concept was about senior citizens and how their friendships and the meticulous routines that they were so used to following got brutally cut short because of the virus spread.

Trying to find people who belonged to the specific age group and were willing to face the camera was a challenge. And we shot the whole thing in a single take.
Prakash Verma, Nirvana Films

Varma says that although his direction style is all about focussing on the little details he had to unlearn a lot of things. His wife, who is also the co partner at Nirvana films, Sneha Lype and her mother were roped in, and help was solicited from family and friends.

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