In Conversation With Manoj Pillai, Director, Thinkpot Productions
By Manoj Pillai
Thursday, 27 Nov 2014
A mechanical engineer by qualification, Manoj Pillai, started his career in advertising as a copywriter with McCann Erickson, Bangalore. Soon enough, Manoj was urged to pursue the art of film making. One of his early films for Air Deccan, titled "Old man and the Sky" brought him into the national limelight, winning him numerous accolades. His work has been recognized nationally and internationally with awards from D&AD, Clio, Campaign Age, Work, Abby’s etc. He was recently awarded the "Inspired Indian award" by the governor of Bangalore, for the Google campaign with Shyam Sharan Negi, that inspired millions of youth around the country to vote in the general elections.
Copywriter with McCann Erickson to Founder Director of Thinkpot Productions. What prompted you to take the entrepreneurial plunge?
Even though i was a copywriter, i was always visual in my thinking and ideas. It was easier for me to think "films" than "copy". Therefore, pursuing films was the obvious choice. I have never seen film making as a business, its just that nothing excites me like the process of making a great film.
With a penchant for perfection, thinkpot is a name synonymous with story telling and magic realism. What creates this magic?
As a child, i was always fascinated by life around me, and there is where my greatest inspiration lies. I used to observe the raw and un-adulterated power of human emotions, be in on the streets, in temples or airports, and was enthralled by the magic it created. These instances are important in making a story captivating and engaging, and i have always tried to recreate those moments in my stories, like the commercials for Air Deccan, Fortune, Vedanta etc.
From your perspective, what makes a great advert?
In my opinion, a great advert should sell by leaving a residual imagery of the high point of the film. That one moment needs to resonate in the minds of the audience for a while.
From inspiring numerous first time voters in India with the Google – The Long Walk commercial, you managed to capture extraordinary moments of emotions with the campaign. Tell us about the challenges faced while making the film?
To bring this man's monumental achievements to light, without losing on it's magnitude. When we reached the picturesque, snow covered locales of Kalpa, we were taken aback to see this fragile old man, who could barely keep his eyes open. But once he starred talking, we witnessed patriotism at its peak. He was willing to push himself to any extent to help us achieve our vision with this film. All our challenges, be it -6 degrees of weather, acute inaccessibility, or the altitude, everything seemed minuscule and irrelevant in front of his passion and commitment towards our democracy .
Thinkpot Productions high point? And low point?
Luckily, there have been no low points as yet, and i believe the high point is yet to come.
Do you have a favourite advert? Something that has stuck in your mind?
The "Stella Artois" commercials created by Jonathan Glazer, like the plague, the pilot and the devi's island, have stayed with me and inspired me a lot.
What next for Thinkpot Productions?
I personally feel every project is a new beginning, and we try to do something different with every film we take up. So "what next" does not hold much of a relevance in this context.