In Conversation With Jaydeep Sarkar, Director, Native Films
What do you enjoy the most- making ads or short-films?
Telling any story is a great privilege, irrespective of it’s format or duration. While short films are a more personal medium, the challenges of an ad film force you to innovate beyond what you may have imagined when you started. I love the idea of marrying a story with a brand’s philosophy. So, you may be telling a great script but to seamlessly tie it with the brand is where the craft of an ad filmmaker comes in. That is the essential difference between a filmmaker from any other discipline and an ad filmmaker.
Short films are more like writing poetry, in the sense of the process… You have to stop caring about how it will be received, and just push yourself to be as honest to your instincts as possible. It’s daunting when you suddenly step back and wonder, will the audience get it? Is this becoming too much of an internal monologue? But you can’t let that stop you… Short films, for me, are a process of self discovery.
Name two ads in 2015 that you wish you had done?
I’ll tell you two films that I loved in 2015. They both have the distinct stamp of the filmmaker and that’s what makes them compelling and memorable.
One of them is of course, Ayyappa’s Khali Ad for Ambuja Cement. Ayyappa has a really wicked sense of humour and with this commercial, he really pushed the boundaries and came out trumps. I had read somewhere, “Tell a story like it’s the only story in the world!” And this ad had that feeling about it. It was so complete… Khali was so endearing and yet the humour was constantly taking him down. And then to tie it up with Ambuja cement was a masterstroke.
The other commercial that I loved was BBDO India’s Ariel ‘Share The Load’ directed by Shimit Amin. So much was said, with such little fuss, and not making it preachy. But this was none of that, and that too for a detergent brand. It was an idea whose time had come long ago, but someone finally stepped up and made this statement. I loved the non-chalance in the attitude of the storytelling, and that went a long way in creating a great impact.
Describe a typical work-week in the life of Jaydeep Sarkar.
The best thing about my job is that there is nothing typical about it… One week I could be in a village in interior Maharashtra, in the scorching heat, shooting a film about the water woes of the people there and the next week I could be in a studio a few kilometers outside Bangkok shooting a beagle driving a car. The usual cycle of pitches, PPMS, recces, shoots, edits, dubs, grades and presentations go on… but the flavours change, the crew changes, the actors change… and with that, your whole world goes through an overhaul every two weeks.
From making promos for Channel [V] to directing 'The Wives', how has the journey been so far?
I haven’t really reflected on the journey, but gone with the flow. I love to immerse myself in a project, get into the story… and when the film is delivered, I feel a deep sense of withdrawal. And then I move on to the next project, letting go of the past… not revisiting it. I have dabbled in many formats and mediums… From making TV promos to ‘The Wives’, I have witnessed the burgeoning growth of the digital medium. Everyone is trying to understand and grapple with this most amazing platform that is throwing so many opportunities at us… And on my part, from #dontlookaway to #thewives, to witness this change is quite amazing.
I have had to consciously fight being typecast into genres, though. There was a time when I made a few ads with children, one after another… and then one day I received a call from an agency asking me if I was a ‘child-specialist’. I felt like I was a paedeatrician. And that’s when I realised I had to consciously keep doing different genres.
How has working with unconventional directors like Anurag Kashyap and Sudhir Mishra affected your perception of film-making and script writing?
When most of my friends were going to film school, I quit my masters in filmmaking within the first two weeks because I couldn’t resist the lure of working ‘on-the-field’. I couldn’t have asked for a better training ground than Sudhir Mishra and Anurag Kashyap. While both of them are very different in their approach, they are fearless filmmakers and that is possibly the most important thing I have learnt from them. And everytime I feel low or am struggling with a challenge at work… I just go and meet them and everything falls into perspective, why I came here! Why I do what I do! And most importantly, why I tell the stories that I choose to tell!
If you could do something different in your life or career, what would you do?
I wouldn’t. Why would I choose anything else? But I would like to do more thing, along with what I do. I would like to find the time to do theatre. I love travelling… So I want to do much more of that. If I was born in a time before films, I would have probably been a wanderer.
How was the idea of 'The Wives' conceived? So what got you really excited?
Swati Bhattacharya, who was heading Dentsu Mama Labs at that time, is a dear friend. And one day we were chatting about the kind of films that we want to make… and she suddenly said, “Let me forward you a story. Read it and call me back” She immediately mailed me a Guardian article on ‘The Water Wives of India’. I was ashamed that I didn’t know of such an unfair practice, so close to where I live, and it took a British Newspaper’s article to bring it to my notice. I immediately called her and said, “Let’s make this!” Almost overnight, Swati wrote a script and when I read it out to the team at Native, everyone was united in their intent to make this film happen. The very next day my producer Prithvi Raj Luthra and I flew to Delhi to discuss how we would do this. And that’s how the journey began. The team at ActionAid were very encouraging and it was a privilege to marry this story with the work that they do. The project received a lot of love, from the first day and that is what made it special.
Scroll down to see what Jaydeep helped create: