Unlike many copywriters currently in the business, I haven't done too many films with Ram. All put together, among the hundreds of advertising films that I have been fortunate to write, Ram has directed just three of them. Ajanta Clocks, Dhara Oil, and Saffola World Heart Day.
Sure enough, my limited experience with him isn't statistically stacked to give me a wide-angle view of his directorial calibre. But on the other hand, it's been good enough to give me an extra tight close up of someone whom I admire, trust, and respect.
I should think 28 years of being in the industry, and being part of many other films that he directed for the agencies I led, makes me fairly competent to write a measured take on this rainmaker.
My own career took off on octane because of this gentleman. And I have ever been grateful to destiny for sending him into my life. This was in 1990, when I was a Sr. Copywriter at Mudra – Ahmedabad. My first ever film – Ajanta Clocks, was getting into production, and in walked this affable man who chiseled my script into place, and delivered a film that made the brand into the world’s largest clock manufacturer.
The moment we started to work on the film, I think he sensed my zilch and junior understanding of the film medium. And despite my inane questions and ignorance, he made sure that he didn’t maul, needle, or embarrass my naivety at any time. In fact, he was so encouraging and trusting, he gave me the freedom to work with Louis Banks to create the track for the film without dropping into the studio. I can’t quite think of any director who’d allow me that liberty even now.
The film eventually went on to win the Campaign of the Year, and the Film of the Year at CAG. And while I was too much of a novice in the awards business, I remember he made it a point to call me and thank me for the flowers I sent him.
More recently in my time at the agency that continues to be neither black nor white, I was more than uncomfortable to notice the absence of a storyboard at a PPM for Saffola. But once Ram started with his detailed and structured presentation of the film, everything else seemed redundant. That’s the day I learned that the spine of clarity is all that you need. His command over the medium is inspiring, his detailing painful, his timelines sacrosanct, and I have never seen him dither or give less than his best.
Ram is also among the sharpest minds you’d meet in the business. He is strategic, commonsensical, and uses his reflex to reinforce his confidence in the script. He has zero issues dealing with anyone. He automatically decreases or increases his intelligence to level with the person in front of him. And does that effortlessly.
If you know him well, you'd know that his laugh is most infectious. I have to correct that, his cackle is outrageously contagious. It comes from deep inside and it tells you that he has little to hide. He isn’t the smooth talking, pot smoking, coke snorting, Spike Lee obsessed, ILM affected, Lion hungry, money making Shylock in lamb’s clothing. Instead, he is someone who is open, welcoming, and disarms you with an almost boyish charm. With an erudite approach to develop your script by adding in just what is necessary to amplify the idea.
He isn’t a director who’d want to add a a sweeping chopper shot of the Ausangate Trek, in Peru to bump up production costs for your montage film, not that he does that variety.
In all my years in the industry, I haven't met another director who’s been easier to work with. And that's not mere platitude, considering I have done my time with most of the tyrants and tyros out there. I guess once you are a master, and have crossed the threshold of insecurity and other mortal frailties, you are no longer buffeted by the fears of being thwarted by someone else.
In a world that’s constantly stepping from one drifting ice floe to another, for want of trust, Ram is an island on which you can safely pitch tent.
If you are a writer, and driven to ensure that your script gets the best shot at effectiveness and even fame, make sure you meet this man. He might not usually have the time, but if he loves your film, he will find a way to do it.
He is arguably the most valuable ad filmmaker in this country. And how I wish the younger directors and even his peers, study the art staying contemporary and relevant from his books. I know Ram wouldn’t mind teaching.