Namita RoyGhose

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Namita RoyGhose
Advertising’s Loss. Advertising’s Gain.

There’s a reason for that headline. I can’t think of any other Creative Director turned Ad film Director who has spent most of her time correcting, guiding, and even rewriting scripts for agencies before directing them into fabulous films.

The credentials of many agencies and the portfolios of many seasoned creative directors owe their shine and gloss to Namita Roy Ghose, and I know it won’t be an understatement.

Next year, I will complete 30 years in the business. I started my career in 1987 as a copywriter with Mudra Communications, Ahmedabad. Coincidentally, I think that was the year Namita started off as a director.

It was also roughly around this time that I first came across White Light.  It was a name that made me think a bit, since I always thought light was white. I mean why white light? What’s so special? Where’s the catch?

I also remember their stationery very well. It was a white A4 sheet with a screen-printed off-white square patch on the top centre of the page. With White Light Moving Picture Company written in all caps.

The white on white execution may sound obvious now. But if you take off my years of being in the business, you’d know just what a new idea it’d have been to my once fresh unsullied mind.

The prospect of working with her was very much top of mind, and soon enough – sometime in the early 90s, I had a chance to suggest Namita as a director. The moment I said her name, the head of Mudra’s Ahmedabad office froze. His face lost colour, and he almost had spasms.

He went on to explain that Namita would not only kill me for writing the film, she’d also end up killing him since he wrote the strategy. It was suicide to get her involved.

He then went on to say that she’d after burying us, rethink and rewrite the strategy, and write her own film, sell it to the client, make the film, and deliver a very effective film that’d work very well in the market.

And once she was done with that, my role, his role and the agency’s role would be questioned, and all sorts of cans will be opened and all sorts of worms would wiggle out.

Goodness. What were we dealing with here? I pondered. Was she some sort of demoness; a black magic woman who could make us feel ridiculously small and turn all of us into incompetent nincompoops?

I was way too junior in the hierarchy to counter that argument. Maybe there was truth in all that. Maybe I could lose my job. I was no one to override the wizened experience of my boss.

Besides there were others from Bombay who had similar tales to share about Namita - her astute thinking, her boldness, her no-nonsense approach, her advertising quotient, and her script-shredder tendencies.

Trust me, Namita’s reputation was legendary. She was considered as the safe keeper of brands first, and then a meticulous film-maker. She wasn’t going to be someone who will work on a script purely for commercial gain.

As my years in Ahmedabad got longer, I kept working with equally famous directors in Bombay, but a deep fear kept smouldering to keep me away from White Light and Namita, and stay in the relative safety of darkness.

Finally, I got hold of myself and discovered my own spine. It wasn’t that I had a bad portfolio, and it also wasn’t that I created toothless work. I had a body of proven work that could stand up to any Namita.

So one fine day, sometime in 1996, while working on a script for Kitply Laminates, I picked up the phone on Namita. I called up her office. The image of a fire-breathing dragon was very much in place, and trepidation was playing the background score.

I introduced myself, and a very polite and polished voice said hello. That didn’t sound anything close to cannibalistic.

I went on to ask her if she had the time to go through a script that I had written for Kitply and whether she would have the time to do the film. She asked me to fax it to her office and if she thought it was interesting, she’d come back to me.

I faxed it to her and went back to my cabin, thinking that she’d read my script, crumple into a ball, set it on fire, or do something exquisitely painful to it. I went through a cocktail of worries.

But then, life smiled at me.

I had a call back from her in about 30 minutes. And Namita was laughing, and she told me that she wanted to do the film. I was numb. Honest. It took me a whole day to get me out of that shock before I turned delirious.

It was almost that I had won a Cannes Grand Prix. I am not kidding.

I had created this monster inside my head. I had thrown myself into a prison of insufficiency and ineptitude. Finally, having her tell me that I wasn’t so bad, was doing all kinds of good things to my ego.

While we never made that film, for the simple reason that Namita wanted X amount of money, and the client only had X minus several lakhs, that didn’t stop me from reaching out to her several times after that.

Sometime in 2002 when I used to work with the agency owned by Ed Meyer, the head of films in Mumbai organized a 2-day film workshop with Namita and her creative partner Subir Chatterjee.

If there was anyone who could teach film to the wild lot of us, it was this duo. They carried the right credentials, experience, wisdom, craft, and a few floggers and whips.

From watching Natural Born Killers to a few commercials, all to merely underline what they seemed to effortlessly know, I took back one thing from the workshop. Essentially from what Namita spoke.

Life is a great library of unwritten stories and scripts. Keep adding to it. And then borrow endlessly from it. I have been plundering it ever since.

Eventually, it took me 22 years to work with Namita. This was sometime in 2009 when I was with Cheil.

The opportunity was thanks to a commercial for a new fridge that Samsung was launching. Once I wrote the film, I knew it had to be directed by Namita. It was one of those commercials that had Namita written all over it.

I knew she was very good at getting to the crux of the story, eliminating what was unnecessary, and then amplifying the parts that had to come through and sell the product.

I also knew that this was the first time my thinking would get tested, and that too by one of the toughest and most gifted film directors out there.

I had to make sure my thoughts were in place, my story had to be checked and double checked for all possible flaws, the product benefit had to be ratified and proven against global standards, and I had to be sure it’d deliver all the time.

Thankfully the product and I held out, and Namita was truly happy to work on the film. But then, she saw bits and pieces of the film that could be snipped, and told me how we could use that time to enhance the story.

Despite all the experience that I had, I learned much more in that one meeting than I had in years. It was a revelation. White light indeed.

I remember the excruciating process that she went through during the pre-production. She had actually broken down the film into seconds.

The first 2 seconds to deal with something, the next 1.5 seconds to deal with something else, the next half second for another thing, and so it went.

Every frame and second in that film was pinned down. And no extra shots would be taken. Period. It would be inefficient use of time and money.

And much as I thought, and much as I expected, the film turned out to be a winner. In fact, when the film centered around a little girl’s attempt at making jelly came out, Samsung ran out of fridges, and the markets ran out of jelly.

It’s been a while since I met her or chatted with her, but I don’t think I’d ever forget the long impact she has had in my life. All unknown to her.

As I said in the beginning, I haven’t met anyone in the industry who’s had another point of view about her. She has been quietly delivering one winner after another all these years. Without being part of the general flotsam.

Not once has White Light ever come into my office to pitch for new business, or pushed new reels, or sent gifts, or called to ask for business, or anything of that sort. Instead, integrity, caliber, craftsmanship, talent, finesse, and conviction have all been her constant and continuing ambassadors.

She was a big loss to HTA when she left. But I can assure you that the entire advertising industry has gained more from her. Thank you Namita.

Managing Partner
Bang In The Middle
Comments (1)
Sanjeev Kotnala Brilliantly captured. I have had very few interaction and finally one MARUTI FILM with her, and it has its own learning and memories..
18 Aug 2017 Reply


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