My Story - Pranav Harihar Sharma

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An idea is a bastard child. Either no father, or many.

Pranav Harihar Sharma-Kulzy

Me, Myself and a hell lot of other things
A teetotaler-non smoker and vegetarian is a rarity in advertising-film making. I'm it.

I was born in Indore, Madhya Pradesh and hold an MBA degree in marketing. Right from the childhood I was interested in art & the creative side of life. As a dyslexic kid I had not-that-great a childhood, as I used to struggle right from tying up my shoelaces and necktie to solving the formulas of mathematics and equations in physics. While I was in my final year of MBA, I joined a small advertising agency in Indore as a summer trainee in client servicing department. That’s when I realized that I want to pursue my career in advertising and that too in the creative department. When I was in the final year of my MBA I got a lucrative job offer from a marketing company, but I chose to  join an ad agency as a proofreader for Rs. 600 a month. I worked in Indore for three years and while I was there, I won the first Cannes-Yahoo International Big Idea Chair for a short animation film ‘You Vs. Him’, that I wrote & directed, for green awareness.

Destiny is a Bit*h!
That u can’t pet.

As a reward for Big Idea Chair I went to Cannes Lions Advertising Festival as a Yahoo delegate and had a dinner with stalwarts like Piyush Pandey, Bob Greenberg and David Droga who were the juries of the Yahoo Big Idea Chair (which I won). At that time I knew only Mr. pandey and was overwhelmed to sit next to him at a dinner table. During the dinner itself Mr. Pandey offered me a job at Ogilvy, saying "you are too good to be in Indore."  Destiny played its games through some people and I couldn't join Ogilvy, but  I shifted to Mumbai nevertheless without a job. After working for sometime as a freelance filmmaker I joined Rediffusion YR Mumbai and later DDB Mudra, Mumbai. Thereafter I shifted to Delhi and worked with agencies like JWT, Rediffusion YR, Linen Lintas, and Grey, in different capacities. Right now I'm working with Rediffusion YR India as Executive Creative Director-West & North, looking after the creative product for both Mumbai and Delhi offices. 

From CD to D
Striking off the ‘C’  is a big deal.

This is one of the toughest journeys for any creative person. From a Creative Director to a Director. After this transition one has to play a twin role. You have to come out of the shell of a writer and then critically judge your own script as a director. It’s like an out of body experience and believe me it's not easy. Here the job doesn’t end with a client’s thumbs up to the script, it actually begins there. And than you can’t blame anyone for the bad product. There is no director’s neck you or your client can grab. It is yours. Direction wasn’t just an after thought. While I was making adfilms as a creative director I used to watch the entire film making process very closely. I was interested in films even when I was starting off in advertising and was working as a proof reader. At that point of time, however, I couldn't go for a proper training/course in an institute like FTII, Pune as I already had a professional degree and was supposed to begin my career. Though, since I decided to jump into advertising rather than taking a cushy marketing job, I was happy at that point of time (and also you can push your luck with your family only to an extent ). Gradually, I started to learn about films and the processes. One of the major reason of my shifting from Mumbai to Delhi during my professional life was because in Mumbai I was not getting any opportunity to make films. So I researched a bit and found that Delhi market generates more film projects than Mumbai. It's because all the major film making brands (telecom, beverages, FMCG) are headquartered in Delhi. At that point of time my decision was ridiculed, because in advertising people shift from Delhi to Mumbai and I was doing just the opposite. After working for four years in Delhi, in 2015 I was back to Mumbai with almost 50 ad films to my credit. The gut proved right. It always does.

So far i have made close to 70 ad films and one short film - 'Watermelon.' Out of 70 ad films, some 20 films I directed in the last one year. I have started directing films only from december 2015 and it's just one and a half year since I forayed into direction. The biggest push I got to don the hat of a director is from Adfest Fabulous Four 2014, where I was chosen as one of the top four debut directors from Asia.

Film Makers are Vulnerable

And they are emotional, they are naive and they are non political (here I'm talking strictly about myself). What filmmakers do is vulnerable because anyone or everyone can typecast them. Not just in feature film making, in advertising film making too. You are prone to be typecast as a 'Stylish Ad Film Maker,' 'Performance Film Maker,' 'Humor Film Maker,' 'Emotional Film Maker,' 'Demo Film Maker,' or even more closely categorised like 'Automobile Film Maker,' 'Fashion Film Maker' etc. So typecasting is the biggest threat for a creative person. He is offered the same kind of projects on a repeated basis and then he faces a burn out. So while I was starting off, I decided that I will try to work in as many zones as possible, irrespective of the fact whether it is an ad film, a short film, or a feature. The reason being that 'Direction' is an art that you learn. Once you are a director then it doesn't and shouldn't matter what you are shooting. It should just make you feel excited and then you are on. This is visible in the ad campaigns I've directed so far. They range from tourism to skin care, from beverage to hair care,to electronics. 

A for..

Awards! Accolades! Appreciation! What I value the most is the last one.  Appreciation from peers, seniors, fraternity and public is the biggest reward. Though I got a lot of awards like Radio Writer of the year in 2010 and  Ad Club Mumbai’s Under 30 Young Achiever in 2011 and some 200 national, international awards including Cannes, One Show, Abby(s), Effie(s) etc. The biggest rewards I got though are the love from public and appreciation from fraternity, for my campaigns like ‘Brave & Beautiful’ for Dabur, Republic Day film - 'Wazan' for Videocon and 'Laalach Ek Kala Hai' campaign for Rooh afza. No trophies can match those comments and personal messages on social media. I do really respect some of the awards I got for my direction, like the 'Dada Saheb Phalke Award 2016' for ‘Wazan’ and ‘Watermelon.' Apart from this, ‘Watermelon’ was screened at renowned film festivals like Cannes Film Festival, One Show-One Screen, Manhattan Film Festival, New York Film Festival, Cine Film Festival (Mumbai) and various other national and international film festivals.

Family Outcast
Almost all the people in my family are either P.hd(s), M.Phil(s) or Journalists.

They are professors, editors, and doctors. I'm the only one whom no one knows and what I actually do for a living (now it’s a bit easier because now I can say I m a director, which is relatively easy for them to understand in comparison to a creative director).

An idea is a bastard child. Either no father, or many.

Tomorrow                                                                                                                                                       Immediate tomorrow is a lot of ad campaigns I will be shooting.

A little short term tomorrow is....two short films I'm directing, sponsored by a brand. One of those is a period film set in the era of late 1800. It will probably be the most expensive short film produced in India and I'm fortunate enough that I have got people who believed in my idea/script as a writer and are trusting me as a director to put in that kind of money in the project. 

The long term tomorrow is....of course a feature.
The journey of a proof-reader-cum management graduate-cum writer completes at writing-directing a full length feature film.

What I love about being in advertising-film making                                                                                                 Is that now I'm free to wear Slippers and T-shirts and am not bothered about tying up either a shoelace or a necktie. 

Indian Film Industry, India