Piyush Pandey throws light on O&M's Lion-winning "Train" campaign

MUMBAI: Great ideas are often the simple ones. The same can be said about Ogilvy & Mather‘s film titled ‘Rail Gaadi‘ (Train), the winner of Gold in the Film Craft Lions category at Cannes.

The campaign was created within 15 days after the creative team was briefed.

"It came fairly out of the blue. The Railway board had partnered with the XIX Commonwealth Games 2010 Delhi. Soon, they realised that they have got lot of free air time as part of the sponsorship. So they needed to have a film; I met with the Railway Board chairman Vivek Sahai and we decided to create one," said South Asia Ogilvy & Mather India executive chairman and. creative director Piyush Pandey.

Conceiving something creative for as dry a product as the Indian Railways was a challenge in itself. But there was the advantage of working for a very powerful brand that stays connected with people and makes trade possible.

Pandey himself has very fondful memories attached with this historical brand and this this motivated him to work more passionately.

He revealed, "I have travelled in trains -- extensively, especially when I was playing cricket and have some fond memories. We didn‘t want some mundane stuff -- despite having a very short timeline. With passionate talents such as Sukesh and Hiral and team, we wanted to make something that would touch people‘s hearts – just like the railways."

Convincing the client wouldn‘t have been an easy task: after all the film was on its way to be aired during the prestigious Commonwealth Games.

"Mr Sahai fell in love with the ad instantly. Albeit, it took him some time to convince other members on the railway board," Pandey recalled.

Shooting the film at Kolkata had its own intrinsic reasons.

"The pace of the film demanded a typical township and Kolkata met the criteria. The buildings were charming and the lanes made the human train look spectacular," said Prakash Varma who directed the film, "We shot the whole film in just three days, with everyone in the team contributing. It was really tiring for those who formed the train as they kept running and passing through some really difficult and claustrophobic lanes."

Why were there no women in the human train?

"Being a part of the human train was very demanding -– physically and mentally. Also, we wanted to keep the group of people as ordinary as possible", Varma clarified.

The choice of soundtrack also remained steady from the beginning and Indian classical musician Taufiq Qureshi was roped in to invent creative voices for the film.

"Taufiq was working with me at Blue Frog and saying, "oh, we can do better than that" -- magic happened. A simple idea, perhaps. But the most beautiful things in our lives are simple. Also, Railway Board executive director passenger marketing Chandralekha Mukherjee helped us a lot in getting permissions to shoot at some very beautiful spots," said Pandey.

For Pandey, winning awards is never a priority. But if it happens, he appreciates the recognition.

"Awards don‘t matter to me –- what does matter is how much our work is loved and appreciated. We should create more practical ads that are not just for the award nights but can be aired and seen by the common man.

"For example Zoozoos -- they were regular ads that won awards -– not some special film or campaign created only with the intention to win awards. One can find many ads that were never even seen before the awards night. So, how does one use awards as a threshold for creativity?" Pandey asked.

But the film being played during the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games was nothing less than winning Gold at Cannes, said Pandey.

"With 3000-4000 volunteers running in the stadium and the Prime Minister clapping to the tune of our film, what more could we have asked for. It was one of the most joyous moments of my life. No one ever questioned the creativity of our film after that," Pandey affirmed.

Indeed, creativity has no language and this film is at the pinnacle of this thought, asserted Sukesh Kumar Nayak, who was another creative director for the video, besides Pandey and Heeral Akhaury.

"While awarding us, the film was played for everyone in the hall. After watching the video, a representative from JWT Russia congratulated me and said that we have done a great job. The film had no dialogues, it was for Indian Railways, shot in Kolkatta, and this guy was from St. Petersburg and still he could relate to it. That‘s an achievement", Nayak concluded.

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