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Ask me no questions and I will tell you no lies…


By VINAY KANCHAN

The film pre production meeting - In actuality a meeting that takes place before one proceeds with an ad film shoot, but in reality a conflict between the irresistible force (the client pushing for detail and timelines) and the immovable object (the producer unwilling to commit on anything other than the fact that the film will be great). Usually a forum which really livens up and attains closure once someone starts playing the model tests.








Ram - Eternal fall guy

There was a hushed ambience in the agency conference room. People were waiting in anticipation for the show to begin. The producer stood up. Dragging on his trademark pipe, quite oblivious to the fact that it was a ‘no smoking‘ conference room. He motioned for the lights to be put out, bar the one above him endowing him with an almost god-like status. Ram paused, pen ready in hand ready to record every word that would be spoken.


"The film begins with an extremely beautiful woman" the producer droned in his mellifluous baritone, everyone in the room sat mesmerized, not daring to breathe. The producer surveyed his hostages in one condescending glance and paused to moisten his lips with coffee. The client Mr. Bose was about to ask what happens next but Vikas (Ram‘s boss) motioned him to stop, not wanting Mr. Bose to ask any questions that might tick off the producer.


The silence continued for a minute, much like the quietness that descends in the room when the finance head asks what monies are expected in the month. PP (the creative director) unable to tolerate it any longer piped in, twirling his moustache in typical fashion, "And then the doorbell of her house rings and…."
The producer gently smiled in PP‘s direction. Ram felt a tea cup nestle in his hand and a soft voice speak sagely words of wisdom


"Old Chinese Proverb - A producer who does not change the script is like a creative director without an exaggerated moustache…unworthy of respect" Chai-La (the mystical Chinese canteen boy) made his brief entry followed by his dramatic exit by morphing into one of the coasters on the table.


"PP, that‘s where I think we need to change the script, it needs a little more edge" said the Producer, causing his image to jump another 100 points in PP‘s esteem scale.








Chai Lai - Mystic philosopher

"Ok I respect your opinion" said PP sullenly, knowing fully well that the Producer was one who had won many awards and you couldn‘t really argue with that, not when you were in creative.


"We finalized you on the basis of the script," Mr Bose began his diatribe in a slightly bellicose manner, but the producer merely glanced at him and his tone changed to what one uses when talking to a public sector bank clerk "but if you feel you can make it better than by all means. What is the new script?"

A study of human civilizations will reveal that the greatest catastrophes have always been preceded by a period of an almost deafening silence.


After that period was over the producer smiled and said, "I have yet to write it."


The loud thud that was heard was Mr Bose‘s jaw dropping to the floor. It was followed by the muffled sound of his heart and kidneys as well.


"We need the film to be on air in ten days time, the chairman had approved the previous script."

"Don‘t worry it will be a great film."


"But what happens if the chairman does not like the new script? He is out of the country for the next week; we won‘t be able to share the new script with him."


"Probably for the better, relax Bose we will not have a problem."

"And who will take the blame if things go wrong?"


Always a good question and requiring the utmost circumspection when coming up with an answer, an answer that is meant to keep the clients nerves within his body.


"You of course! Already you have approved my quote as the producer, you will also approve the final script. And best of all you get to sell it to your chairman as well. But don‘t worry we will be with you all the way," the producer ventured helpfully.


Cold beads of perspiration began to freeze on Mr Bose‘s forehead (the AC in the conference room was that cold). He looked helplessly in Vikas‘s direction but Vikas had employed the oldest trick in the book of avoiding eye contact during meetings, by furiously scribbling some imaginary notes on his pad.
"Can we look at another producer?" Mr Bose wanted to know


"Of course that‘s your prerogative but you will have to pay me for the time I have spent thinking on the project," the producer said with a chilling calmness.


"OK we stick with you but what can you tell us other than the pretty woman bit? Where will we shoot? How long will the film be? Are there any other characters? How does the pack come in?" Mr Bose was trying his ‘connect the dots diagram‘ technique.


"All I know is that the film will be one of the best you will see. Do we need a pack shot?"


Mr Bose would have coughed out his remaining organs, had any been remaining.


"Water. I need water," Mr Bose croaked.








PP - Can‘t stand marketers

"That‘s quite unnecessary, I don‘t see how it fits in the script"
"He needs a glass of water" said Ram, in a rare moment of sympathy for this daily tormentor. The glass was produced and Mr Bose quickly devoured it


"So what do we know about the film?" asked a visibly rehydrated Mr Bose.

"The most important fact. That it starts with an extremely beautiful woman. In fact we have done a lot of work in identifying that woman. And I would like you to take a look at our shortlist."


The producer then paused to gather all his faculties to deliver the most important line of the meeting. Ram was expecting some description of ‘the extremely beautiful woman‘ that had never been attempted before, something that would really paint a vivid picture of the protagonist in his mind. What he got were three magic words.


"Roll the tape."


In moments of extreme depression the human soul has always turned towards objects of ethereal beauty to find solace. The music of Mozart. The paintings of Rembrandt. The smile of the Mona Lisa. The sublime skills of Zinedine Zidane. The model test created by the producer was in that same league.


Ten minutes into the tape and Mr Bose sat with his mouth agape as angel after angel paraded before him (albeit on the TV monitor). They were woman of such beauty that his organs quietly began picking themselves off the floor and starting rearranging themselves within his anatomy.


"I like this one" exclaimed Mr Bose in a manner that instantly put back a few years.

"So do I," said Vikas who had not spoken for a while and saw the opportunity to bond with the client. The producer waved them off in the manner of a schoolmaster.


"The idea is to figure out why we like whom."

"But we have no context, we don‘t know the script," Mr Bose enquired, by this time though he was feeling much better about his impending doom.


"That‘s why I will select the final one. I just wanted to show you the entire range so that in principle you have no issues with any of them."


"How I wish I had," quipped Vikas, getting a few laughs from everyone, excluding PP who never laughed at jokes originating from servicing.


"So shall we call it quits or do you want to see the entire tape? It will take about an hour."

There was a brief evaluation of priorities that took place in everyone‘s heads. At such times the rational part of ones mind is known to take precedence in decision-making.


"We want to watch the entire tape," six voices spoke in unison attaining a resonance that instantly switched on all the lights in the room.


Ram felt his late evening craving for tea and instantly there was a cup in his hand.

"Old Chinese Proverb - There used to be a face that sank a thousand ships now there are model tests that bury a million issues."


Ram smirked at the Chinese take on the meeting and glanced up from his teacup just in time to see Chai-La disappear amongst the increasing number count of the Time Code Recorder of the VCR.
"It figures," he muttered to himself and smiled.



After stints at Lowe, Mudra and Everest, the author is now with Triton as Associate Vice President Brand Services. In additiion to that he is also patron saint of Juhu Beach United - a movement that celebrates obesity and the unfit ‘out of breath‘ media professional of today. To join up contact vinaykanchan@hotmail.com.



(The views expressed here are those of the author and indiantelevision.com need not necessarily subscribe to the same)


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