Two of Prathap Suthan's favourite campaigns that he wishes he had done are Hamara Bajaj and Quick Gun Murugan for Channel V. Hamara Bajaj was a distinct first, born in a time when we shamelessly aped everything Western. It was a breakaway from the norm, and possibly the first film that surfed on brown skin pride. It told us to appreciate our moles and warts. It told us to feel good about our-selves. Bajaj was the montage film that brought India and its peccadilloes into fashion, and changed the script of Indian ads. We rediscovered it was cool to comb our hair in public, and write funny messages on our spare tyre covers, or as we call them in India, stepney covers, he says.
He adds, The other campaign is Channel Vs Quick Gun Murugan. It actually took India to another level of thinking and another level of appreciation. The unabashed use of Tamil, Hindi and English, all mixed together in a delightful goulash of 'Indianess', is the sunrise of the original Indian vernacular. Cross pollination of India, where we truly evolved as a civilized lot to laugh at ourselves. Our first genuine sign of social progress. This is a landmark, and I will eternally be jealous of Shashank Ghosh.
Thank god, it isnt me
He says, There are enough and more obnoxious commercials out there, which are blatant insults on sensibility. But the two that top the hall of shame for me are Amul Macho underwear toing. For single-handedly redefining crass and giving street-side India a term to bandy around and corrupt decency. Yuck!
About the second ad that he dislikes, he says, Emami Fair and Handsome; come to think of it, I would say all fairness cream advertising. In a country that already has issues with its complexion, and globally rakes up the need for racial equality, why do we even allow such products This isnt advertising. This is a systemic corrosion of our self-belief and confidence, raking in money from the vanity of our people. Instead of building the inner calibre of our men and women, do we need products and advertising like these to make the gullible lot among us more vulnerable
Shouldnt we as a nation move ahead from its pigmentation Havent we sacrificed millions of our sisters at this altar of darkness
My first ad
He says, My first ever film was Ajanta Clocks the gentle older woman conducting the Cuckoo Waltz with her knitting needles. It went on to win the CAG (Commercial Art Guild) Commercial of the Year.
However, the first film that I worked on was that of Mayur Suitings in 1990. The film was about a peacock feather that kept popping up, leading the man to a woman. Explains Suthan, There was this one particular shot that kept whirring in my head. The point of view (POV) of the feather, looking down at the man, as it floated down from the ceiling. Eventually, I shared it with Iyer. When I finished, Iyer blurted, What a stupid idea Prathap, how can a feather have a point of view It doesnt have any eyes'. I felt like the smallest twerp on earth, Suthan says. Many years later, I was watching a film in a theatre, and there was this one awesome shot the POV of an arrow before it slammed into someones heart. Well Mr. Iyer, do think the arrow had eyes Allow me this one smirk.
Prathap Suthan joined iYogi, a direct-to-consumer remote tech support company, early this year as its chief creative officer and chief explorer. He has also started his own creative shop 'The Advisory' . Before this, Suthan, popularly called Pat, was the national creative director at Cheil Worldwide SW Asia, which he joined in 2007. He still continues to be a consultant and mentor for the agency. At Cheil, he played a key role in building the Samsung brand in India and repositioning Samsung mobiles in India 2008 onwards.
Suthan started his career with an agency in Thiruvanthapuram. After that, he joined Mudra Communications (in Ahmedabad) as creative director in 1987 and worked there for about eight years. He then joined Grey (then Trikaya Grey) in 1996, quitting it in 2007 as national creative director.
His portfolio includes India Shining (his most popular campaign), Incredible India, SBI Credit Card, India Today, Dominos Pizza, Vimal, Pioma Industries, Ajanta Clocks, NDDB - Dhara and others. He has won numerous awards at the Abbys, GoaFest, LIA (London International Awards), OneShow and Cannes. Suthan has also started an initiative 'Delhi Alternative' (ALT DEL), a platform for meeting and sharing ideas for the communications industry.
As told to Payal Khandelwal