The polaroid transfers on archival paper of various photos was the inspiration to write ‘brand poetry’ for the campaign.
This was the first freelance campaign that I ever worked on. My school friend, Sanjoy Chatterjee, had just returned from Parson’s School of Design, New York, where he had studied fine arts and decided to become a professional photographer. I myself had returned not so long before from my MBA at McGill University, Montreal, and decided to ‘turn creative’.
Sanjoy was bursting with new ideas on photography and when Chiradeep Sirkar of A. Sirkar Jewellers asked him to create advertising for him, he had a canvas on which to demonstrate his talent. He approached me to work with him as the copywriter on the campaign. And I brought on board my colleague Anil Bathwal as the art director. Anil too had done his higher studies in the US—he was an art major from Lafayette College. Our North American education provided a common factor to bond over. It also gave us a perspective that was a little different from what our industry colleagues had at that time.
Being inexperienced, we were unencumbered by strategic imperatives. We were ignorant of the dos and don’ts of what was considered the ‘correct’ approach to photography, art direction and copy. All we knew was that we needed to stand out in the crowd of jewellery advertising in Kolkata. We had to help A. Sirkar be like a lighthouse shining a light over the sea of sameness that was gold and jewellery advertising.
I think our naivete and desire to experiment helped us achieve this goal. I remember Sanjoy showing me the results of his photographic experiments. These were polaroid transfers on archival paper of various photos he had taken. They had a poetic quality to them—which inspired me to write ‘brand poetry’ for the campaign. Anil, the art director, was also full of new ideas. He redesigned the logo for A. Sirkar. And helped bring together the pictures and words that Sanjoy and I created in layouts that, once again, refused to follow rules.
Chiradeep, the client, was so open to new ideas that we did not have to ‘sell’ our campaign to him. Thanks to him, our ads ‘went through’ without a single change. And they created a bit of a stir in the Kolkata advertising market. People wrote letters of appreciation to the client. And our work got written about in the press—generating curiosity about who the three young iconoclasts behind the ads were.
Sanjoy and I continued to work together in other ways too. Aki Narula, then a fledgling Kolkata-based fashion designer, approached Sanjoy to shoot his costumes. And Sanjoy asked me to be the model, thus launching me in a parallel career. Just like his advertising work, the pictures Sanjoy created for Aki were also experimentative and artistic.
Years have passed. None of us is in Kolkata anymore. Anil is a restaurateur in New York. I am a creative director in Mumbai. And Sanjoy is a photographer in Delhi. When we meet, we start out by excitedly discussing our current projects. But sooner or later, the conversation turns to our ‘good old days’ as a freelance advertising trio in Kolkata.
Sumanto Chattopadhyay reminisces about the good old days and good (old) advertising. This campaign is truly a hidden nugget!