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Love channelling my anger into films: Ad-filmmaker Ram Subramanian

The ad filmmaker, at a talk at the 9th Jagran Film Festival, spoke about how he used films to communicate across his ideas of the inner angst and emotions he was feeling as a citizen of India.

Sonal Pandya

Ram Subramanian, the founder and director of Handloom Picture Company, held an enlightening conversation about the power of films to send across a message at the 9th Jagran Film Festival on 29 September 2018.

The successful ad-filmmaker has created memorable and quirky videos for brands like OLX, Myntra, Bajaj, Dabur and many others. In his talk as part of the 'Cinema as Sellers' section at the festival, he demonstrated the power of advertising when used as activism. According to Subramanian, he created these important videos, under Voice of Ram, hoping to reach out to the powers as a way of “channelling his anger into films”.

He made his first video, Mute, in 2014 hoping to inspire others to get out there and vote. The video went viral on Facebook and was being shared across platforms, including the political parties. Friends called in to say that they were inspired to vote.

“When people feel like you, they are like you at that point of time,” he stated of the power of emotion. Ram followed up Mute with Unmute which was a direct message to the then-newly elected prime minister of India, Narendra Modi.

“Cinema is an underrated form of art and I’m very possessive of this craft,” he said, noting that this was one of the few times that someone from advertising was invited to speak at a cinema festival. “It’s disrespected at many levels. It’s the most commercial form of filmmaking as we have to sell products.”

The challenge lies in maintaining the audience’s interest throughout and afterwards doing exactly what the seller wants them to do. In India alone, one second of ad film is more expensive than one second of a Hindi film, which is much cheaper. In fact, says Subramanian, he has worked on ad films that have the budget of a single Hindi film. Many filmmakers in the Hindi film industry come from an advertising background.

Today, online videos are an important tool and it’s essential to know how to use them. He continued with a third video in his series, Pause, in which he reached out to our neighbouring country, Pakistan.

“All these films are me, this is what I wanted to tell the world," Subramanian told the gathered audience at the festival. “I spoke through an actor [Sumit Thakur].”

He got incredible feedback from Pause and that led to ongoing dialogue between both countries. Furthermore, for the critics who said he didn’t know enough to talk about peace between India and Pakistan, he made one more powerful video featuring Gurmehar Kaur.

Later, he created videos for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and instigated the idea of holding signs for peace on social media (#ProfilesForPeace). Nowadays, this is a common format on social media. Subramanian also moved against the idea of ‘armchair activism’ online and spoke on how to have more of a voice daily as citizens.

Finally, the ad filmmaker spoke about how he transitioned from using an actor to be his voice, to him coming in front of the camera to speak his voice and become 'Voice of Ram'.

This is the video that prompted actor Abhay Deol to speak up against artistes promoting fairness creams in advertising.

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Jagran Film Festival