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Mastering the art of Visual Storytelling – An inspiring masterclass with Bharatbala during FICCI FRAMES 2024

Bharatbala at FICCI FRAMES 2024

In 1996 after completing ten successful years in advertising, advertising guru Bharatbala’s khadi clad father spoke to him, “My son, in your advertising business you people create big ideas for products; you created emotion and win over the consumers. Why don’t you create a big idea for India? Why not create an idea of Big India that would bring fervor in young minds across the nation?”

These words by his father motivated Bharatbala, who self-funded and created the iconic Vande Mataram featuring A R Rehman. “I picked up the war cry ‘Vande Mataram’ used during my father’s childhood at  the time of  India’s freedom struggle and began working on it. The Vande Mataram video created in 1996 is still evergreen today and is still a craze among the present generation, and so it shall remain iconic for generations to come as it shows the soul of India, its terrain and people across the length and breadth of the great nation.” began Bharatbala with his masterclass with this example.

This Masterclass on Cinematography was conducted on the last day of FICCI FRAMES 2024 in Mumbai by Bharatbala Ganapathy, renowned ad-filmmaker, film director and screenwriter renowned for his innovative storytelling and breathtaking cinematography. With a keen eye for detail and a passion for visual storytelling, he has captivated audiences worldwide. He shared his insights and techniques, inspiring the aspiring filmmakers to harness the power of imagery and storytelling in their own work.

It was the one minute MRF tyres ad film in 1986 that made Bharatbala as the most sought after ad filmmaker. “Those were the years when Levis and Channel V were the in thing among the youth. Deeply moved by my father’s inspirational suggestion, I quit advertising in 1996 and decide to commit myself into creating Vande Mataram.”

“What was the brand? The Tri-colour and he flew to London and got the Royal Flag maker to make a huge flag of India and shot a thousand frame high speed shot of the flag as the ‘pack shot’ as used in advertising jargon. He wanted to use this shot as a beautiful sea of wave on the flag.”

The next thing was to convince his friend Rehman to do his first album and then rest is history. They shot on celluloid and filmed real people as they were, depicting their sense of pride and the feeling of belonging to us.

“In creativity never try to limit yourself, respect your instinct, pour your passion in your idea and what you believe. Business is sure to follow once you succeed in what you believed.”

In both versions of Vande Mataram (the first with Rehman and later with Lata Mangeshkar) Bharatbala took a conscious decision of roping two different British cinematographers as he wanted somebody who had no knowledge about the landscape of India and whether the person is from Bihar or Ladakh, absolutely having no idea about the imagery that he is going to film. Bharatbala wanted a DOP who has never seen colour…. vibrant like we have across India, and one who has never seen crowd.

“I zeroed down to a DOP from Iceland! Once he saw the crowd and colour, he would react to it patiently, passionately and in a beautiful sense. For the first version he used a 135 lens as I wanted the cinematographer to feel the art in framing every frame. I wanted poetry in every frame.”

Vande Mataram the album went to fetch several awards around the world. And it remain fresh, vibrant and inspiring among the youth of present generation.

“A creative professional should never think of any project or subject as boring or mundane. I would always tell my people to give me the most boring subject. It should be accepted as a challenge to push your creativity further. This kind of imagination should also be out of your comfort zone.”

“For me, filming India again and again is not a cliche, it’s not boring and one can always find new ways of presenting. Watch all my films and you would never feel that you are watching something ‘sarkari‘ or any government creation, as every frame is a piece of art. The film could be mediocre, cliche or a classic.”

With a visionary approach to filmmaking, Bharat Bala has left an indelible mark on the Indian cinema landscape, captivating audiences with his unique blend of artistry and storytelling prowess.


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