He gave us lines like ‘Thanda matlab Coca-Cola’, made us cry with songs like Main Kabhi Batlata Nahin, and inspired us with the story of the flying Sikh in the film Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. Prasoon Joshi, adman, lyricist, poet, scriptwriter and singer, seems to excel at everything he does.
The meal Prasoon and I shared at the Presidential Suite of The Oberoi Gurgaon – steamed bekti with mustard, champagne and peach sorbet and pan-seared river sole all from the hotel’s coastal cuisine restaurant, Amaranta – was excellent. It only made our conversation easier.
Excerpts from the interview
You’re an advertising legend, a writer, a dialogue writer, a poet and a lyricist. How does it all work out?
There is a hierarchy in my head. Clearly my primary job is to run my company, with the brands I am entrusted with, the people I’m responsible for – my clients. But my responsibility again is to stay excited about life. I owe it to myself not to do things because there is a majboori to do it. So I listen to myself and do things I love to do.
Poetry is what I love. Poetry is my confidante, I lean on it for strength in life. I also lean on music for that. Scriptwriting is to widen my horizons. I started doing it from Rang De Basanti – wrote the dialogues for it, then Delhi-6 and now Bhaag Milkha Bhaag.
Does making ads invariably lead to making films?
Advertising can satisfy you in itself, but I feel I can express myself in more than one medium. In advertising, you are using your talent to say what the brand wants you to say, what you should say in the voice of the brand. When you are writing poetry, you are expressing purely yourself. How you use your skills to enhance something else is advertising. How you express yourself is poetry.
Will you produce or direct a movie some day?
I might produce a movie or join hands with someone. It will have to be project-based, as my time is limited. I want to do projects that drive me. I don’t want to do projects that I have to drive.
When people ask how I find the time to do so many things, I say, “When you are in love, no matter how busy you are, you find time to meet. If you love something, time will follow. When you don’t have time – that’s when you are bored”.
I want to be engaged in life in a way that I don’t have to make an effort to be engaged. When I’m doing something, I forget myself completely. It’s like meditation.
Films like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and now
have been quite successful. What do you think of sports biopics?
Writing Bhaag Milkha Bhaag was about writing a human story. I recorded everything Milkha Singh told me. When I went to the washroom, he’d tell his family, “Yeh aadmi personal sawal bar bar kyon karta hai?”
Thankfully, he was fine with the fictional scenes. His love affairs, Sonam Kapoor’s character, the swimmer scene were all more out of imagination than reality. More than sports, it’s the human emotion that works. That’s why, even after coming fourth, Milkha touches your heart.
Also read:"Social media is full of cowards," says Sonam Kapoor
Where did you look for inspiration while creating the story?
Writing about Partition, I was influenced by Manto. Since I’m from Uttarakhand, I had no family experience of the Partition. But Manto made it prominent for me. Milkha’s sister’s episode, when they are coming from Pakistan to India, reflects Manto.
But influence also happens subconsciously.
While I was in college, I realised that I had not read literature in other languages, so I started reading a lot. I also started following rock music. I had files on almost all musicians and the lyrics and poetry they used. I was very inspired by the poetry, that rebellious writing appealed to me. I was a singer too, but I would always try to see what the song was trying to communicate; the expression behind it.
Also read: Why it's trendy to read Manto again
How would you define your association with Aamir Khan? You are doing a series of social ads with him.
Aamir inspires me, I have learnt a lot from him. Ours has been a long association, from advertising to films. He asked me to write the dialogues for Rang De Basanti. We kept working together, Rang De Basanti, Fanaa, Taare Zameen Par, Ghajini and now Satyamev Jayate, whose title song is very close to me. I have done social campaigns with him too.
There is nobody like Aamir in the industry. We simplify him too much when we say he is a perfectionist. He is a really good human being, imaandaar to the core. You will not find Aamir taking the short cut. He pushes you, challenges you. He is not manipulative.
If he does an ad or a film, he does it with full honesty and attention. He is special, not because he is a star. He doesn’t let hierarchy bother him. And that’s a rare quality.
Follow @VeenuSingh12 on Twitter
From HT Brunch, September 28
Follow us on twitter.com/HTBrunch
Connect with us on facebook.com/hindustantimesbrunch