"It is impossible for any Indian alive in the latter years of the last millennium not to have been touched by a creation of Kamlesh Pandey's" writes adman Ajay Gahlaut.
On February 10, 1996 Deep Blue, a computer program beat the mercurial Grandmaster and then World Champion Gary Kasparov in a game of chess. This was the first time a computer had beaten a human under tournament conditions. Such has been the rise of the machines since then that November 25, 2005 was the last time a human beat a computer at chess.
Cars are already driving themselves with humans asleep at the wheel. Robots will perform surgeries on people in the not too distant future. And, sadly enough for my industry, McCann Japan invented an Artificially Intelligent Creative Director in 2017. The AICD- (beta) as it was called, created a TV ad that was indistinguishable from any ad thought up by human creative directors. Interestingly, the program was developed by a planner, motivated no doubt by the vexing tantrums of his creative colleagues.
It seems pretty certain that all advertising creatives are sooner or later destined to be part of the great dust heaps of history. Before the inevitable occurs, I thought it would be good to recall and celebrate some of the heroes of our profession. And thankfully there are many of those.
None more interesting and talented, though, than the enigmatic genius Kamlesh Pandey.
I first heard of Kamlesh Pandey from my friend and ex-boss Harshad Sharma. Harshad, a brilliant man himself, was and is a total acolyte of Pandeys. Nearly three decades since he last worked with his idol, his eyes still light up while talking about him. "What do you say about a man," gushes Harshad, "who came to Mumbai from Ballia at the age of 22 not knowing a word of English and won English Copywriter of the Year at the age of 27!" Only a certified genius could do that.
Indeed Pandey seems blessed with an almost paranormal ability for communication. Apart from advertising he has written over forty feature films, most of them blockbusters. Jalwa, Tezaab, Chaalbaaz, Dil, Saudagar, Khalnayak, the list goes on and on. Each one of them a classic of Indian cinema. His films have defined a generation and some of his film dialogues are engraved in the collective memory of the nation. My favourite one was delivered with heartfelt gusto by the superstar Rajinikanth in the film Chaalbaaz: Aaj Sunday hai. Din mein daru peene ka day hai. This is more than a filmi dialogue. It is a philosophy to live by.
It is impossible for any Indian alive in the latter years of the last millennium not to have been touched by a creation of Kamlesh Pandeys. If it wasnt an ad or a movie it would have been a television program. Who from our generation can forget Karamchand, the sloppy, carrot loving detective played to perfection by the versatile Pankaj Kapoor? Apart from his own writing Pandey shaped the viewing habits of the entire country as head of programming of Zee TV in the early nineties. Shows that were developed under his watch include Tara, Campus, Banegi Apni Baat, Close Up Antakshari, Philips Top Ten (which launched advertisings very own Sonal Dabral as the extremely entertaining anchor of the show) and the much maligned, iconic, mega-hit and oft-imitated Zee Horror Show.
For all the influence and success he has had through his writings in cinema and television, my primary interest lies in Kamlesh Pandeys advertising work and career. A man with a monk-like discipline and devotion to his craft, Pandey was apparently completely oblivious of hierarchies and designations. While being the head of creative at Rediffusion in the 80s he used to refer to himself as a copywriter. "The only way you knew Kamlesh was in office," says Harshad, "is when his cabin door was closed. He would write all day and only come out in the evening to chat for ten minutes with colleagues and then leave for home." Harshad inherited his cabin when he finally quit Rediffusion in 1992. When he came back a few days later to collect his stuff, Harshad helped him clean out the desk. While handing Pandey some papers, Harshad found a sheet of paper with a handwritten script that was splattered with blood. When he asked Pandey about the blood he chuckled and said, "Oh I got a paper cut while working on the script but got so absorbed in writing that I forgot to tend to it."
Such single-minded devotion led to the creation of several iconic campaigns for Colgate, Maruti, BPL, Telco, Union Carbide and countless others. He created memorable campaigns for them all. If youre a certain age youll never forget his jingle: Kholo dabao, brush pe lagao, Colgate ka chhota packet, Colgate ka chhota packet!
Another poetic baseline for Uptron TV said Black and White mein bolte rang. And one that I have a close personal association with is his immortal line for a brand of cigarettes, Red and White peene walon ki baat hi Kucch aur hai. I worked on the brand many years later and the client asked me to write an alternative to it. The brief, the client said, remains the same. More than a week and three hundred odd baselines later I realised that there is no simpler, better and more memorable expression than the one Kamlesh Pandey had come up with two and a half decades back.
Pandey was above all an advertising pioneer. He came up with insights before most ad professionals knew the meaning or significance of the word. It is said that he was the first in India to come up with a set of four. serialised TV commercials with the same characters. A creative strategy that is taken for granted today. But my favourite Kamlesh Pandey story and one that demonstrates his unique and anachronistic advertising genius is about a campaign that he did for Bush TVs sometime in the 1980s.
Legend has it that the Bush TV client came to Rediffusion with an urgent problem. Despite great advertising the sales of Bush TVs were much lower than expected in Bombay city. And Bombay was a very important market. TVs were a very high ticket item in those days and were mostly sold in metros. The client had almost completely exhausted his advertising budget and there was very little money left over. Desperate to meet targets, the client met Pandey and said, "Kamlesh Ji Kucch kijiye, bahut pareshaani hai."
Kamlesh Pandeys solution reveals the mind of a man far ahead of his time. And a completely lateral thinker. He got the client to hire scores of black and yellow taxis in Bombay for a week. He then got empty Bush TV cartons strapped on the roof carriers of the taxicabs. The cabbies were instructed to drive all over Bombay from dawn to dusk. By the end of the week everyone in Bombay had seen these cabs driving around the city with ostensibly a Bush TV strapped on its roof. Kamlesh Pandey had a finger on the pulse of the Indian consumer. He understood that the dominant emotion the consumer felt while purchasing an expensive item like a television was fear. He allayed that fear by creating the reassuring. illusion that many people were buying Bush TVs in Bombay city. So it must be good. Apparently sales shot up dramatically after this campaign. Which apparently was the first activation in the history of Indian advertising.
It is a pity that Kamlesh Pandey is not as spoken of, remembered and celebrated as his talent and contributions to the profession demand.
But perhaps its still not too late. Kamlesh Ji should just be around 70. Age has done nothing to dull his brilliance.
Perhaps we should all request him to come out of retirement. and help us regain the stature our profession once had.
After all advertising could always do with one more genius.
See more here:
- Do showrunners have an obligation to historic accuracy? - CTech - November 29th, 2020
- 10 Best Chess Movies, Ranked (According To IMDb) | ScreenRant - Screen Rant - November 29th, 2020
- Solution of the endgame riddle: Was Fischer's 22.Nxd7 winning? - Chessbase News - November 27th, 2020
- Meet the Fritztrainer - Chris Ward - Chessbase News - November 26th, 2020
- When a retreat is the best way to advance - Chessbase News - November 25th, 2020
- Ex-chess champ Garry Kasparov worries over 'enfeebled Congress', says 'extremist wings' will help Donald Trump - MEAWW - November 24th, 2020
- Who Was The First Female Grandmaster? - Chess.com - November 24th, 2020
- Calm and powerful - Chessbase News - November 21st, 2020
- On Chess: Mizzou's Chess Team Proves Capable Of Winning Even In A Virtual Space - KBIA - November 21st, 2020
- Two Chess Grandmasters Weigh in on "The Queen's Gambit" | Amanpour and Company - pbssocal.org - November 18th, 2020
- Vidit plays the Skilling Open... and Banter Blitz - chess24 - November 16th, 2020
- So wins 4th match in Speed Championship The Manila Times - The Manila Times - November 12th, 2020
- Should Open Tournaments Be Included In World Chess Championship Cycle? - Chess.com - November 11th, 2020
- 50th anniversary of the Interzonal in Palma de Mallorca - Chessbase News - November 11th, 2020
- Iran's Chess On The Verge Of International Ban - Iran News By Radio Farda - November 11th, 2020
- Take it Outside: Fresh Air Chess in the Big City - uschess.org - November 11th, 2020
- Iran warned continued boycott of matches against Israelis will lead to FIDE ban - Insidethegames.biz - November 11th, 2020
- Vera Menchik: The Real-life Beth Harmon - Chess.com - November 11th, 2020
- 35 years ago: Kasparov becomes youngest World Champion in the history of chess - Chessbase News - November 11th, 2020
- Jeffery Xiong Wins Nov. 3 Titled Tuesday - Chess.com - November 5th, 2020
- I'm a Grandmaster and The Queen's Gambit has all the right moves - Sydney Morning Herald - November 3rd, 2020
- The real lives that inspired the O Gambito da Rainha prodigy re:Jerusalem - re:Jerusalem - November 3rd, 2020
- Just the Rules: Rulebook U-Turns | US Chess.org - uschess.org - November 3rd, 2020
- Whanganui weekend: 5 things to do - New Zealand Herald - November 3rd, 2020
- This week on "Sunday Morning" (November 1) - CBS News - November 1st, 2020
- This week on "Sunday Morning" (November 1) - msnNOW - October 31st, 2020
- U.S. Championship: So Still Leading the Way - Chess.com - October 30th, 2020
- So Tallies Five Straight Wins in U.S. Championship; Robson, Xiong Still Chase - uschess.org - October 29th, 2020
- U.S. Women's Championship: Krush tops the standings - Chessbase News - October 28th, 2020
- Irina Krush wins her 8th U.S. women's title - Chessbase News - October 28th, 2020
- Your chance to play two grandmasters on chess24 - chess24 - October 24th, 2020
- Chess, cricket, chickens and Nostradamus - TheArticle - October 24th, 2020
- Navara on the Candidates & reluctantly playing in Spain - chess24 - October 24th, 2020
- The memorable 4th edition of the Capablanca Memorial in 1965 - Chessbase News - October 24th, 2020
- Checks and counter checks - Chessbase News - October 24th, 2020
- Asian online team chess: India men and women enter semifinals - The Indian Express - October 24th, 2020
- Thomas Brodie-Sangster on Game Of Thrones final season: I havent met anyone that likes it - NME - October 24th, 2020
- On Chess: 18th And Olive: Historical Site Of The First World Chess Championship - St. Louis Public Radio - October 23rd, 2020
- Thomas Brodie-Sangster: Macca didnt like that John Lennon was taller in Nowhere Boy' - NME.com - October 23rd, 2020
- Pandemic Has Caused 'Cheating Crisis' in Chess - Newser - October 23rd, 2020
- The Queens Gambit Review: A Winning Chess Thriller - Wall Street Journal - October 23rd, 2020
- Tabada wins National Executive Chess Online tilt - manilastandard.net - October 23rd, 2020
- Anya Taylor-Joy Infiltrates the Boys Club of Chess in The Queens Gambit - Den of Geek - October 21st, 2020
- Chess, The Musical Finally Opens In Moscow - Chess.com - October 21st, 2020
- CBM 197: Magnus and his rivals - Chessbase News - October 19th, 2020
- The Best Shows and Movies to Watch This Week: The Vow Finale, Borat Sequel - Up News Info - October 19th, 2020
- Lighting lamps to guide physics on its way - The Hindu - October 19th, 2020
- 2020: A Year of Success for Oxford Chess - Cherwell Online - October 19th, 2020
- Hennessy Presents "Make Your Move" Featuring RZA And GZA Of Wu-Tang And Maurice Ashley - Chess.com - October 9th, 2020
- Dr C K Rajkumar: The Velvette man who pioneered the sachet revolution - Deccan Herald - October 9th, 2020
- 2020 Pacific Coast Open: Better Late Than Never! | US Chess.org - uschess.org - October 9th, 2020
- Asian Online Chess: India start favourites in both mens and womens events - The Indian Express - October 9th, 2020
- Chess vs. checkers: The brilliance behind Justin Houston's approach to the pass rush - The Indianapolis Star - October 9th, 2020
- How man and machine can work together in the age of AI - The European Sting - October 9th, 2020
- A trout in the milk? - Spectator.co.uk - October 8th, 2020
- 'Young and the Restless' Spoilers: Chelsea Considers Dumping Adam Will She Bail on 'Chadam'? - Soap Dirt - October 8th, 2020
- October Cover Stories with Chess Life: GM Maurice Ashley - uschess.org - October 7th, 2020
- Teen star stands out in Wilfredo Neri Memorial chess tiff - Philippine Star - October 7th, 2020
- Netflix in October: All the new shows and movies coming out Film Daily - Film Daily - October 7th, 2020
- Carlsen and So tie in Chess 9LX tournament - Stabroek News - October 5th, 2020
- King in the middle (2) - Chessbase News - October 3rd, 2020
- Its more natural for men to pick chess as an interest or women to pick arranging flowers - Mint - October 3rd, 2020
- Cloud9 Signs Chess Grandmaster Andrew 'penguingm1' Tang The Esports Observerhome of essential esports business news and insights - TEO - The Esports... - October 3rd, 2020
- The world's our lobster - TheArticle - October 3rd, 2020
- Trump joked while people suffered with Covid. Well, is now the time to stop? - The Guardian - October 3rd, 2020
- How to get more productive? Try this meditation app - Economic Times - October 1st, 2020
- How SPB helped a teenage Viswanathan Anand for a national championship - The News Minute - October 1st, 2020
- Bhavik Rathod ventures out with edtech platform Kyt - ETtech.com - October 1st, 2020
- Required Reading: The Secrets To Pro's Success MTG Arena Zone - MTG Arena Zone - September 30th, 2020
- Spotted on a Safari - The New York Times - September 30th, 2020
- Celebrities that stream Among Us TalkEsport - TalkEsport - September 29th, 2020
- Alexander Donchenko: The importance of working hard at the board - Chessbase News - September 28th, 2020
- AI in IT service and support: The promise approaches reality - TechBeacon - September 28th, 2020
- The Queen's Gambit Netflix release date, cast, trailer, plot: When is the series out? - Daily Express - September 28th, 2020
- 'The Queen's Gambit' Trailer: Anya Taylor-Joy Is A Chess-Prodigy Carving Her Place In A Man's World - Mashable India - September 26th, 2020
- Who are the 50 Greatest Chess Players of All Time? - chess24 - September 24th, 2020
- So, Carlsen Tie in Saint Louis Speed Event; Nakamura Third - uschess.org - September 24th, 2020
- Essential strategies to win every game in Auto Brawl Chess: Battle Royale - Pocket Gamer - September 24th, 2020
- Sheikh Hasina International Online Chess begins Thursday - United News of Bangladesh - September 24th, 2020
- Chess players in war of words Zambia - diggers.news - September 22nd, 2020