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Ad land’s Young Guns: Taj Ali Naqvi, Isobar India

Taj Ali Naqvi, Director - Films & Production, Isobar India, aspires to make Isobar’s Films Division an indigenous addition to the global names in ad-film making by extending beyond the comfort zone bound by old-school methods. He currently reports to Anish Varghese, CCO

To enable the users a wholesome and immersive digital experience in the span of a film, Isobar’s Films Division explores popular formats to focus on developing digital solutions like - Interactive videos, 360-degree videos and brand integrations using latest technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR). The goal is not only to create content, but to own it as a domain. The agency has devised an innovative content-creation mechanism to provide its clients like Maruti Suzuki Motorsports ‘Live Digital Films’ throughout their on-ground events and rallies. 

Armed with 8 years of experience in direction and film making with a Master in design from NID, Ahmedabad, Naqvi has earlier worked with Yash Raj Films and Dibakar Bannerjee Productions. 

How did you get into the role you are serving?
After doing my M.Des in film making from NID, Ahmedabad, I knew it was time for a fresh start. The role offered to me at Isobar India was not only challenging and inspiring, it was also to raise the barand ensure that the creative and client partners’ expectations are more than satisfied with every move of ours. So, in my role at Isobar India, along with creatives, I had to produce outstanding campaign work that takes brands to the next level of trust with their consumers. 

With over 8 years of experience in the Production and Direction of Cinema, currently, I work with Isobar India as The Director/Creative Producer - Films & Production. I’ve been a part of the agency for over 2 years now. 

What particular skill set do you think you bring to the table?
Digital video has become the most efficient form of brand storytelling. I, with my team, have been working tirelessly to further expand the possibilities of this mammoth medium while reinventing the film making process altogether. Armed with the stellar ideas, artistic expertise and cutting-edge technology, our vision is sure to break new ground in the minds of our target audience. Personally, I am over-attached to my work and feel that could even be termed as a weakness. I can’t get detached when I get too involved. Even while sleeping, I remember that I’ve to think how different an execution of a film should be or how visually stunning a film could be. Having a direction background some time I think there are these endless possibilities of showing one single thing in a thousand ways, which is stunning.” 

How did Isobar come about?
I started working while I was still a student in the prestigious National Institute of Design, where I bagged my first assignment as an Art Director for a Gujarati feature film called ‘Kevi Rite Jaish’ and then as an Assistant Production Designer for a Bollywood film, ‘War Chhod Na Yaar’. Both these projects paved the way for me to get into the iconic Yash Raj Studios, where I worked alongside renowned filmmaker Dibakar Banarjee for the film ‘Byomkesh Bakshi’ as the Ist Production Designer and Arjun Rampal’s ‘Daddy’ feature film as the Ist Production Designer.

Further to this, I joined Little Anarchy Films as an Executive Director and Producer, where I was handling clients like Harley Davidson, Wills Lifestyle and Discovery Channel. It was there that I directed ‘Shit People Say: Sarojini Nagar Edition’ ft. Mallika Dua, which went viral and became immensely popular across digital platforms. Then I got an offer from Dish TV India to join them as a Creative Producer and look after their operations in India and Sri Lanka. It was quite a challenging opportunity.

In 2016, I joined Isobar India as the Senior Creative Producer & Director and was promoted to the Creative Head of Films. Now, I have been a part of some wonderful showcase-worthy work that we, at Team Isobar, have done for our clients like Reebok, Beera, Adidas, Fox Life, Colorbar, ICICI, Visa, Godrej, Wrangler, Royal Challengers, Mahindra, and Titan, amongst many others. I have bagged 3 Clio Awards for my work for clients like Bruises Can Be Good - Reebok (Clio Gold & Silver) and The Blind Faith Upgrade - Hotel Ramada (Clio Bronze). My work for Adidas – The #ItsOnYou Campaign and The Live Poster Installation for Nation Geographic have also been widely appreciated. 

Icons in this field you look up to and how they have influenced you and your work?
I aspire to produce slice-of-life films that can entertain the great Indian common man, who is stuck in the daily grind of a mundane lifecycle, and at the same time have an impact on the society for the greater good. I have a lot of reverence for Piyush Pandey, Prasoon Joshi, Dibakar Banerjee, R. Balki, Gauri Shindey and Neeraj Ghaywan, to name a few. Also, because of my love for Urdu, I admire Gulzar Saab a lot.

What are the five most productive things that you do in your everyday routine?
I believe that stories are everywhere, waiting to be told. And that excites me, fuelling my desire to interact with everything around me to carve out the slivers known as micro-moments. Music is my constant companion, triggering visuals on its own. It also makes me better at my immensely audio-visual craft of filmmaking.

I have played badminton at university level. I also possess a penchant for Cinematography. Impromptu travel has always been a source of inspiration for me, both as a person and a professional. An ardent food lover, I tend to prefer the delicious fare of Indian street food over other cuisines. Monotony is one thing that I genuinely despise. This phobia of being bored also drives me to experiment and explore newer avenues every passing day. I feel that happiness is often ignored as an actual goal. My life goal would be to spread joy in the world in whatever way possible, while remaining happy myself. 

Do you think a career in this field is a viable one in the long term?
There are no doubts about that. And the fact that I am here, we are here, is a proof of it. However, unlike any other field, this one is ever-evolving, so the learning never stops, but we as advertising professionals are quite good at adapting to the changes. The stakes are going up and so are the revenues. 

What does it take to succeed in a profession like this?
There is no single thing. You have to work hard. You have to learn to work smart. You have to be on your toes always. It’s not a usual 9-5 thing that runs on formulae. You have to crack new formulae every time that works for you, for your team and most of all – the client. But, I guess the key is to make it a bit fun and keeping it simple yet significant. 

What would be your advice to youngsters planning to enter this industry?
Stay focused. Stay humble. And that’s about it. A career in advertising can take you places, but it’s full of many alluring distractions as we all know. So, focus. And stay humble, because it’s a team sport. You are as good as your team, organisation, brands and clients. So, value it. 

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
My dream is to have my label in my name, but for the time being I want to have a very successful advertising career and keep on making films for a good reason. In the next five to six years, I want to be in a leadership role in an agency. My goal is to redefine brand storytelling with clever use of medium, be it film making, painting, sketching or printmaking. My first love would always be printed clothes and visualising the possibilities of how prints could change one’s identity, and in the same way my heart lies in film making.

Is there any organisation that you would like to work with in the future?
The plan is to make Isobar the place where everyone wants to work in the future. Apart from that, if I get a chance, I’d love to work with global agencies like Ogilvy & Mather, JWT and Wieden+Kennedy. All of these agencies share a glorious legacy and have done some exceptionally creative work in past that have inspired me as a child and now as an advertising professional.

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