Telling a story in a single frame is the most difficult part: Aadeeb Shaikh
If you are Punjabi film buff, there is every chance that you have noticed the name ‘Thirsty Fish’ on the poster of almost every Punjabi film. One of the leading players in the creative and publicity design of Punjabi films, Thirsty Fish has come a long way ever since they did their first film in 2009. We chat with Aadeeb Shaikh, the man at the helm of the studio, to know more about their journey so far.
You initially studied science, have a masters in advertising, worked as a copywriter and were also the National Creative Consultant of a radio company. How and when did you get inclined towards designing?
Yes, it has surely been a mad journey. With advertising, I majored with copywriting, but since I started off in the film poster design industry, my job was cut-out. There was hardly anything to write on a poster, except for some taglines here and there. With so much spare time on my hands, I had to do something. I couldn’t sit idle in the studio. So one day, I picked up the brush and then there was no looking back.
Tera Mera Ki Rishta in 2009 was your first punjabi film. Was it is easy to bag your first film? How has the journey been every since?
I was lucky to get my first break. I just happened to meet my friend Manish More (a renowned film editor), who was the editor for Tera Mera Ki Rishta. He introduced me to director Navaniat Singh. We clicked creatively, and all thanks to the director, for the faith he bestowed on us, we bagged our first film.
Your list of projects is quite varied; it comprises of both high and low budget films, meaningful and commercial cinema. What is the criteria to zero in on any project?
Our criteria is very simple – Always strive to do something new, something interesting. Frankly, this is the very spirit that makes us toil in the studio. A film that says something always makes our list. Budget is not really a concern, as far as we enjoy every bit of what we do. We’ve even lost many films because our ideas were not edible. (winks)
Budget is not really a concern, as far as we enjoy every bit of what we do
How many people do you have at Thirsty Fish and how are their roles distributed?
We have a small but robust team comprising of four designers and two photographers. Sachin Lokhande, Atul Tarkar & myself make the designing team, whereas Amar Yadav and Lovely Hundal handle photography. We have now also ventured into in-film branding and other brand associations. I think what is more important is the kind of people you work with, and not how many people you work with.
From the initiation of an idea to the final poster, what is the designing process that you’ll follow?
The process is quite simple, yet very twisted. We start off with the basic concept of the film and the narration from the director/producer. We then scratch our heads open on how to conceptualize the entire poster campaign. Other agencies start off by making dummy posters. This process leads to many posters being “inspired”. We beg to differ with this process, we start off with reference ideas and not actual poster designs.
We start off with reference ideas and not actual poster designs
Where do you draw inspiration for your designs. Is it restricted to just the brief of the movie or do you go beyond it?
The brief stands as the only guideline of our poster campaign. The most difficult part of designing a poster is to tell the entire story in a single frame. We have almost two to three seconds to engage our audience. If it doesn’t click in that time, it will not click at all. This very challenge propels us in a constant pursuit of finding new ideas and breaking every rule in the book.
What kind of requirements do you get from most Punjabi filmmakers? Do they expect the designs to get viewers thinking?
The Punjabi industry has evolved with time. Today’s filmmakers are more prepared to experiment. A poster has become more like an advertisement for the film. It has to catch the eye… break the crowd… stand alone… and make an impact. Directors actually encourage us to think out-of-the-box. They now know how important posters and promos are to get audiences to the theatres.
What is the scope for publicity design in the Punjabi film industry? Is this field lucrative and are designers and their inputs taken seriously?
As more and more Punjabi films are being made, the industry is growing every year. Forget poster designing, there is huge scope in every aspect of filmmaking. The director is always the captain of the ship. His word is the last word on the film. And it is our duty to convince him with our ideas.
Is there anything you wish to change when it comes to how things are handled here?
Nothing is perfect in this world. The only thing that really bothers me is the tag of ‘regional cinema’, which is looked down upon even today. But in these changing times, the industry has evolved beautifully and holds a commanding presence of maturity and respect.
The only thing that really bothers me is the tag of ‘regional cinema’, which is looked down upon even today
Name any Punjabi film and your company is the publicity designer for it, making you’ll the leading player in the creative design industry. What do you think has worked in your favour?
As mentioned earlier, I think the only thing that does work in our favour is our search for ‘something new’ & ‘something different’. It is this mad spirit that we chase within us and hope to continue chasing it till the end of time or the end of us.
You have also produced a few short films. And I’ve also read that Thirsty Fish is slowly transforming into a complete film production company. Could you throw some light on your future plans?
Yes, we are trying to make our way through the film making/production business. Our days, and sometimes even nights, are completely immersed in making posters. This makes it very difficult for us to scratch out time for other things. But, it surely is a thing in process and we are getting there. There is something very interesting coming up. We are very excited to see 2017 unfold.