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We’ll admit we weren’t the shiniest or the happiest people waking up at 6 am on a Saturday. BUT almost everyone made it almost on time and by 7:45 we were on our way to Basic Halli. By then, the excitement over experiencing the great outdoors had kicked in strong. A quick breakfast stop 15 minutes into the journey definitely helped to lift spirits.

Some of our macho men decided to bike their way over – quickly learning that their navigation skills weren’t as tuned as their fancy Bullets.  (Let’s take a moment to give a quick shout out to the awesomeness of Google Maps).

About two hours later we reached our weekend getaway spot, and decided to get acclimatized to the wilderness with some chilled beers. A few of us attempted cycling – but the rocky slopes were no match for us urban folk.  They also told us to be watchful of snakes, mad elephants, foxes, and a whole bunch of other animals that might be prowling the forests – but fortunately we didn’t encounter any creatures other than each other.

Once the bikers arrived, it was game-on. The men transformed into boys – and endured the blistering sun for a loud and fun game of cricket. They even threw in a token second game that included the ladies! Quite exhausted from the match, we shoveled a delicious lunch down our throats, and prepared ourselves for Kartik’s presentation.

The presentation seemed shorter than it was – possibly the best sign of a good one! It was a sweet reminder about why we were chosen, what it takes to be Happy and why we have to keep at it. In fact, the talk was so well timed that it ended right when the coffee and chilli bajjis arrived!

And what a treat for testosterone followed. Air rifles and cans hung on a rope.  The boys did good, but we’re hanging with Mother Nature, and she’s not going to let the girls down. The ladies shone with a better strike rate than their male counterparts.

Shooting cans might have been a guy’s idea of fun, but shooting themselves with guns (not in the head; and with a camera) was way more fun for the girls!

“But it’s not even 6:45!!” exclaimed Vigya – but it was too late, the party was already on! The professional barbecuers arrived shortly with gear and meat.  A BBQ, campfire and a party in the middle of nowhere – you couldn’t help but let loose.

We must not leave out the effective team-building game by Venky – “Bitches Bitches”. More on that some other time.

Around 3 am, they said we were too wild for the wilderness, and apparently Bangalore cops will find you no matter where you are, so we retreated to our pitch-dark tents with torches. The torches at some point doubled as flickering club laser lights. It really was back to the basics.

The last activity was saved for the morning after – rafting on a secluded lake. Transported like cattle in the back of a tempo truck, trying to be quiet as we drove through narrow village roads. The view by the lake was absolutely stunning – until our boys decided to take on rafting. Using sticks for oars, they floated around in circles, while the rest of us stood around yelling obscenities at them.

A quick lunch later, it was time to pack up and head back to civilization.

A short trip that lasted barely two days felt like half a week.  It was one giant family vacation minus all the yelling and fighting!  Love you Happy creatures!  : )’

HAPPY ON A HIGH

‘twas the season to be jolly, and boy were we jolly! At Happy, we welcome any reason (read : excuse) to make merry, but this month threw some legit occasions our way.

First we all said hi-hello to Pallavi, who was hired to make Bombay a happy place.  And because Rebecca Black very wisely crooned ‘we gotta get down on Friday’ the entire lot of us trooped over to High Note.

Kartik and Carl’s birthday came soon after. Believing that we could pull off a surprise party, we plotted and planned.  Party hats, multicolored twinkle lights and a CLOWN later, it was easily the most bizarre terrace session at Happy.

Despite lingering hangovers, two days later our bar reopened for the Halloween-themed Christmas party to celebrate the last day of the year.  After much dancing, many photo-ops and empty bottles, Happy finally shut shop for a week – to recoup and be back to do it all over again!

Whenever a campaign becomes a success story, one tends to look back and wonder ‘how the hell did we pull that off?’. That is exactly the question that lingered a few weeks after the films for flipkart.com’s latest campaign were done. Well, here’s a low-down on how the ‘No kidding, no worries’ campaign came about.

One fine, breezy morning, a brief for a campaign on flipkart.com came to us. It was fairly simple – address the fears of shopping online. Now we could easily do a testimonial campaign. Shoot it in a slick fashion, have good production values. But most of us here have an appetite for bigger things (food and alcohol consumption included). So after tooling and toying with a few ideas, a very basic thing struck us. Nobody invests trusts like children do. And we could also connect the fears of shopping by saying shopping with flipkart.com is as easy as child’s play.

A bulb on our heads was instantly switched on – shining bright (Sadly for Bangalore Electricity Company, the bulb wasn’t wired). We had something there! And yeah, while we are going crazy, might as well push the limits and see how adult voices go with kids in adult situations discussing shopping in a casual manner. ‘Hmmm…interesting’, Praveen Das agreed while Kartik Iyer knew we nailed it.

Then started the process of writing scripts. So we had kids, in adult situations and in adult voices. What else can we do? End it with a joke that connects back to kids. Dammit! We are going nuts here. ‘Hmmmm…interesting’ Praveen Das agreed again while Kartik Iyer almost danced in his chair.

Many scripts were presented to the client before all of us agreed that every service benefit deserved a film each. And so after about 50 scripts we finalised on 4. The client was pretty excited too. Now these films could either be a grand success or could fall flat on the face. There couldn’t be any other reaction. Hence, research.

In a week’s time we had rough storyboards in place, edited to a rough track and in-house voice-overs. Groups of people graced the panel and agreed to give their ‘valuable’ feedback. A call came on a Sunday evening as some of us sat with the Monk sipping from the glass of peace worrying whether it was half-full or half-empty (we should have worried more about the bottle). Verdict was out – it works! To be honest, it wasn’t that easy because when you ask people for their opinions, they don’t care if they are worth two dollars or two cents. But they APPROVED.

Ayappa was the strong contender to direct these films, given that he is also quite a character in himself and could bring some interesting touches. The phone rang almost the very next nano-second after we sent the scripts to him. (I personally think he was jumping in his seat though he did a very good job of camouflaging it. Ayap-we will talk about this over beers). He said he was ‘looking forward’ to working on this campaign. We politely agreed that we thought he would ‘do a good job’ too.

It took a couple of weeks for the production crew to get things in place. The right cast, the right DOP, the right art director for the miniature sets…it was elementary to have the best possible crew. Footcandles Films did a phenomenal job of this. One of the most important cogs was Shaun, the guy responsible for organising workshops with the kids to get the best out of them on the sets. He tilled and toiled, patiently teaching the kids the reactions required for the films. The kids seemed to love him too, what with his candy supplying ways, playing innovative versions of police-thief, asking them to shout as loud as they could when they were a little bored (single girls reading this…Shaun – good prospect).

Obviously everyone was excited about the shoot. Once the Pre-production meeting (PPM) was over, all we could think about was the shoot and how the kids are going to turn out. ‘Can they pull it off?’ ‘Will it look cute?’ ‘Will it look stunning?’ ‘Will the kids’ actions match the adult voice-overs?’ ‘Will we go drinking every night when we were in Mumbai?’. Ok, the last one is a secret…forget you ever read it. But basically, these were some of the hundreds of important questions that were running like Usain Bolt dashing for the world record in 100 mts. sprint.

Cut to: shoot.

Day 1 starts on a very interesting note. We take a hundred hours before get the first take. But that’s ok, we were just warming up. By lunch we had one shot canned. Kids and the sets were looking mind-blowing (refer pics below). We couldn’t stop gushing about it. We looked like children who were granted a lifetime free supply of chocolate. Yes, Kartik, you too J.

So anyway, the Cafe film was the first. And the kids nailed it after they warmed up. We were also looking at some spontaneous reactions we could add to the script. ‘Keeda’ as they call it in this industry. And that is exactly how the now-famous last line ‘That’s a classic!’ came about. A few options and safety shots later we wound up by 7 in the evening. It’s Mumbai and we were on a shoot schedule. What do you think we did that evening? Yes, that’s what.

Day 2 had parlour film in the schedule. Boy, were the girls looking cute! The pink set matched the pink robes of the girls and so did the pink hair dryer-things (anyone knows what they are called?). Slowly the girls soon get in to character. Every time the camera rolled, they would forget everything else but their characters. Just like the previous day, the children at the shoot sounded and looked older than most of us at the sets – thanks to our gushing.

Soon enough, the day went by and evening arrived. And we did what wanted to, needed to, and had to. Yes, again.

The office film was next. This was truly a wonder of a set! The unique thing about this set was that it had a roof! Now, miniature sets looked amazing, but the other three didn’t have roofs. So the true feel of the set came from this one. We looked like Goliaths! Most of the production guys were busy getting their jobs done while we were still getting over the entire experience (we still haven’t, actually!)

Of course there were several takes. But by now, we were enjoying every take. Every time the girl walked by in the film, the reaction of the guys near the coffee vending machine would make us erupt in to peals of laughter. Did the kids know what they were doing? Or were they playing along? I doubt we will get to know the answer to that. Maybe it’s best left unanswered.

The last and the final film of the series was the Couple film. Just like the other three films, this film was supposed to be a tickler. But somewhere while shooting, we had the idea of making it emotional. The joke remained in its place at the end, but the way it was rendered, we figured it might be quite cool to have very adult reactions – like a husband and wife in real life do. It was a gamble at the point of time. But something inside us told us that this was going to be very interesting.

The ‘wife’ nailed the expression in the last shot. All we needed was some ‘senti’ music from Sameer Uddin to pepper the film. And he did.

We saw the films a 150 times each during post-production. But somehow, no amount of viewing was sapping us. Some people who saw the films at that point were bowled over (at least that’s what they said). The most exciting part of the post-production was still waiting to happen. Voice-overs. In walks Chetan. We tell him there are 5 guys in the 4 films. He says, ‘I have done 500 till now’. We didn’t prod to find out if it was true. We didn’t have to, frankly. Because in the next couple hours Chetan changed his voice to 15 different ones and finalised on 5 distinct ones that were funny, cool, straight…basically, exactly what we wanted. Seeing the man in action, we were speechless (see the irony?). He calmly says, ‘Thanks for the opportunity. These are fun films. I had fun’ or something to that effect (you don’t exactly expect me to remember what he said verbatim, do you?).

That ended the work on films and in a matter of couple of weeks, the presentation happened and with some corrections and changes, the films went on air.

The day the films were to go on air, we were done chewing our neighbours’ nails as well (we momentarily contemplated taking a job at the local Salons for doing mani-pedi).

The response was phenomenal. The Cafe, Office and Parlour films went on air on consecutive days. After the Cafe film created some ripples on FB and on other social networking sites, it seemed as if people were waiting to see more – always a great thing for campaign. Suddenly there was a lot of buzz about the campaign. Dailies, advertising journals, bloggers…everyone seemed to be interested. The views on Youtube were increasing by the minute. And the best part was that we had another film waiting to go on air! Needless to say, the Couple film was very well-received too.

We had attempted something very different and unique. And it succeeded. Guess that only gives us a little more courage to do some great work without worrying too much about the result. At this juncture, we need to acknowledge the patience and faith that our client flipkart.com exhibited during the process. The entire team was involved in the process from the beginning to the end – which is tremendous, to say the least.

What makes the success of this campaign sweeter is that the process was as enjoyable as the result. Something that is rare these days. And this has recharged everyone’s batteries here at Happy. Watch out for more!

 

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For as long as Happy’s been.

That’s how long Sanaa’s been with us. One of Happy’s first hires and easily in the top among our favourites, she’s been indispensable so far — the brain behind many of our successful works on Diesel, and now she was leaving. Well life is tough, aye?

For those unfamiliar about Sanaa, she’s one for the asylums. An outwardly docile-looking Mallu girl, but actually quite a goofball. Explained best by the Old Monk wedding invite we created for her that went on to become quite a buzz online. An expert at making up new words, her most famous creation is there in the post’s title, and was our theme for her farewell party. Let’s bring on, Kuspi Studio.

What’s kuspi, you ask? What’s NOT kuspi, we say. It’s anything oddball, eccentric, or outside of what you might call normal. And for bringing this madness alive, a few of us set aside some time from their busy (really, really, busy — trust us) schedules to put together a photo studio from a bygone era. Alright, that’s contentious, as a few of these studios can still be found.

Our artists went to work creating the backdrop and the signboard for Kuspi Studio. Once the whole place was set up, it was ‘Lights! Action! Camera!’ time. No, seriously.

Studio lights were arranged for, the cameras were ready, and the action was courtest the Happy animals. Z-grade, ultra corny modelling assignment par excellence was on. Of course with drinks, munchies and music. It was yet another party in Happy. Maybe after learning from the experience of Rishi’s and Nitya’s farewell, this was a more, err, emotionally subdued exercise. Lesser hugs, lesser speeches, lesser drama. Well scratch that last one.

Drama was aplenty, as can be seen from the pictures below. From suited booted gentlemen, to lovers on bikes, wannabe body builders, and many others. Folks here happily donned various avatars. Goes without saying, that Sanaa was at the centre of all the mad stuff that was happening.

Like she has always been. The creator of KneeJ was leaving to create something equally naughty, and to be honest, she will be missed. Terribly. So as we ponder over life without Kuspi (take us for a nice Espresso someone), here’s extending a warm round of wishes to the coming soon Kuspi Jr, and our very own Kuspi Original.

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We love Sambhar

Being Happy’s first client, Lee has always been close to our hearts. And doing a brand campaign for them after close to two years is definitely something that got us excited.

The campaign was shot in the open expanse of the Sambhar Salt Flats in Rajasthan. Photographed by Saurabh Dua, the campaign took life on the minimalistic landscape of the salt lake.

Even the drive to Sambhar from Jaipur is an experience. 60 km from Jaipur, the early morning drive sets the pace for the rest of the shoot. This vast body of glacial saline stretches in length for 22.5 km, its width varying between around 3 and 11 km.
Someone once said, when you search for something great, you should first lose yourself. And that’s what we did before we found the shooting spot on the Sambhar Salt Flats before dawn.

We drove from Jaipur to Sambhar at 4 a.m. to the spot where we recced the previous morning. But as we got off the highway and entered the villages and the cast expanse of Sambhar, it was as dark as the inside of a cow. The headlights were the only source of light (even they went off for a brief period). Twenty minutes later, we realized we’d gone off course. Twenty more minutes later, we were approaching the shooting spot. The first lights of Sambhar welcomed us.

The first sight of the Salt Flats stays with you forever. Daylight is just breaking in. The land is as endless as the sky. The horizon has never seemed this far. And you realize you had forgotten to breathe for a second. As expanse engulfs you, sunlight fills the landscape. Everyone turns photographer. From the light boys to the creative director, everyone’s shooting the Samhar dawn. Mobile cameras, point and shoot cameras, personal DSLRs and Saurabh Dua’s Mamiya with a Phase I Digital Back.

Yes, the one that captured the visuals for our Lee Live with Passion Campaign.

As the sun came out and brightened up our shoot, it also heated up the Salt Flats as we shot next seven hours. For once, more water and juice flowed than alcohol. Dehydration was successfully fought. But not sunburns. We had a deep red Pradeep Ravindran at the end of the shoot. The model blushing when Saurabh cracked a joke was lost when compared to Pradeep’s deep blush.

The hot-air balloon added a different dimension to the open landscape. It made jeeps and humans go miniature. The only person feeling powerful beside the humungous balloon was the man firing the flame under it. He was having fun!

By 2 p.m. the shoot well done and over, we headed back to the hotel for lunch and reviewing the shots. Great experience and an unforgettable day. No memorabilia can better the infinite vastness of Sambhar we took back in our hearts. Makes you forget to breathe every time you think about it. We love Sambhar.

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This simple and sophisticated campaign captures precisely what Nirvana Films offer: the joy and tranquility that goes into producing great films.

Art: Pradeep Ravindran
Copy: Akash Anandh
Creative Director: Praveen Das
Photography: Tarun Khiwal
Post Production: Ramakrishna G
Client servicing: Neelima Kariappa, Nitya Kaligotla

Client: Nirvana Films

Agency: Happy Creative Services

Bidding farewell to someone has always been difficult here. And this time it was especially so, since one of the two who was leaving had been with us for more than 3 years and the other was someone who joined as a fresher and made an enormous impact with her work. Well, heavy hearts get balanced out if there is good food and some drinks on the house. The name is Happy, after all.

Rishi joined us three years back as an illustrator and had the unenviable record of having to work till 3 am on the very day he first visited Happy. Here we must clear our part and put out on record that this was the only time this had happened and we couldn’t help it. From then on, Rishi has done some fantastic work at Happy. His works on Nirvana had gotten us recognition, and his brilliant illustrations have been a mainstay of some of Happy’s most popular works.

NItya on the other hand had a relatively easier first day at work — the toughest part must have been to sing the introduction song. But she was flung into the thick of things before she could say, ‘what’s the way to this place again?’  But she took every challenge head on and proved to be indispensable in the client servicing side of things. Getting someone with the same verve and understanding is going to be a daunting task.

But things weren’t going to get embarrassingly heavy-hearted. At least not from the onset. So out came the barbecue, the heavy-bottomed glasses, and the bottles of beer and breezers. Some paneer for the vegetarians, and chicken and sheekh for the carnivores. The growl in the stomach as this is being written underlines how tasty the food was.

Aside from the food and the drinks, one other thing that was quickly becoming the flavour of the evening was speeches. Everyone got their Oscar moment, that too without time limits. A few speeches were short, and few others had to be pulled off from the stage. By the end of it, even the glasses expressed their sorrow by shattering themselves on the cold, hard floor.

As the drinking progressed deeper into the evening, things started turning a wee bit emotional. Alcohol might drown sorrow, but sorrows themselves tend to come floating up. A few tears were shed, and the duration of the hugs became longer and longer. But if you are leaving Happy, you always leave with a buck-toothed smile.

And it is this spirit that we wish, and are positive that Rishi and Nitya will take wherever they go. That being happy comes easy. It’s just about being yourself. We wish them all the best in their endeavours. But next time either of them comes to visit us, remember — the drink is on you.

 

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