Ad filmmaker Prakash Varma talks about the making of the Zoozoos, as Saraswathy Nagarajan listens

It was a challenge; we had to come up with 30 films in a month’s time

While the IPL matches break and make fortunes and careers, Zoozoos have bowled over viewers with their simple but catchy storylines. The Zoozoos? For those who came in late or rather tuned in late, the Zoozoos are characters created by Bangalore-based adman Prakash Varma’s production house Nirvana Films.

A master stroke by Prakash and his team, the Zoozoos, ghostly alien-like characters with huge bulbous heads and stick-like hands and legs, were created to highlight the multiple features of Vodafone’s value-added services.

Says Prakash, who directed the commercials: “It was a challenge; we had to come up with 30 films in a month’s time to utilise the platform of the IPL matches to advertise our client’s product. Time was a crucial factor. So we decided to come up with something totally new.”

It was then that Rajiv Rao, creative director, came up with the concept of the Zoozoos. Giving it the green signal, Prakash began sketching the characters while Rajiv got working on the remaining scripts. “We developed two kinds of characters. One comprised of the rounded ones that were eventually used while the others were more elongated. Rajiv came up with the name Zoozoos and that was it,” explains Prakash who went to great lengths to keep the entire project under wraps. “Only after the entire concept was developed did we even show it to our clients,” adds Prakash.

Rage in cyberworld

As soon as the storyboards were done, the team flew to Cape Town in South Africa where all the films were shot. The making of the characters have become the rage in cyberworld with photographs and detailed explanations of how the characters, played by real people, were made to look like animated characters. “Despite the tight schedule, we had to work a great deal on the costumes and the look, moves and expressions of the characters. For instance, the body suits had to be made of a material that did not show creases when the characters moved. Finally, we opted for a thicker material. Even the backdrops and the locations had to be worked on to give it the ‘live look’ we wanted.

“We have a great working relationship with Platypus and they have hired some of the best professionals in the industry, on this project. The 30 films were shot in 10 days by cinematographer Vicky Turpin,” says Prakash. He adds that the ad is on right on top of the list of the 10 best ads in the world in cyberworld.

Quite an achievement for the filmmaker who was “born and brought up in Alappuzha.” After his graduation from S.D. College, Alappuzha, his ambition to become a filmmaker took him to Mollywood where he worked as an assistant of Lohitadas and Viji Thampy. Eventually he joined the ad world as an assistant of Bangalore-based V.K. Prakash, ad filmmaker who has made a mark as a director (think ‘Moonamathroral’ and ‘Freaky Chakra’).

Prakash proved himself with the popular music video of Adnan Sami singing ‘Bheegi bheegi raaton mein....’ In 2001, Prakash and his wife, Sneha, set up their own production house called Nirvana in Bangalore.

Landmark ad films

He went on to make some landmark ad films; the first one that got noticed was their ad Wagon R ‘Feel At Home’ series for ad agency Saatchi. It was selected as the best campaign of the year in 2001.

His works include ads for Titan, Hyundai Santro, Chevrolet Optra, Frooty, Titian, Lee jeans and Ponds. Is a feature film in the pipeline? “Very much there,” he laughs. “But, as of now, it would be difficult to say when,” he adds. Watch this space.

It was a challenge; we had to come up with 30 films in a month’s time