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Are you happy, Chennai?

Shonali Muthalaly
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Now it is Chennai’s turn to do its own version of the Pharrell Williams song

Cheery scenesThe making of the ‘Happy’ video
Cheery scenesThe making of the ‘Happy’ video

Pharrell Williams is happy. Bangalore is happy. And now Chennai is happy too.

When American singer-songwriter, rapper, record producer, musician and fashion designer (phew — talk about multi-hyphenated talent!) Williams released the ‘Happy Song’ in November 2013, critics called it cheerful, exuberant and jaunty. But no one expected it to have this kind of an effect — getting people dancing on the streets all over the world.

Over the past few months, cover videos are being posted on YouTube from across the globe, showing regular people dancing to the song in their respective cities. In Slovakia, it includes a bikini-clad girl beaming in front of snow-capped mountains. In Abu Dhabi a group of sheikhs pose in front of their gleaming limousines. In Madagascar the islanders of Sainte-Marie dance beside an aquamarine ocean.

And then, there’s Chennai. When Bangalore posted their ‘Happy’ video about three weeks ago it went viral, with people declaring that “this is possibly the happiest thing you’ll see today.” So Antony Jacson and his team decided to do the Chennai version of the video, which was released on Wednesday night. By Thursday afternoon, they had already garnered more than 4,000 views.

A 20-year-old aspiring ad filmmaker currently studying at Anna University, where he is doing an MSc in Electronic Media, Antony says he and his friends began working on the project after seeing the Bangalore video. Along with Aswin I, who did the editing and Jagadeesh SR, who was the cameraman, Antony began recruiting “friends and friends of friends” for the project.

“Just the ‘direction’ team needed five people, because we planned to shoot about 50 people across Chennai. Then we found a stylist to work on the costumes,” says Antony, saying, “We wanted to showcase the city, and simultaneously keep the flavour of Pharrell William’s original video.” On Monday, March 17, the team sat together for three hours and called all the people they thought would be “crazy enough, fun enough and happy enough,” to perform in the video. About 80 phone calls later they had their cast.

“Shooting began that Thursday afternoon, because we felt more people will be available over the weekend,” says Antony, “Also, that way, I didn’t have to bunk college!” They shot area-wise. “We began at my college. Then on Friday we did Adyar, OMR, Nungambakkam, Anna Nagar and Semmozhi Poonga. On Saturday we were at Kodambakkam at 4 a.m., after which we went to Marina beach. Then ICF, Koyambedu, Velachery and Thiruvanmiyur.”

All this for a three-minute and-twenty-second video? “Our initial plan was to show different parts of Chennai. In the end, however, we decided that people are more important, atmosphere is more important... So all the locations don’t feature.” By Sunday, all the shooting was done. The video was edited overnight, so it was ready by Monday. “Then came the last minute tweaks, and we finally released it on Wednesday night, on the eve of the International Day of Happiness.”

In case you weren’t counting — that’s 10 days from start to finish.

“In Besant Nagar, we were shooting and we asked everyone to join in. About 60 random people happily participated,” says Antony, adding with a laugh, “Most of the time, passers-by would ask about the shoot, then get really excited and say — “Boss, when will we see it?”

The video is on YouTube under Pharrell Williams - Happy (Chennai - India) by tpm studio.


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