NewsX was recently joined by Aatish Dabral, an independent ad film-maker and the founder of The Human Touch for an exclusive conversation as a part of its special series, NewsX A-List where he spoke about his journey and using the online space to remind the world that there is kindness all around us.

Talking about his journey, Aatish said, “During graduation I was studying to be a journalist until I realized my love for cinema and that kind of overshadowed my commitment to journalism as a career. Hence, after graduation, on a whim I got on a train to Mumbai to pursue a diploma in film-making. There I got a chance to work with one of the most brilliant ad film-makers at that time, Prahlad Kakkar. It’s important for people to have the right mentors early in their career and I was fortunate to have him as a guiding light. He took me under his wing and that is where my ad film-making journey began. I worked with him for a few years and then moved onto Production houses for 4-5 years, as they call it ‘slog years’, where you’re doing everything under the sun like production, casting, art direction, props on the set. Slowly, as time progressed, I learnt the ropes and made my way towards becoming a full-fledged director. I started doing independent commission projects and identity of my own. So, I have been directing since 6 years and have worked on commercials not only for the Indian market but for the Middle-Eastern and South Asian markets as well.

Explaining his initiative, The Human Touch, Aatish said, “I have done more than 100 commercials but the work done at The Human Touch is closest to my heart. So, what is The Human Touch? For the viewers who haven’t come across our work until now, I will lay it out for them. It is a unique video platform created a few years ago with an impressive digital presence by now, where we make short films and video content about themes related to kindness, humanity and other lovely human emotions. All these videos, fortunately, have been very well received by the audience. Over the period of few years, we have gained followers from all over the world from our Facebook and YouTube pages. The response is so phenomenal and we get messages from all over the world telling us how a 3-4 minute video on our page resonated with them and made them smile, gave them hope at a difficult time in their lives.

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Sharing his real reason of starting a page on a digital platform, Aatish said, “I was observing the kind of quick-fix, sub-par, senseless content being bombarded onto the viewers on social media platforms and I wasn’t too happy with it. I had a burning desire as a film-maker, to make content that would make people smile and warm their hearts, remind people that kindness and humanity is in our nature and it still exists despite all the chaos all around. I wanted to leave them with the thought of hope and that it depends on the individual to be the change that he or she wants to see in the world. Our videos inspire people and tells them to start with something; a kind deed, a warm smile, a selfless act and it goes a long way in creating a chain of events that truly has the potential to transform the world.”

Talking about Nepotism, Aatish said, “It’s everywhere-business, politics, sports and no industry is untouched by it. In my immediate eco-system, I unequivocally condemn any kind of favouritism of preferential treatment. I truly believe that everyone should get a level playing field and opportunities, incentives should be provided solely based on merit. Nepotism, is a very real thing and it exists in every field and it would be naïve to deny it’s unfair presence but there is no replacement for hard word and talent. Many people have been able to make a name for themselves based on these two qualities, without connections or high- ranking relatives. It’s a balance and people have succeeded without using such antics. As a defense to the advertising industry, I truthfully say that people who are the top decision-making positions in advertising, are first generation advertising professionals and have no family background in the industry but they have been able to create their own success stories. There haven’t been any dynasties or legacies created. In our industry there are many stories of self-made professionals whom the newcomers can take inspiration from.”

When asked for his advice to any newcomer on joining the ad industry, Aatish said, “My number one advice is always ‘Be Observant’. Film-making as an art form has always been inspired by life and it is very important for budding as film-makers to be aware of real life, real people and real incidents around them. Understanding and learning techniques and skill is important but a film-maker should stand out and create work which resonates with the audience. Your film-making has to be relatable to a large group of people and only if you keep your eyes open to faces, sounds, colours and experiences of life around you, and get knowledge of real world around you; that will add depth and a natural flair to your film-making. So, keep your eyes and ears open to everything happening around and learn to find the beauty in all things.”

Speaking about the hardships that one faces in creative fields, Aatish said, “To be positive about the grind that one goes through in every field, it is may be a little notch-up in the ad industry but, if one is passionate about the whole art form deeply, it won’t feel like a hardship. It would be physically and mentally draining, days of lack of sleep and to skip meals because there’s no time between work. You are made to slog but if you are patient and committed enough then your passion for the art form will make you go through hardships with your head held high, you will come out on the other side a very satisfied and happy film-maker, rearing to make amazing films.

Talking about the new normal for the ad industry, Aatish said, “At the starting of lockdown it was tough, there was an air of uncertainty, fear was palpable and a sense of apprehension in the industry. We know how many people are required at a set of any film, this had people thinking- will we be able to shoot again? With the number of personnel required to make a shoot happen. Then the unlock rules came out and shoots have resumed. Of course, we have to embrace the new normal and take precaution as per SOP’s provided by the government. A genuine effort is being made by all of us to conduct orderly shoots and create a safe environment with minimum crew members. Every crew member is required to wear a mask, go through temperature checks, SPOT checks and have heard of entire crews being put in bio-bubbles for the entire duration of the shoots especially when shoots extend beyond a few days.”

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