Prasoon Joshi

Meeting Prasoon Joshi in Mumbai

Today we’re meeting Prasoon Joshi at the Yacht Club in Colaba near the Gateway of India, which is a little oasis of calm in the middle of the busy Mumbai bustle. We are stuck in traffic, again, but this gives our curator a chance to tell us a bit about him. 

“Ok guys, get ready to meet one of India’s most creative people,” she says. “Prasoon is the chairman of McCann India and the creative director for the Asia Pacific region. He’s created some of the most memorable advertising campaigns in India. But that’s only one aspect of what he does, because Prasoon is also an accomplished poet and lyricist, who recently even wrote a screenplay.”

“Wow, impressive!” I say. “A man of many talents!”

“Yes,” she says. “He effortlessly straddles the world of advertising and Bollywood film.”

“So what kind of things does he write?”

“Prasoon is a great observer of people and that’s part of what makes his writing so insightful. He has a way with words and he has used his prose and poetry writings to convey and capture people’s fear, anger and pain on occasions like the Mumbai bombings. His words galvanize people’s emotions and create a new kind of consciousness.”

“So in that sense you could say he’s using his talent with a purpose,” I say.

“Yes,” she says. “That’s a good way of putting it.” 

We find Prasoon waiting for us in the bar of the Yacht Club overlooking Bombay harbour. After ordering fresh juices, we pick a quiet corner and sit down with Prasoon. 

“So Prasoon, tell us your story,” I say.

“Where to begin?” Prasoon says with a smile. “I guess one of the main features of my work is that it aims to touch people’s hearts and make a change to people’s lives.”

“We hear you do many different things and that you excel at most of them,” I say. “So how does it all come together?”

“I actually don’t have the feeling that I do many different things,” he says, “because all the different forms of expression – writing, singing and performing – are in the end just tools to reach out to people and impact their way of thinking.”

Prasoon Joshi at the Jaipur Lit Fest
Prasoon Joshi at the Jaipur Lit Fest

“So how did you come up with this mission? How did it start?”

“It actually goes back to my childhood,” says Prasoon. “I grew up in a small hill station in the Himalayas, far from the big city. My parents encouraged me to write poetry from a young age and also insisted that I pursue a formal education, even though I wasn’t that keen. Education is very important in India; it counts more than talent. Luckily I stumbled upon advertising and discovered I could do all the things I loved and earn money at the same time! I’m very lucky, because in advertising, you get paid for ideas!”

“Interesting,” I say. “So you create content with meaning to encourage change.”

“Excactly,” says Prasoon. “Storytelling and communication is at the core of everything I do.”

“How do you apply this in advertisting?”

“I try to humanize brands, because increasingly, people don’t consume products, they consume brands, images, colours and ideas. Brands are like people and I create a world around the brand. Without a story, a brand is dead.”

“But at the same time you’re a poet and a song writer.”
“Poetry is an eye, it’s a filter through which you see the world. It reveals the deeper, less visible layers of life. I am blessed with that eye.”

“And what are your core beliefs?
“Integrity and good intentions are essential in my opinion. If your intentions are right, your actions will also be right. This is what I want to share with people. I truly believe that sharing can change the world.”

“In what way?” I ask.

“The world is divided, India is divided: one part has never seen electricity, the other part trying to cut down on electricity consumption. I am trying to build bridges between these two parts to create mutual understanding and in this way, I hope I can contribute to creating a better world.”

To be continued…

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