The glitter and gloss of the Indian advertising industry – as well as its dark underside - come alive in MX Player’s new show Thinkistan. The first season of the series, streaming online since May 24, stars Naveen Kasturia and Shravan Reddy as two copywriters working at a top agency. As individual ambitions and professional jealousies collide, the lives of these peculiar ‘mad men’ are irrevocably changed. Rajnish Lall, who has produced the show under his banner Jigsaw Pictures, says the idea of Thinkistan came from his early career in the ad industry.
“My writer-director, N Padmakumar (Paddy), was approached to make a show on fashion. We realised that fashion as a subject is uni-dimensional and gets boring after a while. Instead we came up with the idea of basing a show in the ad world of the 1990s. Paddy and I had started our careers in the same year in different agencies. The ad industry back then was glamorous, aspirational, edgy – everything you hope to see in a show of this kind,” he says. The producer shuns comparisons with the American show Mad Men (2007-15), contending that Thinkistan is set in a unique era of socio-economic change. The core of the story, Lall shares, stems from the rise of Hindi copywriters in the Indian ad world, which was earlier dominated by English writers. He points to the success of veteran creators like Piyush Pandey and Prasoon Joshi to illustrate the show’s tagline – ‘Idea jiska, India uska.’
“The show tracks an important era in our past,” Lall says. “That was the time when Dr. Manmohan Singh had liberalised the economy, which caused a value shift in people’s lives. Money and material pleasures became more important than education and security. Also, the heartland India was brought into the mainstream. Computers and mobile phones were slowly making their way into our lives. All of this was directly reflected in the advertising boom of that time.”
Jigsaw Pictures forayed into fiction in 2013 with the feature film, Sooper se Ooper, along with Reliance Entertainment. Lall is hopeful of exploring a variety of subjects and creating unique content in the coming months. “After Thinkistan, we are producing two web shows that have been pitched to various OTT platforms. We are also preparing to shoot our second feature film early next year. Also, the second season of Thinkistan is being edited and will be up soon.”