The lockdown necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic gave people the chance to do interesting things, out-of-the-box things, and allowed free flow of creativity. It brought three-times author Aryani Banerjee and debutant writer Tapas Gupta together to pen, or rather type, The Mad Ad Years, billed as India’s first fictional work on advertising. The book was not only conceived during the lockdown, but was written over multiple WhatsApp chats, as the two authors were placed at different cities — Aryani in Kolkata and Tapas in Delhi.
Elaborating on the process Aryani says, “Every little thing about The Mad Ad Years, from the decision to co-author India’s first advertising fiction over a random phone call during the lockdown, to the moment it went to the printing press, has been crazy.”
For Tapas Gupta, it all started with a phone call. “One day, Aryani called asking for advice on writing, saying she’s bored with writing only romance. Whatever I know is about the advertising world. So, we thought why not share my experience through the book as the fictionalised character of protagonist Prashant Gupta.”
Giving details, Tapas says “The book is full of stories and behind-the-scene anecdotes of the ad world covering the period from 1976 to 2020 across multiple locations — Kolkata and Delhi mostly, with a bit of Mumbai, Hong Kong and Manilla.”
The entire book took four months to complete, and comprises over 200,000 words typed on WhatsApp, shares Tapas.
“Because he resides in Delhi and I live in Kolkata, and it was the time of the nationwide lockdown, the entire coordination had to be done over calls and messages. If there’s a will, there’s a way,” says Aryani. “For us, 2 pm and 2 am were the same. We spent the afternoons discussing, agreeing and disagreeing, and then we spent sleepless nights writing and editing, deleting and writing again. After we were through with the first two chapters of the book, the rest of it was a cakewalk.”
Writing any book involves a lot of research. But having an ace adman like Tapas to tell the tale, someone who has been in the world of advertising for over four decades and has known and worked with some of the biggest names in the industry, made things a bit easier. “The greatest part of the book is, he remembers everything vividly. He had never documented any of it. I was awestruck by his storytelling prowess,” shares Aryani.
The collaboration was meaningful on another level. “Tapas Gupta is my Mama (maternal uncle),” says Aryani. “Co-authoring a book with someone in the family has been a thrilling experience, because many other family members got involved in some way or the other — ideating, advising, marketing — and it feels great to call The Mad Ad Years a ‘family production’.”
Talking of their muses, she says, “To an extent, we were greatly inspired by Mad Men, the American period drama television series, when we were thinking about a title.”
Tapas also had a very clear picture of what the cover of the book should look like. The artwork based on his idea has been superbly done by Devabrata Chakrabarty.
So, where do the two of them plan to go from here? Aryani says they are planning to get the book enlisted in the Limca Book of Records or even the Guinness Book of Records, given its novelty. On the personal front, Aryani wants to progress to writing for movies. But Tapas thinks this might be his first and last book, as he has way too much to do still in the advertising world.