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B&W: New colours of the season?
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August 16, 2005

There's a new trend emerging and it's an off-colour (or at least a "colours off") one. An increasing number of creative minds from different walks of life are finding immense satisfaction as they experiment with black and white -- a medium that is reminiscent of bygone eras.

Director Rituparno Ghosh has excitedly experimented with the medium for his upcoming flick Dosar, starring Prosenjit and Konkona Sen Sharma. Photographer Rishi Chauhan has clicked away merrily to emerge with a photo-exhibition of his works that will be showcased mid-September at New Delhi's India Habitat Centre.

Meanwhile, Bombay Dyeing's [Get Quote] latest advertising campaign -- rumoured to have been made at a cost of nearly Rs 2.5 crore (Rs 25 million) and shot in exotic Mauritius -- is being beamed to our television sets devoid of colour.

Is the world for these select individuals going black and white? Prasoon Joshi, regional creative director (south and south-east Asia) McCann-Erickson, having just wrapped up advertisements for NDTV, is glad he "convinced his client for this project to go black and white".

A self-confessed "freak" of this medium, Joshi feels, "In advertisements, it creates nostalgia, is surreal and triggers emotions incredibly". He feels it's too early to predict it as a trend because "a majority of our clients still don't want to experiment with this medium". Colour, he says, is still a novelty in India and black and white is still considered very exclusive and not for the masses.

While Joshi finds the medium interactive, photographer Chauhan takes his point further. "The monochrome effect in photography is ethereal, pristine and very uncluttered." He agrees the medium is interactive as it compels people to interpret it the way they want to. "Colour," he says, "can sometimes be restrictive."

He adds, "A flower vase in black and white can be filled with innumerable colours whereas the same photograph in colour can restrict the mind's imagination and just not involve you with the art."

While Chauhan had quite a few coloured stills, he changed his mind to have a "Hundred per cent black and white exhibition of photographs when I saw a corporate calendar shot by Prabuddha Dasgupta in the same medium."

Black and white is finding a fan-following and celebrated director Ghosh too uses it for his forthcoming flick that delves into the issue of marital discord. He feels that "it's a medium that helps to reinforce thoughts forcefully".

Ghosh admits that he has wanted to dabble in this medium for a long time but, "whenever I tried to sell this idea producers were never too keen". He laughs, "We Bengalis have a unique nostalgic connection with black and white films, and I'm no exception."

But why go colourless in an era when most of us crave for more colour in our lives? A spokesperson from St Luke's, the agency behind Bombay Dyeing's latest campaign in black and white, says, "The medium helps people to connect and our new campaign is an attempt to let people recollect the black and white days." The campaign gels precisely because the collection of bed sheets and towels unveiled by Bombay Dyeing are also predominantly black and white.

"I think it's the ultimate refuge to look international," argues Anuja Chauhan, executive creative director, JWT. She hates black and white precisely because it's nothing more than a pseudo-intellectual trick to look "oh-so-cool". Anuja finds it annoying every time she sees a black and white advertisement.

"If it gels with the storyline it could make sense, but with almost every other person doing it in the name of 'unique experimentation', it looks foolish," she says strongly.

But doesn't she think the medium is finding takers, especially as films are also going black and white? "Excuse me, but films like Mughal-e-Azam have also gone colour," she counters.

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