Footballer-turned-creative Jigar Fernandes makes directorial debut and showcases the passion of India’s soccer heads, writes Laura Swinton
When it comes to India and sport, the country is known for its passion for cricket… but as the FIFA World Cup nears, India’s football fans are making their presence felt. A new spot for Sony Pictures Network shows Indian soccer enthusiasts getting excited for the tournament – and they’re not about to let the fact that India didn’t actually qualify get in their way.
The spot from agency Culture Machine is called '#MeriDoosriCountry', or ‘My Second Country’, and it shows Indian fans cheering for their adopted teams. And Jigar Fernandes, who was a creative on the campaign and also directed it, can attest to the fact that India is properly football crazy.
“Football is more of a religion than cricket in many states in India,” says Jigar, who points out that the big Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata can easily fill out its 125,000 capacity on a league derby day. “Maradona and Pele are frequent visitors here because they are, rightfully, Gods here. Guess what they come here for? For opening ceremonies of jewellery shops and such! Zidane has been all over billboards in Mumbai for the past three years as an endorser for a real estate company. The emotions in the film are as real as they get.”
But that history has served him well for this project as he was able to create something authentic that any Indian football fan could relate to. “My experience shows in the film as the film looks very real and raw,” he says. “My mental pictures of everything I have experienced are what you see in the film.”
In fact, it’s that experience and vision that landed Jigar in the director’s chair. As he explains, the ad is his directorial debut. He found himself unexpectedly behind the camera when the original director pulled out at the last minute due to personal reasons.
“I called my client-partner-in-crime, Kedar Teny, to give him the news. He asked me for options. I hadn’t directed a film ever and didn’t intend to start any time soon, especially not a film with a 1000 people,” explains Jigar. “But I told Kedar that I was seeing the film clearly in my head. Kedar, being the gut guy that he is, said, ‘Do it, [the] only thing I ask is to connect with the audience.’”
As first commercials go, this was a fairly ambitious undertaking. The team shot for four days across three cities in India – and they had their fair share of challenges to deal with.
“It was all done in the peak of summer in India and in the hottest cities at the time. So yeah, a lot of tanning happened. And it was the onset of rains, so we kept dodging the rain too. We got real lucky there. It was a crazy affair with so many people - but my team was awesome and we all had fun along the way,” he says. “The film is long shot and done but we are still cracking jokes on our WhatsApp group!”
Fortunately, Jigar had a couple of supporters of his own on set to cheer him on. If you pause the ad at frame 57, you’ll spot Jigar’s dad and brother cheering – it turns out that being obsessed with football runs in the family. And now that the spot has wrapped and hit the airwaves and Internet (YouTube views are creeping towards the 3 million mark), Jigar reckons he’s accidentally caught the directing bug. “Director bug? Yes. Just give me a great script!”
Jigar is also now embracing the spirit of #MeriDoosriCountry ahead of the World Cup kick off on Thursday. So, who is his adopted team? “Spain! I hate Ramos though.”