Prasad Raghavan is an Indian artist who started his career as a graphic designer. He was born in Adoor, Kerala state of India, where he studied up to high school and finished his higher secondary education in Pandalam, a near by town. After higher secondary, he pursued graphic design at the College of Fine Arts, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. Following design graduation, from 1987 to 1991, he apprenticed with his elder brother Gopi (an artist and advertising professional) in Kochi, till late 1992.
In October 1992, Prasad joined MAA Bozell Advertising as a Trainee Visualizer when they opened their first branch in Kochi. Subsequently, he moved to MAA Bozell, New Delhi in 1993, to pursue better opportunities. In fact, many of his classmates from the College of Fine Arts had also moved to Delhi a year before him. At Delhi, as many as twelve of them stayed in one room at a place called Karbala- a settlement colony of Punjabis from the partitioned Pakistan, near Safdarjung Airport. “The excitement was over as soon as I reached office on the first day. Two big problems arose out of nowhere: English and Hindi, the languages spoken by people at ad agencies in Delhi. For the next two and a half years, I just sat in the office, finishing the layouts of senior creative people… literally saying nothing. I couldn’t even ask for an annual salary raise because of the language issue,” Prasad reminisces. In 1996, he landed a job as a Junior Art Director at Contract Advertising, which was considered the best agency in India at that time. There, he got an opportunity to work with some of the finest talents and went on to win the CAG Award (Communication Arts Guild), the top most Indian advertising award for two consecutive years in 1996 and 1997. He became the first Junior Art Director to win an award at this level. Later, in mid-2000, he moved to Ogilvy & Mather, New Delhi, as a Creative Group Head where he received his first international awards. These awards brought him and his copywriter partner, Emmanuel Upputuru, to Saatchi & Saatchi, New Delhi as Creative Heads in 2003. There, he won the first film Cannes Lion for Saatchi & Saatchi India. “In October 2004, there was a tussle between Saatchi & Saatchi management and us (Emmanuel & me). It went on for some time. Then, we decided to resign from the agency and I took a long lay off,” says Prasad. “At this time I bought my first car without even knowing how to hold the steering. I learned how to drive in my brand new car and drove all the way to Manali, the beautiful hill station in Himachal Pradesh. I had a good time there with couple of close friends and enjoyed the transcendetal experience for the first time in life.” From there, Prasad drove down to Kerala and returned to Delhi four months and 6500 Kms later. Besides becoming a pro-driver by the time he returned, he got the new energy to start a film club ‘A:DOOR’ that offered the world’s best movies for free. “The tussle and resignation at Saatchi and my new passion for movie club gave a new direction to my life,” says Prasad. In 2005, he went back to Ogilvy & Mather, New Delhi for a second stint and within a few months he moved again to a start up an advertising agency ‘A’ by V. Sunil (Sunil has created famous brands such as Incredible India, Indigo Airlines, Make In India) which eventually become Wieden+Kennedy India, part of the prestigious international creative hot-shop. In 2007, he started exhibiting his art works at various gallery spaces in India and abroad. He stopped working full-time in advertising by 2008 and does part time assignments since his art funding is self managed. Prasad's art in advertising has won him accolades at numerous international shows, including One Show, New York Festivals, Cannes Lions, Clio Awards, British Design & Art Direction (D&AD) as well as the one time prestigious CAG Awards of India and Bombay Advertising Club Awards (ABBY). Click here to see Prasad’s advertising works.
A:door- the cinematheque
Prasad started collecting the best movies from around the world ever since he could afford it and in 2005, he resigned from Saatchi & Saatchi to start a film club and cafeteria. Later, he abandoned the idea of a café because it seemed likely to invite problems with the local police but went ahead with the home made cinematheque, "a:door" "the world's best movies, free". The movies were shown every Saturday 7.30pm., and this went on till mid-2007. One Friday afternoon in June 2007, there was a knock on his door. When he opened the door, he saw about eighteen to twenty men standing outside. Two of them were in police uniform, holding AK-47 rifles in their hands. One of the men in civvies stepped inside the door uninvited and started looking around the place as if he was going to buy it. ‘What is all this?’ he said, pointing at the home theatre system. ‘This my house, and this is my personal home theatre,’ Prasad replied. ‘All these are illegal, you have to remove everything in two days time,’ the man said. ‘We will come back on Monday to check once again, if you don’t remove them, we will lock your house and you have to go to the court and sort it out legally’. Only then did Prasad realise that these men were from the Municipal Corporation, doing their rounds in the city to demolish ‘unauthorised’ constructions. ‘Okay, you can come on Monday, none of these things will be here,’ Prasad said. The man had a startled expression on his face. He expected to strike a deal … some sort of a settlement to be made. Within two days, Prasad dismantled the entire home theatre, Click here to see the breaking down A:door. which took more than 4 months to finish. But the guys from the municipal Department never turned up. “They must have realised that there’s no point going there,” says Prasad. But the cinematheque move marked a new beginning - designing posters based on his interpretations.
In January, 1995 Prasad travelled to Mumbai with friends B Haridas, (become one of the best art directors of the country) and Aji VN, (now a well known contemporary artist of India), to attend the India International Film Festival (IIFF) uninvited. This journey also marked the beginning of his obsession with cinema. At the Festival Venue, Prasad and his friends literally begged the IIFF officials for an entry pass but what they got was an advice instead. ‘Ah! You’ve come from Delhi? Catch the next train and go back, who asked you guys to come here?’ the official said. Later in the day, he managed to get a real entry pass from a friend and went to IIT Mumbai where his friend Mohandas (now, illustrator & designer) was doing his final year masters. There, he created 50 duplicate passes and gave them all away to film enthusiasts like him who wanted to watch the films but couldn’t get a pass. He watched all five shows for the next ten days at this festival and discovered Federico Fellini, a huge inspiration in his later years. The last show on the last day of this festival was Steven Spielberg’s ‘Schindler’s List’. A large number of people had turned up for this show, much beyond what the theatre could accommodate. The security men started checking the passes thoroughly before letting the visitors. When Prasad’s turn came, he feared that he would be caught with his fake pass. The security guard checked his pass, turned it around twice to look at it closely and only then did he let him in grudgingly. Prasad feels that the fake pass was perhaps his best art direction in life. He put his art direction skills to good use thereafter, making fake entry passes to the highly bureaucratic India International Film Festival that is held in New Delhi every alternative year. Click here to watch the video of ‘The Making of a Fake Pass’. In 2000, while Prasad was working at Ogilvy & Mather, he bought a video camera and started making low budget ad films and the occasional documentary. His first ad film for 'One+Plus Gold', a virility capsule product, directed and shot by him in 2003 with a Handycam, won the New York Advertising Festivals Bronze Award and Bombay Advertising Club (ABBY) Silver Award. In the same year he moved to Saatchi & Saatchi and focused on films, and won a Cannes Bronze Lion, a nomination and ‘The Work’ Asia-Pacific for directing a film for Sony Handycam. He always worked with low budget and unusual scripts, making it difficult to release it in the main-stream ad space.
Prasad started off his artistic career by 'making posters of his movie club a:door'. But the posters that he created were not meant for conveying ideas about a particular product. They were not created for producing desire amongst the viewers either. What he attempted in his posters was to design the 'idea' of a poster. Towards this end, Prasad made use of well known films and their histories and manipulated their visual and textual codes for a renewed purpose, which in fact was not publicizing the 'product' behind it. The referential points were just pointers, as familiar visuals/images and font types to evoke a sense of affinity with the referred but they were not leading the viewer to the referred as a product. Instead, these posters created a parallel dialogue with the intended and aspired histories. In 2007, Bose Krishnamachari, a renowned artist and curator invited him to show these artworks in a show that he had curated at the Museum Gallery, Mumbai and hosted by the Guild Art Gallery. His works have been exhibited internationally, such as, Art Gwangju - South Korea, 1x1 Contemporary - Dubai, ESSL Museum - Vienna, Alcala31 - Madrid. Willem Baars Projects - Amsterdam, Zacheta National Gallery of Art - Warsaw, Contemporary Art centre - Vilnius, and Art Rotterdam. He has also exhibited his works at the First edition of Kochi Muziris Biennale 2012.
Prasad's works have found their place in the collections of The Tropen Museum, Amsterdam, ESSL Museum Vienna and the private collections elsewhere.
Prasad Raghavan lives and works in New Delhi, India.