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The Arty Farty Party


PRACHI MEHROTRA | New Delhi, December 5, 2011 14:42
Tags : The Arty Farty Party | book review | advertising | calcutta | pratik basu | |

Pratik Basu's novel, The Arty Farty Party, takes us back to the mad world of advertising in Calcutta during 1980s. The heads of the advertising agencies are called Gods and have 'angels' as attendants. The book updates us on how advertising agencies were run in the 80s. At that time Calcutta was important as a commercial centre and was way ahead of Bombay in terms of creativity and talent. Advertising had its own identity and was separate from the corporate mainstream.

The protagonist of The Arty Farty Party is a marketing guy who has just been offered a senior position at First International Advertising Company (FIAC), one of Calcutta's largest advertising agencies. Both the designation and remuneration are very appealing. But the agency is facing some issues. The God (with capital G, equalled to the creator of the universe because that is how some national heads at the ad agencies liked to be referred as) is about to hang up his boots after a decade at the helm of the agency's affairs, and has appointed his successor in Bombay, which other regional heads secretly do not approve of. So begins the coup d'état. And God acquires the moniker of Old Man after God 2 replaces him.

The characters in the novel are insane. We have fat talkative men with long memories and egos, pretender to the throne; some gutsy young women and a man who is a 'pushover'. There are capricious clients, whose wish is to get every illogical and bizarre demand fulfilled lest the valuable amount be transferred to another agency. One of the big clients of the agency, with a very generous advertising budget, has erectile dysfunction and wants the ad agency to protect him from the damage it would cost to his playboy image if the media gets to know it. There are authoritative agency bosses, planning the next move to dethrone somebody; and angry, upset and emotionally insecure creative directors. There are boss' yes-men whose sole purpose in life is to swing the way the boss will decide on any given subject.

And then we have Mono Mitter – you can love-him-or-hate-him-but-can't-ignore-him. Mono Mitter, leading the FIAC, would have been a fighter pilot battling the Luftwaffe if he wasn't going 'screechers', i.e. getting pie-eyed drink.

We also get to meet Jymmie Hafesjee, the head of an advertising agency in Bombay that had started giving FIAC a run for its money. FIAC reflects the Old World, British colonial, stiff-upper lip, self-deprecatory, stable, mature and underplayed image. Hafesjee, who likes to be called God among his slaves in High Advertising (HA), is at the helm of a New World, brash American, in-your-face, over-the-top, quick-on-the-draw, media-savvy and creative liberal ad agency.

The female species in the book is intelligent enough to use her powerful weapons like tears, emotions, shameless flirtation or chicaneries to get their things done in their own way. Also, the office environment is like any other advertising office: airless, suffocating and smoke-filled cubicles. Endless rounds of coffee and drinking sessions happen at any hour of the day. In the ad world, where the agencies are not judged by their creativity but on how big their spare-no-expense parties are, alcohol is always at an arm’s distance. It is not there only as a social lubricant but to facilitate relaxation.

The writing style of the book is similar to what PG Wodehouse was a master at: witty, long sentences with layer-upon-layer of humour and with references made to people. The novel has satire, tongue-in-cheek one liners, and is a colourful read.

The Arty Farty Party is about the colourful people of advertising and not advertising itself. It can be read by all, whether the reader has any knowledge about, or interest in advertising, or not. The people, who were a part of ad frat in the 80s or 90s, could very well recognise several hilariously-described characters from the story, which often find themselves in bizarre situations. The writer knows the industry in and out as he has spent over three decades in sales and marketing, advertising and the entertainment media. His familiarity with the advertising arena must have made it easier to build the characters.

Book: The Arty Farty Party, Author: Pratik Basu, Publisher: Amaryllis, Cover: Paperback, Pages: 366, Price: Rs 295, ISBN: 9789381506004

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017