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Prathap Suthan: Breaking boundaries with bored poetry

P Anima | Updated on July 09, 2021

Hit run: A veteran in the advertising industry, Prathap Suthan has done iconic campaigns such as Incredible India   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

The adman’s day dawns with verses on topical concerns. They are my sunrise, he says, after completing six years of the exercise

* Creativity is the art of being brilliant within certain parameters…of creating a fantastic ad within them

* Every morning, dot at 6.15, Suthan would put out a verse written by him

* Smart takes on life, the verses are reflective, but with a touch of humour

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All his professional life, Prathap (Pat) Suthan has worked within the ‘layout’ mandated to him. For an advertising professional, ‘layouts’ are sacrosanct — curated ads adhere strictly to brand character, and stay within the parameters drawn by the client. Creativity, for Suthan, managing partner and Chief Creative Officer of advertising firm Bang In The Middle, lies within those parameters.

A veteran with 30-odd years in the industry and iconic campaigns such as Incredible India under his name, Suthan plays expertly within those rules. “Creativity is the art of being brilliant within certain parameters…of creating a fantastic ad within them. I thrive in those circumstances,” says the Delhi-based adman.

However, six years ago, Suthan began an experiment of a different sort with his page Beyond Layouts on Facebook. Every morning, dot at 6.15, he would put out a verse written by him. Always pithy, they encapsulate what is on his mind on a given morning, and predictably, they are as varied as a man’s thoughts — poignant, clever, wicked, philosophical, political, cheeky, cheesy, funny. The lines are not bound by a format, and are rarely more than six lines long. Some are haiku-like, but without its syllable specifications. Importantly, they toss out the one element that dictates his professional life — the layout.

On Beyond Layouts, he wrestles with a free, blank space, thrown out of his comfort zone. “It is the most liberating thing I have done. I know that even if I don’t meet the 6.15 am deadline, I’m not going to lose my job. I can write about anything, my palette is wide,” he says.

Short takes: Always pithy, Suthan’s verse encapsulates what is on his mind on a given morning   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

 

Yet Suthan hardly ever missed the deadline, barring a couple of occasions when his WiFi acted up. His cryptic musings are up, every morning at 6.15, even when he is out of town, snowed under work or is unwell. He calls it #boredpoetry, but the process is clearly the antithesis of it for Suthan. The hashtag, it appears, is more an act of self-preservation. “If someone finds it uninteresting, I can say ‘I told you so. It’s bored poetry’.”

For Suthan, personally though, its purpose is evident. “It is an answer to the boredom I have garnered over the years across the kind of advertising I have done. It is a way out… it is my free space where I can write what I want. On July 4, I completed six years of Beyond Layouts.”

Each morning Suthan wakes up, his mind mostly blank, yet manages to meet the mental deadline he has given himself. The verses are his responses to topical concerns, and range from the weather to body fat, the passing of a legend and the raging pandemic. The subjects may be grim, but his response to them are hardly so. Smart takes on life, the verses are reflective, but with a touch of humour.

As much as I wish

I could hear the night fall

I also honestly hope

She doesn’t hurt herself

Suthan’s dogged devotion to Beyond Layouts has brought him steady followers — a little over 5,000. For a professional whose words come with a price tag, Beyond Layouts is his venture with no commercial value. Though the parameters of advertising do not shackle him here, the advertiser in him remains alive even in the personal, creative exercise. His text abides to a font, and he aesthetically chooses the accompanying images — in short, a complete package.

As an advertising professional, adaptability is Suthan’s hallmark. In his early days, the language of branding altered with the medium — print, radio, outdoor ads and television. Each demanded an agile, creative copy writer, switching medium on demand, but not slacking on impact. Social media, he points out, has only added to the mix. He is present on most, but devotes his time and focus to his FB project. But social media spaces — LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter and FB — are all a test of a writer’s skill, observes Suthan. “The four platforms are places to explore different facets of my writing…The fact that I could write on them using their specific parameters trains me to write for my brands as well,” he says.

Though a veteran in his profession, Suthan does not want to take anything for granted. He is eager to adapt and be on top of change, always chiselling, crafting and sharpening his words so that they can shape-shift into newer formats and mediums. Over the years, Beyond Layouts has grown to be a little more to him. “It has come to mean a sense of normalcy. If I don’t write it, my day hasn’t begun. It’s my sunrise. My mental walk.”

Published on July 09, 2021

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