“Kya bombaat idea hai!” For the uninitiated, who have still not watched or read “Half Pants Full Pants (HPFP)”, it is a call to include the sentence in your ever-increasing lexicon. An expression you would then use with aplomb and panache just like the protagonist, fondly nicknamed “Dabba”, uses it in the series. The series “Half Pants Full Pants” premiered on Amazon Prime Video and is based on the book by the same name authored by Anand Suspi.
Even though a debut author, Anand Suspi, is not new to the creative world. He has 12 years of experience in advertising, starting his career in client servicing with Mudra Mumbai in 1995. He has done stints with Rediffusion DY&R and Grey Worldwide. He joined Lowe Mumbai in 2002 and has been associated with the organization ever since.
Some of the brands that Suspi has worked on lately include Lifebuoy Talc, the leprosy campaign for the Ministry of Health, Croma Electronics, and the ‘Condom Bindass Bol’ campaign.
Suspi’s work on the ‘Condom Bindass Bol’ campaign earned him the UN Grand Award, granted by the UN Department of Public Information (DPI) in association with the International Public Relations Association (IPRA).
Half Pants Full Pants, is a serendipitous labor of love by Anand who, in his own words, did not have a ‘book’ in mind. HPFP brings to the viewer, an unadulterated, undiluted, and unsullied innocence that seems to have been lost to the viewers in recent years. For an audience and a reader caught in the quagmire of overtwisted plots and gruesome conflicts, HPFP comes with a simple story set in the ’70s, capturing a life that brings together the forgotten familiarity of chug-chugging trains in lazy summer afternoons, when life’s pace slows down to a tranquil halt.
Crossing paths through labyrinthine lanes of a sleepy small town that hide adventures at each turn, turning the little protagonists into detectives at one and philanthropists at the other, one is bound to remember the little adventures of our own. We got in touch with the man in action and asked a few questions.
1. How and why did your plan to write “Half Pants Full Pants” come about, as it is mostly autobiographical?
I have been an advertising writer for 25 years. I never had the intention to write a book. This was purely accidental.
One day, in 2012, I sat down to write a page of prose to convince myself that I could write beyond advertising. This exercise was purely for me, and I didn’t have a `book’ destination in mind. After struggling for 30 minutes to pick a topic to write about, I remembered a few childhood incidents and decided to pen down one of them. As I started writing, a whole load of childhood memories kept cropping up, and I went on to put them down.
Every weekend, I would add more, and in about 6 months, I had written down a bunch of childhood memories, starting from LKG to Class 12.
2. Childhood is a sacred and important part of each person’s life do you think your generation “the 70’s kids” had more fun?
This is quite subjective. I definitely feel that kids in the pre-internet and pre-mobile phone era had a more glorious childhood. Life was simple and joyful, filled with curiosity and imagination. But children of today might feel that their growing-up years are as wonderful as anybody else’s. It’s a perspective that I don’t quite have a handle on.
3. Had you imagined the overwhelming response from the readers and viewers garnered after being published/released?
Honestly, no. My childhood was the same as everyone else’s, albeit with an extra dose of adventures and escapades, but nothing vastly different. The only aspect of the book is the universality and relatability of life in small-town India in the 70s and 80s. Therefore, I didn’t expect a level of love and appreciation for the book. The most that I expected was, readers, re-living their own childhood, nodding at various things, smiling at a few places, and feeling the fuzzy warmth of nostalgia. Nothing beyond that.
4. Had you at the time of publishing thought that you wanted to convert the book to a visual series?
From having the manuscript ready to get it published, it was a long journey in itself. It took 4 years, with multiple rejections, from various agents and publishing houses. Through all this, I never thought about converting it to a series, as this is exponentially more difficult and complex compared to getting a book out.
5. When and how did the journey of the book to the series start?
Once the book was out, at end of 2016, and people started saying wonderful things about it, various directors and production houses would call from time to time, enquiring about the possibility of adapting it into a web series.
The publishing industry has its own complexities and the world of OTT is a different planet altogether. It takes a long time and several factors need to align before any progress gets made. So, a lot of the conversations turned out to be like lit matchsticks, petering out as soon as they were lit.
But one man, V K Prakash, a renowned advertising and feature film director, obsessed over it relentlessly. While a lot of people made cursory inquiries and moved on, VKP kept pursuing it nonstop, for nearly 3 years. Going about his regular work of ads and feature films, he never missed a chance to talk about it to anyone he came across.
Finally, sometime in 2019, he managed to evince interest in people at Only Much Louder, one of India’s top OTT content-producing houses. The team at OML (extremely sincere and professional), read the book and were convinced that it would make for a delightful show.
They started pitching it to various OTT platforms, and this process took close to 2 years. Finally, in 2021, the team at Prime Video found it worthy and commissioned the series. It’s been a long, arduous journey and I am forever indebted to various people who believed in the book, perhaps more than I did. An inordinate amount of credit needs to go to V K Prakash.
Watch the Season 1 Now on Amazon Prime Video – Half Pants Full Pants
6. As getting a book into a series is not always a straight-line process, what kind of hurdles you had to go through to get the book to be a series?
A big pushback that we encountered with various platforms was the obvious lack of high suspense, drama, action, and conflict that’s such a staple of 99% of OTT shows. People would warm up to the idea of the book, musing that it would make for a great nostalgic ride, like Malgudi Days, and in the very next instant, have questions about the lack of conflict in the show. We would try and tell them that the conflict here was of a very different nature; the conflict between a child’s imagination and an adult’s acceptance of reality. Thankfully, the team at Amazon Prime Video saw this quite clearly.
The other issue was about stringing the stories together into a coherent season arc. The book is a collection of incidents with each story being disparate from the other. This will not work in the series. We had to build continuity to carry the viewer from one episode to the next. Mani Prasad, who adapted the book into the screenplay, did a wonderful job of it. I am hugely thankful to him.
7. Would “Dabba” and his gang be making a comeback with more adventures in the second season?
Hopefully. We are waiting to hear from the team at Amazon.
8. Is there a second book in the making?
I finished writing my second book a couple of years ago. That’s not about my life; it’s fiction. It’s already been rejected by multiple literary agents. Now that I am done with Season 1 of HPFP, I’ll get back to the grind of the second book.
HPFP gives us all an important lesson, a lesson that honest-to-heart stories always find a way into the audience’s heart. Despite the struggles to get the right platform, there is still hope for honest simple heartwarming content.
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Read more stories in our January 2023 featuring Maharaj Devraj Singh