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February 20, 2019

Revisit Three Iconic Ads from The ’90s With These Behind-The-Scenes Anecdotes

Text by Zaral Shah

Before the turn of the century, advertisements weren’t as ephemeral or easily forgotten as they are today. We were constantly greeted by the same limited number of commercials on every channel — of which there were only a handful — and ad makers could create a lasting impression thanks to a dedicated viewership. Featuring some of the country’s biggest stars, these ‘hidden persuaders’ continue to be as impactful as they were during the decade in which they were first aired, perhaps due to the immense cultural value we seem to place on nostalgia.

Brand: Pepsi
Star: Sachin Tendulkar

The Master Blaster is one of the world’s most revered cricketers. In addition to Pepsi, various other brands have had him as their ambassador over the years — MRF, Boost, Philips, Visa and Britannia, to name a few.

Storyboard: Yearning for a Pepsi, Shah Rukh Khan, dressed in an Indian jersey, sports a Sachin Tendulkar-like wig and makes his way into a ‘players only’ zone. Dodging past some of the cricketer’s teammates, the impersonator manages to get his hands on a Pepsi, but is soon sent out to play. The camera then cuts to the real Sachin, who grabs the drink from Khan and wishes him the very best on the pitch.

Twist: “As per the original script, I was to take the willow from Shah Rukh and head out to bat while he left with the Pepsi. But I suggested the twist of sending Shah Rukh out to bat and me walking away with the Pepsi, therefore not letting him have the drink. The team liked it, changed the script and that’s how it eventually went on air,” shares Tendulkar.

Brand: Nirma Beauty Soap
Director: Kailash Surendranath

An unstoppable creator, he holds to his credit over 3,000 films in the advertising industry alone. In fact, until a few years ago, all of Nirma’s commercials were creatively driven by him.

Storyboard: Seen playing with cubs, enjoying a safari and wandering through the exotic African bush is an ecstatic Sonali Bendre (now Bendre Behl). The song that plays in the background — ‘Tum husn pari, tum jaan-e-jahan…saundarya sabun Nirma’ — is sung by Hariharan and Kavita Krishnamurthy.

Twist: “We definitely wanted a shot of a lion, and when we finally tracked one down after a long jeep trek through the game reserve, it refused to come out from the shade. Eventually the game rangers had to place the carcass of an already-dead deer in the tall grass, right in front of Sonali’s jeep, to lure the animal out. The lion ultimately emerged very lazily and gave us just that one take before picking up the carcass and going back into the shade,” says Surendranath.

Brand: Dhara cooking oil
Star: Parzaan Dastur

The ‘little big boy’ as we remember him has since made significant on-screen contributions to many successful mainstream movies, served as the assistant director on a couple of films, is now a writer and producer as well as one of the co-founders of Ten Colour Productions.

Storyboard:Sab gussa karte hain, main ghar chod ke jaa raha hoon!’ (‘Everyone yells at me, I’m leaving the house and going away’) says a child seated on the bench of a railway station. But when Ramu kaka brings news that the boy’s mother has frizzled a batch of hot jalebis, the sulky pout is instantly replaced by a wide smile as he dashes back home.

Twist: “They had initially cast a much older kid to play my part because a four-year-old leaving home didn’t really make sense. But when that didn’t work out, I was called to the set right after school one day. I was very hungry because I hadn’t had much time to eat before we began the shoot, so my expression on seeing the jalebis was an absolutely natural one!” shares Dastur.

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