Akshay Kumar in a Thums Up advert, you can expect a fair amount of action. In an effort not to disappoint viewers, Coca-Cola India is out with a new campaign for Thums Up, in which brand ambassador Kumar is seen pulling out all stops for a bottle of Thums Up, with a car racing sequence in Malaysia to add to the thrill.
One may recall that an ad for Thums Up in the early half of 2007 showed Kumar performing Yamakasi (an extreme sport wherein one is expected to cross dangerous hurdles and run at top speed) to catch up with a bottle of Thums Up in a truck that is racing away. The ad was shot in Australia, and the Yamakasi sequence was inspired by the James Bond film, Casino Royale. This year, Leo Burnett, the agency for Thums Up, was faced with exactly the same client brief: to show the extent to which a Thums Up drinker will go for his favourite drink.
High-speed car racing stunts were decided upon, with Kumar speeding in the car in narrow alleys, while his girlfriend in the passenger seat screams for her life. Bourne Identity, anyone? "Yes, we wanted to give it a Bourne Identity/James Bond-like feel to make it more thrilling," explains Saraban.
According to Kashmira Chadha, director, marketing, Coca-Cola India, "The latest Thums Up campaign aims at portraying the 'anything for my thunder' attitude of the Indian male. Nothing can come between him and his Thums Up."
The ad opens on a shot of Kumar's girlfriend driving her car on a busy Malaysian road. Kumar spots her and forces his way into the driver's seat, telling her they are going for a drive. He begins to drive like a maniac, narrowly missing other cars and creating panic amongst bystanders. As he takes one dangerous turn after another (even flipping the car at one point), his girlfriend demands to know what the hurry is. At this point, Kumar goes off into a flashback sequence in which his Thums Up is shown falling off the balcony into a moving vehicle on the road below. It is then understood that Kumar is chasing his Thums Up. Amidst his girlfriend's screams, he catches up with the vehicle, opens his car door and grabs the bottle of Thums Up.
Just then, he loses control of the car and crashes. The last shot has Kumar in a bed in hospital, bandages all over, thanking the forces above that his bottle of Thums Up is safe. As he takes a swig, his disgusted girlfriend takes an angry swipe at his leg, which is in a cast, and walks out.
The film was shot over five days in a busy street in Kuala Lumpur by Malaysian director Farouk Aljoffrey of Planet Films. The post production work was done by Leo Burnett in India.
The film had a whopping budget of Rs 2 crore; The film was shot abroad as the Burnett team felt the creative would be more striking if it had a different look. Some 200 Malaysian people (character artistes and junior artistes) were employed to pose as bystanders. Rustic outfits were imported from Vietnam to add to the authenticity of the unexpected car chase. The street was cordoned off for the entire duration of the shoot. Saraban and his team were careful to not make it look like a well-planned, slick sequence; in fact, the car used in the ad - an Opel Manta - is a 1970s model, one that isn't manufactured any more.
"The two main characters in any Thums Up film are Akshay Kumar and his bottle of Thums Up," says Saraban, "the rest are just supplementary characters."
Some elements, such as Akshay Kumar imitating the screams of his enraged girlfriend, or even the disgusted swipe at Kumar's leg in the end, were all added impromptu. "We have always tried to maintain that Thums Up is a male oriented film involving elements of style and brawn, but not all muscle," says Saraban, explaining the patent humour in the end. Last year's ad, too, had Kumar kidding with his girlfriend over the 'Aakhri Thums Up' concept.
First Casino Royale, then Bourne Identity… one can't help but ask, what next!