afaqs!

Aamir Khan tries his 'hand' at puppetry for Tata Sky

By Savia Jane Pinto , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | November 13, 2009
The brand ambassador has donned yet another hat for the DTH brand that he endorses

It's no surprise when Aamir Khan changes his look for a commercial or a film, yet the actor manages to surprise each time and with each new look.

Khan has been brand ambassador for Tata Sky, the DTH (direct to home) service provider, since 2008. Each ad for the brand since then has featured a different look for the actor.

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Changing looks isn't novel for Khan. In the initial ads for Tata Sky, following his appointment as endorser, he played the dual role of a Punjabi husband and wife; later, he played a mischievous urban husband to actor Gul Panag; and an elderly agitated Sikh gentleman. There have also been a couple of recent ads where he plays an urban husband. The latest TV commercial from the Tata Sky stable has Khan playing a puppeteer.

In his long standing association with Coca-Cola, too, the actor has assayed numerous roles, each starkly different from the earlier one. These include Akhtar Hyderabadi, a sharp UP-ite ('Paanch'); a Jatt (Yaara Da Tashan); a Bengali Babu; a Sherpa; and Manno Bhabhi, among others.

No strings attached

Created by Ogilvy India, the ad has been directed by Prasoon Pandey of Corcoise films and is about the on-demand features of Tata Sky Active. The team that worked on the ad includes Anup Chitnis, executive creative director; Anuraag Khandelwal, creative director and Satish de Sa, creative director.

The ad opens on the shot of Khan at a ventriloquism show. He pulls out his puppet, which is his TV. The TV is upset at Khan about something. A dialogue ensues between Khan and his puppet, where it is learnt that the TV is upset as Khan switches it on any time, be it day or night, if he wants to access any of the multiple features available on Tata Sky.

Tata Sky's competition has been talking about services such as mall shopping and recipes and both have named the service Active. "However, Tata Sky has pegged on the fact that these services can be made available any time - on demand. Thus, it hands over the viewing reins of the television to the consumer," says Chitnis.

Mimicry

From this brief, the creative team arrived at a puppet and puppeteer's interaction. A puppet was designed by the Ogilvy team with suggestions from Corcoise. The puppet is designed on the lines of the Muppets of the popular television show, Sesame Street.

However, after looking for a fabricator within the country, the team finally settled on Theatricks (from the UK). After numerous video conference calls between Pandey and the team at Theatricks, the puppet, with a television for a head, was created. It took 12 days to create the figure - a short time for creating a figure from scratch.

Pandey says that it was known that Khan would play a ventriloquist. "We picked the look of a dated ventriloquist because of the charm it carries," says the director. While conducting research about contemporary ventriloquists, most of them looked like everyday people because they dressed in casuals like jeans and a T-shirt. However, Pandey preferred the slightly dated look.

Hence, Ramdas Padhye, the famous Indian ventriloquist, was considered as a referral point. The look chosen resembles Beatles artist Ringo Starr and what Padhye looked like in the 1970's, shares the creative team.

Stylist Arjun Bhasin was briefed on the same and he created Khan's look - plaid three piece suit, bow tie and side burns.

Khan trained with Padhye for four days to learn how to throw his voice and has played most of the part. Though he hasn't actually mimed the dialogues real time, the lip movements have been achieved through the training process. The actor also handled the puppet himself and the movements that the puppet makes in the ad film. After the four days of training, the final ad was shot in a day at the auditorium at ISKCON.