A public service anti-smoking commercial made by Mudra Communications' Mumbai office has been picked for airing on Tarrant On TV, a popular London-based television show produced by the ITV Network of the UK. The 14-year-old show, hosted by Chris Tarrant (best known as presenter of the hugely successful and much-cloned game show, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?) showcases the most humorous and witty television commercials from around the globe.
"We would like to showcase the anti-smoking spot 'Godfather'… as it is a very good example of the power of advertising to highlight serious issues," says a part of the message that the Network sent Mudra. "This is a great honour for us," says Anup Chitnis, creative director, Mudra Communication, who has scripted and directed the film along with partner and co-creative director at Mudra, Rensil D'Silva. "The fact that a specialist TV show that celebrates great advertising from all over the world wants to run the ad shows that we got the message across very skillfully and convincingly."
The commercial in question is undoubtedly funny - in a 'dry humour' sort of way - but delivered in a manner that doesn't dilute the seriousness of the message. Here's how the commercial goes:
The film opens on a 'dinner scene' in some dim-lit restaurant. Seated at a table are three men in tuxedoes - one, a silver-haired gent, the other two, swarthy youngsters. From their conversation it becomes evident that the elderly man is a mafioso, Frankie 'The Fist'. The other two are his minions. Dinner over, the don pulls out a cigarette and proceeds to light it.
Just then, a limousine draws to a halt outside the restaurant and deposits a man by the front door. The man walks into the restaurant, looks around and heads for the table the trio are occupying. On reaching the table, he addresses the don (who still hasn't lit his fag) by talking to him about some old score that needs to be settled.
Sensing danger, the younger hoods instinctively reach for their weapons… Too late! The intruder pulls a gun out of his pocket and cautions them. The don leans back and is about to light his cigarette before reasoning things out when… Bang! The first henchman takes the bullet on his chest. Bang! Down goes the second one too.
The assassin then trains his gun at the don's head. The don stares in shocked silence, unlit cigarette dangling limply from his lips. Bang! The bullet bores through the don's forehead, and he slumps back in his chair. The assassin is about to turn away when he notices something funny.
The gunshot wound on the don's head 'fills up' and disappears mysteriously. The Godfather sits up in his chair and smiles wickedly, as he puts his still unlit cigarette to his lips and flicks the lighter. But before he manages lighting-up, the assassin quickly pumps another bullet into the don. Same result - the wound fills up and the Godfather comes back to life.
'Every cigarette that you don't light-up, adds three minutes to your life,' reads the super.
"When Rensil and I first thought of doing an anti-smoking ad, we looked around and saw that everyone was making 'gloomy' ads," says Chitnis. "Yes, it's a serious subject, but why should it always be treated so heavily that no one wants to see it? So we decided that we'd do scripts that were funny, tongue-in-cheek, engaging but effective." Spoofing hackneyed movie plots was a different way of doing it, it was decided upon.
'Godfather' is not the only commercial in this series. A second ad uses Bollywood's hero-saves-heroine-from-villain's-clutches cliché, where, in a throwback from the 1970s, a Rajesh Khanna lookalike fights a Shetty lookalike and kills him by putting a cigarette into his mouth and lighting it. Both ads have been airing on MTV since April 2002. (A third script, which spoofed the 'graveyard showdown' from the classic Western 'The Good, The Bad and The Ugly' was never shot.)
Chitnis reveals that the scripts were actually conceived in October last. "Once the scripts were ready, we approached MTV," he recalls. "Although MTV liked the scripts immensely, they told us they didn't have the money to make the films. We were very disappointed."
Hope came in the form of friend and UTV producer Ajay Vasu. "We were working on a project with UTV and we told Ajay about these scripts," says Chitnis. "He immediately agreed to help us. He put up everything from people to locations. And he gave us huge subsidies on every service. UTV did the video tests, everything. We had so many people doing us favours. You won't believe how inexpensive the whole project became thanks to all this."
"It was for anti-smoking - a good cause," Vasu brushes off the suggestion of having done a favour. "Plus I have a long relationship with Anup and Rensil." He adds that the scripts also appealed to him a lot. "You don't get such scripts so often, especially where the client is not telling you 'Mera pack yellow hai toh background yellow rakhna.' Everyone chipped in… technicians, cameramen, even friends." Incidentally, the 'don' is, in reality, from the German consulate - a gentleman introduced by Vasu's German friend. "Even when we said that there was no money in this project people went out of their way to help," says Vasu. "Everyone was ready to stretch more than a bit. I am happy the ad is on Tarrant."
Chitnis is thrilled with the support he and D'Silva have got from Mudra. "I have to thank Kaushik (Roy) for all the help he extended. He helped us get the ads on MTV. More importantly, he allowed us the opportunity to do some good work, which has now got noticed." For the record, the Chitnis-D'Silva combine created the now-famous 'Gheun Tak' campaign for CHannel [V] two years ago. It may be recalled that this campaign won handsomely at last year's Abby Awards.
Interestingly, both the anti-smoking ads were entered at this year's Abby Awards and Triple A Awards, reveals Chitnis. Nothing came of it, though. "I don't know why," he shrugs. "Maybe because advertising people here are not prepared to see 'fun advertising' in this category. As I said, people here are obsessed with seriousness whenever 'public service campaign' is mentioned." Â© 2002 agencyfaqs!