Big-budget commercial puts 223-cc Karizma into orbit

By , agencyfaqs! | In | June 12, 2003
The launch commercial for Hero Honda's 223-cc Karizma uses Lear Jets and Vectra Vision technology to capture some live action air-to-air sequences

A big, black, mean-looking fighter jet screams over a sun-drenched coastline. As the pilot radios his report back to the control room, his eye catches the sun glinting off something down on land. He looks, and sees something moving along a road at high speeds. He changes course and heads inland, keen on getting a closer look. As he draws near, he sees a motorcycle burning rubber. Using cameras mounted on the plane, the pilot quickly starts taking photographs of the motorcycle, even as the bike rider revs his machine into high gear. A high-speed chase ensues, with the rider trying to throw the inquisitive jet off his tail. The pilot does his best to get a catch a better glimpse of the bike and the rider, but he is thwarted when the biker triumphantly speeds into a tunnel, and out of the pilot's sight…

An air-force base, with fighter jets lined up in the hangar. Suddenly, the bike from the chase rolls to a stop outside the hangar. The rider dismounts, takes off his helmet, puts on a baseball cap and turns. Hrithik Roshan. Hrithik (quite obviously also an air-force pilot) slowly walks towards the control room, where he sees a group of people huddled together, staring at something in silent wonder. He goes over and sees that the group is analyzing pictures taken from a jet - pictures of a snazzy, red motorcycle tearing its way over the landscape. Thoroughly amused, Hrithik stifles an urge to laugh as he looks upon the group… Karizma. Jet, set, go,' reads the super.

Thus goes the new 60-second television commercial for the Karizma. For the clueless, the Karizma (pronounced ka-ritz-ma) is Hero Honda's new top-end 223-cc performance bike, launched to rival the 180-cc Pulsar (Bajaj Auto) and the 250-cc Aquila (Kinetic Engineering). While the bike was formally launched in the capital in mid-May, the television commercial for the brand - created by JWT India - has just broken. And while the commercial may not be the 'most expensive' Indian ad film, it is undoubtedly 'big-budget' in terms of scale.

To begin with, this is perhaps the first time that Lear Jets - and not helicopters - have been used to shoot entire sequences in an Indian television commercial. The sequences, of course, pertain to shots of the airborne fighter jets - which constitute a sizeable part of the film. "We used the same technology that is used in Hollywood movies like Top Gun," reveals Rohit Chawla, vice-president & head - national film cell, JWT India. "It is virtually impossible shooting a fighter jet from a helicopter, as the jet's speed is incredible. So we used Vectra Vision technology (which is the Hollywood standard for air-to-air cinematography), with periscopes mounted on the Lear Jet to capture the air-to-air action."

Chawla adds that this is the first instance of an Indian ad not using stock footage to show fighter jets in action. "We were attempting something new here in terms of authenticity and scale (as far as India is concerned), so we did not want to take recourse to stock footage," he says. Interestingly Hollywood was the benchmark, but only that much. "Today, in Hollywood, a lot of such action is actually digitally mastered using computer graphics," Chawla continues. "Even we were told that all this could be done using computer graphics, but when we made enquiries, we figured that doing it live would cost us a fraction. Also, shooting the whole thing was a much more satisfying experience. The shots of that have Hrithik and the jet side by side, or the shot that has the jet going meters over Hrithik's head… all these are authentic. We have not touched up anything."

Chawla admits that he was quite dismayed when the script (written by Naveen Mathur of JWT Delhi) first came to him. "My first reaction was how the hell are we to execute this thing?" he says. "But the more we sat on it, the clearer it became. And we realized that it was possible, if we got the right people into the project." He reveals that the agency and the production house (Mumbai-based Classic Films) decided to get a director who had a flair for shooting live action. That's how the South Africa-based Israeli filmmaker Eli Sverdlov came into the picture.

"We knew that the director had to be someone who could handle this kind of thing well," Chawla explains. "We were working on tight schedules and timeframes, so everything had to go like clockwork. There was no time for umpteen retakes, as that would mean countless clearances from the South African authorities. Then the sheer expense that we would incur for the Lear Jet and the fighter jets, plus the fact that we had Hrithik for just five hours. There was also Cape Town's tricky weather to contend with. We saw Eli's reel and knew we had someone who could do justice to the script, within the available time. Also, Eli started out as a cinematographer, which helped us in getting some great shots."

Incidentally, the entire film was shot on a budget of "Rs 1 crore or thereabouts" - which makes it a big-budget exercise. But Chawla points out that, "budgets don't make a commercial big; it's the scale of the commercial that makes it big. Yes, you may say it is a lavish budget, but I have something to show for that. Not just shots of a bike going over mountains in some exotic locale. And I must thank Atul Sobti (vice-president, marketing, Hero Honda Motors) for buying into the vision and giving us the freedom and the support to deliver on the brief - which was to create an impact for the Karizma's launch by creating something large-scale and sensational. Something that had never been done before." © 2003 agencyfaqs!

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