Sumita Vaid

Amitabh Bachchan short-circuits Circuit in Pepsi ad

TVC to make an appearance at C&S homes in September

Pepsi ads have traditionally been somewhat elitist. Perhaps, because they feature a Shah Rukh Khan, a Preity Zinta, or a Saif Ali Khan. Yes, there is an aspirational feel to all these commercials, but it's always weaved around an urban setting. While Aamir Khan has played a Punjabi farmer, a Bihari businessman and a Hyderabadi paanwala among other characters, and has endeared arch-rival Coca-Cola to the masses, Pepsi's brand ambassadors have only played themselves in successive ads - albeit successfully.

Seen in this light, Pepsi's TVC, which is slated to break at C&S homes in September, is refreshingly different in more ways than one.

First, the ad - featuring megastar Amitabh Bachchan and Arshad Warsi (who played Circuit in the hit film Munnabhai MBBS) - is played out in a rural setting, which, by itself, is a rarity for Pepsi. The cola brand, except for a stray ad or two, has never really focused on a rural setting.

Second, the ad chronicles a tussle between the `haves' and the 'have-nots' with a strong story-line. Third, Bachchan, unlike a yuppie Shah Rukh, appears as a completely non-glamorous villager. And fourth, Bachchan's character is styled in a very different way and is very unlike the spate of advertisements that he features on these days. But, we will leave this point, for the moment.

Let's first look at the film. Directed by Rajesh Krishnan and produced by Footcandle on behalf of JWT India, the Pepsi film focuses on how a village boatman (played by Bachchan) gets even with a city-bred upstart (Warsi).

The film starts with a few crates of Pepsi being placed on a boat, and Warsi (sporting a yuppie look) instructing the boatman to start rowing. The old man (Amitabh) quietly goes about his work. Halfway through, the tired rower requests his passenger for some Pepsi to quench his thirst.

Too busy arranging his locks, the passenger rudely snubs the boatman. Down but definitely not out, the old man sets his mind to work. Soon, the upstart is back for the next trip. On the boat, as expected, our stud gets back to grooming himself but gets the shock of his life, when suddenly water shoots up from the base of the boat.

Immediately, the boat owner leaving his oars aside, screams and asks the passenger to put his foot on the leaking hole. Warsi complies, but the next instant, water shoots from another hole in the boat. Even as the boatman instructs the passenger to stop the leak, he pulls something and two more fountains sprout up.

Soon, Warsi gets sprawled on the deck - desperately trying to block the leakages with his hands and feet. With his enemy completely engaged, the boatman happily grabs a bottle, smiles at the hapless passenger and gleefully gulps down the Pepsi.

Amid the background jingle: `Yeh pyaas......hai badi', and after having enjoyed his drink, the boatman comments to the loser, "Badi pyaas lagi hogi na? Paani pi paani." (Must be feeling very thirsty - right? Have water, man).

Rohit Ohri, senior vice-president and area director, JWT India, says that the basic insight around 'Yeh Pyaas Hai Badi' is about having a 'big thirst' for life. "It's not about dreaming about tomorrow, or reliving the past... it's about getting the maximum out of life - 'now'. Today's youth don't want to wait for the good things in life. They want it all. And they want it now."

That, according to Ohri, is the attitude of Bachchan in the film. "Normally, someone like a boatman, having been refused a Pepsi, would be quite resigned to his fate. Not our 'hero'. He wants a Pepsi, so he reaches out and gets one for himself - now. Seen in this context, there's a 'big thirst' to get even in life too. Yes, there's a bit of trickery involved. But in today's context, it's acceptable and cool," he adds.

The TVC has been around for Doordarshan viewers for some time since Pepsi was unable to run its campaign with Shah Rukh Khan as an army jawan on the national network. "That was due to DD's rules that no advertisement should feature forces in uniform," Ohri explains.

What's also interesting is that the great Amitabh Bachchan underwent an image makeover in this ad. Come to think of it. Almost all the recent advertisements featuring the Big B had him donning sharply-cut suits and sporting a very urban look.

"There was a sheer fatigue in seeing Amitabh in suits in film after film. In our ads, he breaks clutter and looks very different as a village boatman, complete with a rural headgear," Ohri adds.

The magic of Bachchan clearly lives on. © 2004 agencyfaqs!

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