Shreyas Kulkarni

As Ranveer Singh woos India in IPL ads, Pankaj Tripathi emerges as the face of 'Bharat'

Tripathi is the reigning king of Indian adland - recent appearances include ads for Milk Bikis, Glucon-D, Nilon's, 1mg and Cadbury Fuse.

Pankaj Tripathi has misled us.

We first met him during Tata Tea’s ‘Jaago Re’ campaign, where he, as a politician, uttered the popular line, “Main aapka vote maangne aaya hoon.” There was the iconic ‘snatching’ hand movement. We didn’t see an actor. We, instead, saw a cunning politician, who didn’t deserve our vote.

In the last few years, apart from his memorable roles in some of the biggest movies such as Gunjan Saxena, Angreji Medium, and Ludo, we have come to see a shrewd and uncompromising man, as is evident from his most popular OTT roles.

We have also seen him in ads that have left us scratching our heads. Gone is the roughness, which has been replaced by niceness - a Tripathi any middle class family would become a fan of because he exuded traits such as reliability, niceness, helpfulness and trust. His ads are on the topics and questions that we’d ponder over and ask ourselves on regular occasions.

So, are there two Tripathis?

For instance, he gently admonished a mother to feed her son ‘atta biskoot’ (Britannia Milk Bikis), instead of ‘maida’ biscuits (dig at Parle-G) in an ad. In another one, he, as a retailer, helped other retailers to get on the B2B e-commerce app Udaan to bolster their sales.

Tripathi, in yet another commercial, helped his father enjoy ‘aloo puri’ at home, instead of stepping outside, by ensuring all his medical needs were met with the help of 1mg app. (1mg is a leading online pharmacy.)

Brand Tripathi has exploded in 2021. Over the last three months, he’s appeared in ads for Britannia Milk Bikis, Glucon-D, Nilon’s, 1mg, Cadbury Fuse, and Abzorb Dusting Powder.

Add Star Plus, Policy Bazaar, Udaan, Sujata Mixer Grinder and Videocon from the last few years, and you’ve got yourself an artiste who’s not only impressed the viewers on the 70mm and OTT screens, but has also become a favourite of Indian adland.

Tripathi played a villainous role in ‘Mirzapur’, an Amazon Prime Original in 2018. “He has shades of grey and it’s not an outright negative role,” says a former talent head, adding, “Even if you look at his darker roles, I don’t think anyone hates him. There’s empathy for him.”

The former talent head tells us that Tripathi’s acting chops, and the fact that he’s an outsider and isn’t your conventional hero, work in his favour. “Relatability (his biggest asset) works in his favour. You look at smaller towns and cities, people think even Irrfan (Khan) or Pankaj can make it, so can I. I don’t have to be a glamorous star.”

The talent head also remarks that there’s a “vacuum in the space, with Khan no more with us and Nawaz (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) doing roles that are mostly negative. It has worked in Tripathi’s favour.”

Tripathi hails from Bihar. If you have seen any of his interviews, you can clearly see a touch of the hinterland on his shoulder, like a badge of honour.

Arun Iyer
Arun Iyer

“I think it is a combination of exceptional acting talent combined with absolute rootedness in life that is working for him,” says Arun Iyer, founding partner, Spring Marketing Capital. (The agency is behind the 1mg commercials, featuring Tripathi.)

Iyer talks about how Tripathi “works hard to not lose touch with” his humble background… "He’s very clear about where he comes from and has figured it’s that rootedness that’s got him to where he is right now.” Iyer was with Lintas when the agency made the iconic ‘Jaago Re’ campaign.

Yes, Tripathi has bowled us all over with his acting chops. The result is his portfolio of brand endorsements that can give any celebrity a run for their money. Other than actor Ranveer Singh and his barrage of IPL ads right now, we haven’t seen any other actor appear in such a diverse set of brand ads in recent times.

Gaurav Agarwal
Gaurav Agarwal

“We were looking for someone who’d be believable, who’d feel approachable as a protagonist, who felt like an average Indian and could be relatable to a majority of folks who’re in our TG segment,” reveals Gaurav Agarwal, co-founder, 1mg.

“We felt that when Mr Tripathi says something, he is more believable than, say, a Manoj Bajpai, who is very serious and no-nonsense kind of guy.”

Agarwal went on to state that they choose Tripathi because he “was like someone in our household whom we could trust, tell the right things, give the right advice, and do the same thing we’d do to take care of our family.”

Tripathi didn’t make the cut in Duff & Phelps’ annual Celebrity Brand Valuation List in 2020. We think that he will this year.