The actor made a reappearance on the ad circuit after over a decade - this time for Reliance Fresh and Reliance SMART.
Govardhan Thakurdas Jethanand Asrani or simply Asrani is a household name, after all, who doesn't recall the famous (or infamous) "Angrezo ke zamaane ki Jailor" from 'Sholay'. Amongst his many memorable roles, the famous Bollywood comedian can now add a New Year's special ad campaign for Reliance's hypermarket outlets SMART and Fresh, to his repertoire.
The digital ad film - #NayiShuruaat - has been crafted by Tidal7 Brand & Digital, the agency co-founded by adman KS Chakravarthy (fondly known as Chax) and Venkat Mallik. The film's director is Vinay Jaiswal from Imaginary Friend, a production house.
In a conversation with afaqs! about his latest ad after almost two decades, the veteran performer explains that an actor has to maintain his/her 'emotions' equally in all acts, be it movies, theatre or ad films.
"An ad is just another small story. The involvement of a brand is not a distraction in any way," Asrani says.
#NayiShuruaat is a story of twins whose relationship has been sour for 50 years, ever since the younger brother married the elder's first love, 'Saraswati'.
Speaking about his distance from the ad industry and sparse presence in ad films, the actor, noted for his many comedic roles, says, "Advertisers prefer either models or heroes. Comedians are limited to small goofy roles. Today, even models are out of the ad industry as heroes and heroines have taken over their roles. I am happy that I was selected as a character actor and not a comedian. It was a new experience."
Asrani states that he was a little surprised when he saw the actress who would play Saraswati's role. "She was older than me. I had to wear a wig and makeup to look old," he states.
"We were looking for the perfect 75+ male to play the protagonist. Since locating identical twins of that age, who could comfortably face the camera was a very long shot, the need was to find an actor who could carry off two distinct personalities with aplomb," KS Chax, chief creative officer, Tidal7 Brand & Digital outlines.
"We loved his whole look and demeanour from a recent interview he gave. He loved the script and was keen to do the film going so far as to change his travel plans to accommodate our schedule," the CCO adds.
Reliance's team also considered the 'star-power' that Asrani would bring to the table and his 'clean, wholesome' image that would match perfectly with the family-oriented nature of the brand.
Reliance Retail's consumer base extends from the metros to middle and small-town India.
"The brothers in the film had not seen each other for 50 years and their personalities would have evolved very differently from one another. It was this difference that we wanted to capture in detail, from their style of clothing to body language and mannerisms," Chax adds.
Lalatendu Panda, chief marketing officer, Reliance Retail Value Format (Reliance SMART and Reliance Fresh), says, "Communication in the brick and mortar retail industry has traditionally been transactional - 'Get X Rs off - Save Rs Y' etc. Too much of such communication pigeon-holes the brand into the narrow scope of merely functional benefits."
"Leveraging occasions like New Year's via a campaign that connects with people helps the brand to change the transactional relationship to a more meaningful bond with customers. While this film, starring Asrani, is a beginning, we are also developing multiple creative interpretations across different media," Panda adds.
Jaideep Mahajan, nation creative head, Rediffusion Y&R, says, "While letting go of an old conflict and starting 'afresh' is a decent idea, timing the release around the New Year seems like the logical strategy as well."
Mahajan adds that using Asrani in a double role is unexpected and quite a refreshing look. However, he also feels that the execution could have been improved as some portions of the film seem to be apparent setups.
Pradyumna Chauhan, creative consultant (previously NCD. McCann), says "Reliance has brought on board a fine comedic actor from yesteryears who has not been in the public's memory for a long time. Such a recognisable face thus becomes familiar with the characteristics of the brand. Reliance, being a massy brand, is a good fit. But, the film should have been better executed. The kind of surprise that could have been created by bringing Asrani-ji back, and the love triangle, is missing."
Chauhan continues, "The 'new beginning' is an attempt at standing out, but if the film's output was better, the underlying strategy could have been better achieved. For example, if two films are similar in script and visualisation, one might look better - in terms of execution and output."
Chauhan maintains that it is not just the central character that pulls the film but a host of other actors and factors which are also responsible. He is of the opinion that the ads full potential could not be actualised and says, "A big platform like 'Nayi Shuruwaat' claims a new beginning - that way, all the other factors should also deliver. It is 50-50 for me."
Creative Director : Chaitanya Joshi
Copywriter: Chaitanya Joshi
Director : Vinay Jaiswal
Music Director : Vinay Jaiswal
Production House: Imaginary Friend