Wednesday, January 05, 2011

AD-Zapped - Top Television Commercials of 2010

Abhishek Bachchan continues to give us ideas, and we've finally discovered Yuvraj Singh's secret of a revitalising performance. Closer home in Chennai, the Usman Road brigade (read sarees-jewellery), no less frenzied, upped the ad frequencies to a crescendo for Diwali. The maximum ad clutter was contributed by mobile networks and FMCGs, and therein lies the challenge of creating distinctive out-of-the box advertising.
Here are the top 10 ads in order of best brand association, distinctiveness and execution.
1. Cadbury Dairy Milk– Shubh Aarambh
While we love the ad at the bus stop, we give the 'Jeans' one the top slot for its detailing and treatment.
Uncle encourages his self-conscious traditional wife to have an auspicious piece of 'meetha' (read chocolate) before she steps out of the house wearing jeans for the first time. We love the cramped middle-class apartment with pickles on the table. We love the invisible mother-in-law. Most of all, we love how perfectly cast Neena Kulkarni was, as the Aunty with plaited hair, nose-stud, mangalsutra, green bangles and bindi. Her expressions – priceless!
Agency: Ogilvy & Mather
Directed by Vinil Mathew of Footcandles Films
2. Coca Cola - Warli
A young boy waits at a bus stop in the middle of nowhere for a ride back home to Delhi for Diwali. He opens a Coke bottle, and wishes himself 'Happy Diwali'. An animated firecracker bursts forth. An old Geeta Dutt song gets trendy. Animated tribal figures do a festive dance on the bottle. The figures spill out and draw the boy's attention to a mini-bus that he had assumed had broken down. The driver gets into the bus, switches on kitschy Diwali-esque serial lights and yells, 'Dilli.' The bus leaves with the elated boy on it. We totally dig the song and the use of traditional Warli art in contemporary animation.
Agency : McCann Erickson
Directed by Dibakar Banerjee of Freshwater Films
    3. Cadbury Celebrations – Chintu and the doorbell
Another Diwali ad, this time, to atone for social sins of the past. Mr. Joshi opens his door to find Chintu from Flat No. 15, who, as a pesky kid, used to ring his doorbell and run away. Now, when kids do the same to grown-up Chintu, he realises how annoying he must have been. He extends a peace offering – a box of chocolates. Mr. Joshi asks suspiciously if he was the kid who once gave him a chocolate box filled with firecrackers. Chintu sheepishly says that this time, it's 'meetha'. When he hugs Mr. Joshi and wishes him Happy Diwali, a smile lights up Mr. Joshi's face.
Sumeet Raghavan is very 'Chintu' and Vinod Nagpal of 'Hum Log' fame is perfect as the harassed Mr. Joshi.
Agency: Contract
Directed by Vinil Mathew for Footcandles Films
4. Limca Summer - Neighbour
A breezy song plays as Hrishitaa Bhatt's cute neighbour sips Limca to magically convert everything she touches to a splash. The pranks escalate until she is completely drenched and he runs out of Limca. Now it's her turn to walk across to his place, sip Limca and get even by turning his bike into one big splash. There's mischief, there's romance and Caralisa Monteiro's voice playing in your head long after the ad is over.
Agency: Ogilvy & Mather
Directed by Vinil Mathew for Footcandles Films
5. Vodafone Delights
Promoting Vodafone's exclusive discounts and deals for its subscribers, are two school girls. One makes the other feel special by doing little things like giving her more chocolates than others, giving her a ride home on her bicycle and reserving a seat for her at a school gathering. The girls are natural performers and along with the song and the lyrics, bring the commercial alive. This B&W series has a nostalgic quality, perhaps to remind us of that one friend in school (Hint: like Vodafone) who made us feel special.
Agency : Ogilvy & Mather
Directed by Prakash Varma for Nirvana Films
6. Mirinda -Asin and Speed SangarThis one will score high on recall value in Chennai and will warm the cockles of every autorickshaw passenger's heart. Speed Sangar, an arrogant auto driver refuses to return change that's due to Asin. The polite Asin takes a sip of Mirinda and turns into galatta-girl. She asks Sangar to start the auto and takes him on a wild goose chase all around Chennai, finally returning to the place they set out from. When he asks for a thousand bucks, she says, 'I got in here, and I got out here –you want to get paid?' Atta girl, Asin!
Agency: JWT
Directed by Rajesh Krishnan for Soda Films

7. Asian Paints – Brothers
A series of ads where big brother whines about how he no longer has a role to play in little brother's life. He laments that Chotu has become quite the design expert, decorating his house stylishly. Chotu denies this, and says that it's really easy to simply log on to the Asian Paints website to select colours. But Bhaiyya goes on, hurt that his little brother has become independent and his advice is not sought for anything. This insight into Indian families where elders' advice is sought for every little decision, forms a humorous backdrop for conveying the website's features.
Agency : Ogilvy & Mather
Directed by Prasoon Pandey for Corcoise Films
8. Idea - Language No Bar
Abhishek Bachchan plays as a speech-impaired tea vendor who has an 'Idea' to solve the problem of four tea-stall regulars transferred to places where they can't speak the local language. Faced with a mob of language-proud Maharashtrians at a railway station, the Hariyanvi calls his Marathi friend and learns to ask for the toilet in Marathi. The Bengali goes to Kerala and manages to get a room on rent on the basis of a thick Malayali accent. The Maharashtrian sings in Bengali to get a seat on a tram in Kolkata. The Malayali learns the right way to say “Ram Ram Tau” in Haryanvi. And we learn how useful Bluetooth (and friends, and Abhishek Bachchan, and Idea Cellular) can be in a multi-cultural society like ours.
Agency: Lowe Lintas
Directed by Amit Sharma for Chrome Pictures
9. Airtel – 3G
If there's something that young lovers wish would never occur, it's separation. And if there's anything that video call receivers wish would never occur, it's buffering. To showcase the quality of video calls via Internet on 3G, Airtel uses an endless loop of lovers' meeting and parting over and over again.
The other ad - the 3G Live Entertainment one - has A.R. Rahman's uber-cool composition picturised on a street performer following a young woman everywhere. She walks away, but her eyes are still riveted by his moves, he finally accompanies her. The camera pans out to show different people on the street accompanied by performers.
Agency: JWT
Directed by Philippe Andre for Independent Films Ltd
10. Vodafone BlackBerry boys
Five stuffy-suited postpaid types dance in sync, calling themselves the BlackBerry Boys, when suddenly, some very obvious non-corporate pre-paid types dance into the frame singing about cool additional features in the BlackBerry. The ad ends with the 'suits' lost in a crowd of 'non-suits'. As creatives go, this ad isn't up there with the greats. But it efficiently redefines BlackBerry as a brand not only for male corporate executives but for everybody.
Agency: Ogilvy & Mather
Directed by Prakash Varma for Nirvana Films
And for sheer advertising effectiveness, we would like to nominate the Chennai Super Kings' 2010 Whistle Podu ad to this list! All that whistling worked, eh? 
An edited version appeared in TAXI's January 2011 Issue

Monday, January 03, 2011

24 BY CITY - Jaisalmer

Jaisalmer lives up to every international tourist's perception of the exotic East, from snake charmers to tightrope walkers, magicians to men with record-breaking moustache lengths. It is all here, amidst the shifting sand dunes of the Thar Desert.
Jaisalmer Fort
If Granada's Alhambra is named so because it is presumed to turn red at dusk, the yellow sandstone used to build the Jaisalmer Fort turns a golden yellow. It is also called Sonar Kila (Golden Fort).
The Jaisalmer Fort is different from others in Rajasthan in that it is a living fort – people actually live in it! The entire population of Jaisalmer was once encompassed within the walls of this fort built in the 12th century atop the Trikut Hill. Over the years, the population spilled over beyond the ramparts.
The palace is only one of many sights to see. A saunter through the fort will give you an insight into the architecture of the period it was built in. The fortification itself is a grand evocative structure with its many pol/prol (gates). There are modest homes, traditional facades of shops and grand havelis (residences) owned by prosperous traders of yore. Don't miss the exquisitely carved temples of the Jain community.
Steer clear of touts and self-appointed tourist guides at the Fort.
Jaisalmer's prosperity was due to its prime position on ancient trading routes. As a result, the city's magnificent havelis were built predominantly by prosperous merchants.
Some residences, like Nathmal Ji Ki Haveli continue to be private and off-bounds for tourists. Do also see/visit Salim Singh Ki Haveli and Patwon Ki Haveli. Some are within the Fort itself.
The unique five-storeyed Tazia Tower in the Badal Mahal is symbolic of floats taken out during Muharram by the Shia sect. Badal Mahal itself is now partially a heritage hotel.
If museums are your preferred route to understand the cultural history of a place, do visit the Jaisalmer Folklore Museum and the Desert Cultural Center. Take in the art, photographs, artefacts and crafts at both museums. There are also performances in the evening. Check local listings.
Gadsisar Lake
If you are not heading out of Jaisalmer to see the sand dunes, do spend the evening at Gadsisar Lake, once the only man-made source of water for Jaisalmer. Head to Tilon Ki Pol, the archway to the lake and watch the canopies and structures around the lake take on a golden hue at dusk. A great place for bird-watching.
As is true of any tourist location in Rajasthan, Jaisalmer is a shopper's paradise. Besides the puppets, apparel, junk jewellery and home linen, Jaisalmer is famous for bags, footwear and musical instruments made of handcrafted camel leather. Do bargain.
There are many restaurants serving world cuisine for the international traveller within the fort. But do dine at one of the Haveli-turned-hotels. Some even provide al fresco dining options and folk dance performances. A Rajasthani thali (platter) is a great way to sample many Rajasthani specialities at one go.
Jaisalmer is a great base to explore places nearby. The Rajasthan Tourism Offices can guide you to book camel safaris and nights out under the desert sky at the Sam Sand Dunes and Khuri Village. Other getaways include Lodhurwa (the erstwhile capital of the Bhattis, exquisite Jain temples), Bada Bagh (ancient cenotaphs 0f the royals, spectacular at sunset) and Kuldara (an abandoned village shrouded in mystery).
The Annual Desert Festival is a showcase of everything desert and everything Rajasthani from polo on camel-back to folk music and dance performances. The next one takes place between February 16 and 18, 2011.
Rajasthan Tourism – Jaisalmer
Station Road, Tel.: 02992-252406
Tourist Information Counter, Rly.Station

(An edited version appeared in Culturama's January 2011 Issue)


Director: Adoor Gopalakrishnan

Language : Malayalam

The title refers to a popular Kathakali dance-drama inspired by an oral retelling from the Mahabharata dealing with morality, duty and the handing out of punishments. 

Kaliyappan (Oduvil Unnikrishnan), the hangman of the princely state of Travancore is tormented by the guilt of executing people for a living. He douses his guilt with toddy and ponders the irony of using ash from the burnt hangman's rope to cure ailments. The morbidity of his job is barely relieved by a loving family and a royal endowment of tax-free land. 

One day, Kaliyappan is informed that his services are required for an impending execution. As the date draws near, Kaliyappan's moral reluctance affects his health. On the appointed day, his son Muthu (Narain) accompanies him to the execution. 

To keep the hangman awake preceding the execution, the Jailer (Nedumudi Venu) narrates the tale of a young girl who was raped and murdered by her sister's husband, although the blame falls on a young orphan who wooed her. Kaliyappan, in his mind, finds resonances with his own life and gives in to empathy. When he wonders what happened next, he is told that it is the young orphan who is to be hanged in the morning. 

When fiction, fact and fragments from his own life merge imperceptibly, Kaliyappan becomes agitated and collapses. To carry out the execution on schedule, Kaliyappan's son, a Gandhian and a propogator of non-violence, ends up doing his father's job. 

Adoor Gopalakrishnan is an internationally acclaimed filmmaker and the recipient of numerous prestigious awards including the Padma Shri, the Padma Vibhushan and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award. Ilaiyaraaja's haunting background score transforms into a youthful lilt when the story of the girl is being narrated but returns to the hangman's story with a somber foreshadowing of imminent death.
(An edited version appeared in Culturama's January 2011 Issue)