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How cricketers graduated into successful character actors in ad films

Advertisements involving cricketers have changed over time and these days we see more and more players play different characters than just talk about a brand or product in the last few seconds

When we look back at old advertisements featuring cricketers, ads such as ‘Boost is the secret of our energy’ come to our minds. Most advertisements had then cricketers playing themselves, who came in and talked about the brand or the product in the last few seconds of the commercial in a clinical manner.

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Today, we see more and more cricketers play characters for ad scripts and do much more than just reading out a few lines. Campaigns such as MS Dhoni playing a Rajnikanth for Pepsi, the ‘Naye vaade’ film from Manyavar with Virat Kohli, ‘Ek baar lagwaiyye aur humara naam bhool jaiyye’ for Finolex Pipes featuring Virender Sehwag in various roles or the Cred ad featuring Rahul Dravid are a few examples of cricketers playing different characters in brand films. We ask experts what factors contributed to this change and made actors out of cricketers.

Cyrus Pagdiwala

According to Cyrus Pagdiwala, Executive Producer at Corcoise Films, audiences enjoy watching these cricketers in different avatars and many of them have grown also comfortable with the camera. Over a period of time, agencies also started writing stories in such a way that they suited the capabilities of the cricketer as an actor, he said.

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“Cricketers themselves have become extremely camera-friendly. People such as Hardik Pandya, Rohit Sharma are just fabulous with the camera. You tell them what you want and they come in and are able to do it so quickly. Even Shikhar Dhawan and Dhoni are so comfortable with the camera now and so it gets easy. Sehwag is a person who was not really comfortable with the camera but now even he has become so. The director knows how to work around him and use his shyness to their advantage,” explained Pagdiwala.

“Prasoon wrote the Finolex campaign keeping in mind Sehwag as a character. Once you write ideas with these guys at the centre, it becomes interesting.”

“Similarly, for Cred, they did something people were not expecting from Rahul. You take Rahul’s shyness and what people know about him and completely change it. The idea is written in a way that you are intrinsically using the cricketer’s characters. It’s fun to watch,” he said.

Shreyansh Baid

Speaking about his experience with Virat Kohli while filming campaigns for Manyavar, Shreyansh Baid, Founder, Shreyansh Innovations, said, “Virat is a great actor on sets. One can use him almost like an actor. The kind of endorsements Virat gets is because of his complete involvement. It is not the same with other cricketers. But they should think about it as it is the order of the day and a lot of earnings come from there.”

“It was absolutely professional, as good as when you work with an actor. He’s a perfectionist in terms of taking the shots, retakes, listening to the director, adhering to the script, and understanding the nuances of the brand and the client’s needs. He is very easy to work with. Normally with cricketers, you tend to waste a lot of time explaining to them and getting a perfect shot in comparison with actors. This was never the case with Virat. It was always done in one or two shots,” he added.

Shriram Iyer

According to Shriram Iyer, Chief Creative and Content Officer, Tilt Brand Solutions, cricketers are much more comfortable as there are many more windows to perform today. Plus the stakes are much higher comparatively these days, he said.

“You have to be realistic; you cannot expect to be as delighted with a cricketer compared to if you walked into a set with Mr. Bachchan. Once you keep your expectations real and do your homework about what you can do about that sportsperson as an actor, it is not difficult. You should also not push them into places where they are not comfortable,” he said.

Talking about his experience over the years and recently with the Dream11 campaigns directed by Prasoon Pandey, Iyer said the cricketers were able to pull off pretty much any request from their end.

“In the early days, there was confusion over the amount of time that they offer you on the shoot day. But I think marketers today have sought out deals that enable you to give a dedicated four or six hours and not just a couple of hours, which means you are able to script more than just a few seconds towards the end. You are able to turn them into characters and get more shots. That’s why I think the scenario has changed,” he said.

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