BL Agro, maker of edible oils and food products, recently launched a campaign featuring Manoj Bajpayee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Pankaj Tripathi—the Gangs of Wasseypur trio— for its cold-pressed mustard oil brand Bail Kolhu for the first time.
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Recalling the challenges of filming a TVC during a pandemic, Vipin Dhyani,writer and ad film director, Thoughtshop Advertising and Film Productions, said, “right from the pre-production stage, shooting and post-production, the eerie notion of getting an infection was surely a challenge. Minus the post, at all possible events and levels, we had to follow Covid protocols for our crew and had to go through RT PCR tests. Roughly 100 to 115 people for five shooting days went through the tests. We had to drop five to seven persons and replace them with other talents immediately. Talking on a microphone with a mask on muffles the instruction hinders the creative process a lot. You empathise with actors on the set as they cannot wear masks while everyone does.”
Dhyani said getting the three actors on a specific schedule was a challenge as Bajpayee couldn’t appear on the very first day of the shoot as he was found Covid positive and had to remain in home isolation for 14 days. “Nawaz had to fly down to Mumbai as he was shooting in Lucknow during that time and he had to go back right after wrapping our schedule. Naturally, we had to compensate with the time we got in hand. So typically that extra elbow-room you get with advertising models, you don’t get that with ultra-busy celebs like these. But that challenge makes our planning stronger than usual. We make our shooting plan in such a way that actors remain comfortable and we complete the desired storyline in a given timeframe,” he added.
On how the idea of casting the trio came about, he said advertising, if done sensibly, has immense power. The brief that came from Richa Khandelwal, Director, Marketing, BL Agro, was crystal clear in communicating the objective. “We simply thought of celebrating hardship with the term ‘Bail Kolhu’, the brand name. It’s a synonym for workaholic. Pegging ‘sons of the soil’ in the concept came first and then they brought the most appropriate endorsers on board. It was a mutual decision between the client and us that we were not going to do a run-of-the-mill film.”
For the brand, the objective of the campaign was to enter the eastern belt with a bang and truthfulness. Reliability, leadership qualities, and humbleness are brand values that we had to highlight through the script. The objective was to create saliency and respect for the brand, he said.
According to Dhyani, it was an amazing experience and directing the actors who he admires was bliss. “As a filmmaker, you meet your actor on the set and it's over afterwards but these guys, I would say, are unforgettable. From Bajpayee, I learned how one can demonstrate perseverance on the set even when he was going through post-Covid fatigue. Tripathi made me learn how an actor can morph oneself into multiple characters effortlessly, without being loud, without any makeup or prosthetics. Siddiqui taught us how one can say a lot without speaking, especially when it is more of a visual narrative. I wish that we get to work with them in a feature-length or a web series.”
Dhyani said initially they had thought of making three separate films with the actors but made a single film because it keeps you hooked for the sheer surprise that there are three biggies appearing one after another. For digital, they created an almost two-minute film and a 45-second edit of the same film for the mainstream.
“The response we have received so far is phenomenal. Response from friends and relatives is usual but I was overwhelmed when a noted producer from Bollywood called me and congratulated me with a comment that made me feel proud about it. He said, he doesn't like ads in general but this one he watched thrice back to back on YouTube as he found it ‘connecting’.”
Speaking about the writing of the ad, he said once the actors were locked, their individual graph of struggle was known. They did their research and morphed it into an identifiable and emotional narration. “If you look at Manoj Bajpayee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Pankaj Tripathi, they represent the common man of India and their real journey in the world of cinema today speaks a volume about them.”
“The narration you hear in the commercial is everyone's story. We all are heroes in our own spheres. We all are struggling in some way or the other. Triumphs after rejections, validities after several dislikes, technically we all go through a similar grind in order to do better than what we did yesterday. It`s infinite. It's never-ending. That’s why anyone can see themselves in the commercial and feel good about it,” he concluded.