In a world of fast fizzy ads and ‘skip’ buttons, brands are no longer happy with being mentioned towards the end of a 30-second television commercial. In the era of seven-second skippable ads, they want the first, middle and last word to be their brand name, as companies try and hammer down recall values in the goldfish-like mind of an average Indian internet surfer.
That’s why the Everest Chhole Masala ad catches your eye. It stands apart. Though it’s about six months old now, the ad has started playing in movie theatres of late. It’s a refreshing reminder of the early 2000s ad world. And Everest did it without harping on the throwback trend, unlike Cred or Cadbury.
The story is simple. Ram Lal, a cook, is making chhole (chickpea curry) for a grumpy Army officer and his guests. But just as he comes out to serve a piping hot bowl, he is blown away by the fragrance emanating from the dish. In the meantime, the officer is getting more and more restless and starts yelling, “Ram Lal chhole laao (Ram Lal bring out the chhole).” Ram Lal looks left and right, mulls it over, but ends up gobbling the curry, it’s too tempting to let go, even at the risk of being shot by the ferocious officer played by veteran actor Sharad Saxena.
Till the end, you won’t be able to figure out if this is an ad for a brand of chickpeas, some oil, or a masala, unless your sharp eye catches sight of a packet sitting half-open in the kitchen. And that’s how the makers retain the old school charm of advertising, when advertisers could, with a certain degree of truth, claim that advertising is an art.
Men need masala too
Masala ads in India usually feature women who are feeding families and guests, celebrating some festival or the other, or slogging in the kitchen. Here, the Army officer, his diners and the cook are male. It’s good to see Everest break the gender stereotype that all kitchen essentials must be sold to women only.
At a time when ads are constantly scrutinised, and come under the radar of offence-takers, using the age-old forgotten trope of a testy uninformed uncle only adds to the charm of the advertisement. It might not have been this fun with a regular man losing his mind over some chhole – disregarding the command of a uniformed man is way more brazen than ignoring a regular white-collared grey-haired guy.
The chemistry between Ram Lal and the medalled-Army officer is hilarious — the cook’s expressions are priceless as is the change in the officer’s pitch as he gets angrier. The ad is a reminder of the time we could laugh at ourselves without being offended.
Such ridiculous humour belongs to an era gone by. Like the iconic Feviquick ad from early 2000s where a man catches fish in the flick of a second by lacing his rod with some Feviquick glue and outwitting a grumpy rich man who had been sitting by the side of a lake for hours trying.
This obscure humour can also be seen in Perfetti’s ads for Centre Fresh, when anyone who sees the chewing gum loses control of their tongue. The one where a man is placed as a temporary ATM in rural India was a particularly hilarious one.
Naukri.com’s Hari Sadu ad from 2006 and Havells’ ‘Shock laga laga’ series are other good examples of the kind of tongue-in-cheek humour we miss in ads today.
This article is part of the Vigyapanti series, which reviews Indian vigyapans aka advertisements.