LAST week, when actor Vishal Malhotra was at Shivaji Park, Mumbai, a group of middle-aged men almost hounded him for a “selfie” with them. On any other day, it wouldn’t have happened to Malhotra — a small-time actor who has been a part of a couple of movies and commercials. That day, with a fake paunch and make-up, he looked a lot older, and armed with a box of crackers, he looked familiar.
Malhotra’s new look is for the World Cup-themed Mauka ad series by Star Sports India, the official broadcaster of the tournament. That day, he was out on the city’s streets to shoot for a new TVC for the same. Malhotra plays a Pakistani fan, who has been waiting for over two decades to burst the box of crackers he bought in 1992 in the hope of celebrating his country’s cricket team’s win over India at the World Cup. With this ad going viral, the channel airs a new one in the series before every match India plays. Its content changes depending on India’s progress in the tournament and standing among other teams. For example, in the latest of the series, the Pakistani fan is shown arriving at the channel’s office with the same box of crackers to celebrate India’s win over Ireland because that would help Pakistan progress in the Cup.
Like Malhotra, the people behind this series — a six-month-old Mumbai-based ad agency Bubblewrap Films and a couple of freelance musicians — are relatively unknown. The fact that a Pakistani fan would be the face of India’s World Cup ad campaign would have been frowned upon a couple of months ago. “What has clicked with the audience is that its content keeps changing and springs a surprise each time,” says Suresh Triveni, director of the commercials at Bubblewrap Films. “After the first ad, everyone expected us to take digs at the South African fans, but we played a prank on India instead,” he says.
Originally, planned as a one-off spot for the opening match, it has now become a campaign for the entire tournament. “The morning after the online release, we knew we had had to do the second film for India vs South Africa, taking the mauka thought forward. We also had to re-look at the World Cup through the lens of India-Pakistan rivalry,” says the Star Sports spokesperson.
The teams shoot two films for each match, considering the possibilities of India’s win or loss. Triveni, calls it “organic advertising”.
The team with a core crew of 10 people — including Triveni and Bubblewrap’s producer Ketaki Guhagarkar — has been working on crazy deadlines. The India-Pakistan ad was completed in five days while the others were made in less than two days. Guhagarkar reveals that finalising locations, getting models, jerseys printed overnight in such short time has been difficult, but fun.
Two days before the first ad was shot, musicians Rohat Utpat and Vinayak Salve were brought on board. “According to the brief, we gave it a Pakistani flavour, making it like a contemporary qawwali,” says Salve. “We kept cricketing terms such as chauka out of it so that it becomes a more universal emotion,” says Utpat.
While the channel’s creative team conceived the core idea for the campaign, the series is a result of free-wheeling brainstorming between them and Bubblewrap Films. Inputs came in from everyone — from the spot boy to the biryani caterer, who doubles as the Pakistani fan’s father in the ad. The ads have spawned a series of memes and response videos. “They help us stay a step ahead of the audience,” says Triveni.