|Rajesh Khanna in the Havells ad
|In the 35-second commercial, a frail Rajesh Khanna dressed in a suit and bow tie and sporting a salt-and-pepper beard talks about the days when he would be swamped by scores of female fans. As sepia-tinted frames of his superstar days flash past, the man known as the Phenomenon in his prime says: “Fans kya hote hain mujhse poochho. Pyaar ka woh toofan… mohabbat ki woh aandhi… woh jazbaa… woh junoon. Hawaa badal sakti hai lekin fans hamesha mere rahenge. Babumoshai, mere fans mujhse koi nahin chheen sakta”. As Yeh shaam mastani from Kati Patang plays in the background, he smiles wryly, cocking his head in that all-too-familiar Kaka style.
Rajesh Khanna has made his ad debut at age 69 with a commercial for Havells Fans where he laments his superstar days. R. Balki, chairman and chief creative officer of Lowe Lintas and the man behind Cheeni Kum and Paa, explains why RK was the right choice for the tongue-in-cheek ad...
Your ad has been criticised for portraying a legend in poor light…
My response to it is very simple. If a man is great enough to laugh at himself, why should anyone have a problem? When he wasn’t doing anything on screen all these years, people were making all kinds of jokes about it. When a legend chooses to laugh at himself, then some people start getting uncomfortable. I don’t even think that they are Rajesh Khanna fans in the first place. But there are lots more who have really loved the ad and think that it’s a great tribute. He’s the one who is cracking a joke at himself, he is sporting enough to say that ‘Yes, I am not what I used to be. But so what?’
What was the idea behind the ad?
It’s a very simple idea, actually. We thought that the punning of the product ‘fan’ with the person ‘fan’ is very cliched and we could do something around that. We wanted a guy who had many fans in his heyday and figure how to associate Havells fans with him. We immediately thought of Rajesh Khanna. He was the right choice and our only choice because today he may not have the same number of fans as he did in his young days, but we all know that he has a sense of humour. We wanted someone who could turn around and say: ‘Okay, times change, big deal! I may not have those fans today, but I do have these fans’. It needed a legend like him to have that sense of humour.
Did it play on your mind that this was his first-ever ad?
It did when we first approached him. The moment he heard the idea, he simply loved it. He said ‘yes’ immediately.
|Balki with Rajesh Khanna during the ad shoot
Was shooting with Rajesh Khanna a fanboy moment?
In a strange way, my movie-going experience started after the Rajesh Khanna era. But I caught up with all his movies afterwards and I realised what made him so popular. Shooting him in his first-ever ad was definitely an emotional experience. He wasn’t too well… he had broken his leg. He shot with all of that.
Did he have any inputs?
He understood the script completely and he knew where we were coming from. He added a few touches of his own. He came up with some steps that we have used for the longer version of the ad that will be on air shortly. He liked the fact that we had picked the Kati Patang song (Yeh shaam mastani) for the background.
How is working with Rajesh Khanna different from working with Amitabh Bachchan?
An actor like Amitabh Bachchan happens not even once in a lifetime. Someone like him won’t happen again. Rajesh Khanna has been our first big superstar, a huge romantic hero and I don’t think we can compare the two in any way. The way the two have hooked the audience have been completely different.
It’s a well-made commercial and I think Balki and his team have done a terrific job. There is an element of sadness in the ad… it is sad to see Rajesh Khanna like this… but I am sure that wasn’t the intention on the part of Havells Fans.
— Anurag Hira, co-owner, One by One Design
I think it’s a poor piece of advertising that only seeks to exploit a man who is well past his prime. It doesn’t do anything for Havells Fans and only brings down the image of an actor like Rajesh Khanna
— Alyque Padamsee, ad guru