Call me a crusty old man, but I cannot help point out that this year the standards in the IPL have come down rather alarmingly. And like a fool, don’t draw my attention to the impressive performances of Robin Uthappa or Glen Maxwell. By god, you don’t go to a star hotel to get your stomach filled with sumptuous food. You go to an expensive eatery to fill your friends’ stomach with envy (by instagramming the food and uplinking it on social media with the caption: ‘Yummy’, even though, in reality, that food item may taste like moist leather).
The point is you don’t watch the IPL for sturdy cricket. You follow it more for the copybook thrill and excitement of catching a glimpse of a starlet or two. In normal cricket, when a six is hit or a wicket falls, they show the replay of the same. In IPL, when a six is hit or a wicket falls, they show the replay of Preity Zinta jumping in the stands.
Anyway, when I said falling standards in the IPL what I had in my mind was its very core: TV advertisements.
Take the commercial for a brand of sports shoe featuring M S Dhoni, wherein he is shown to be manly thrashing his way through watery slush. I have watched it several times, but still can’t make the connection. I mean to tackle the kind of thick sludge they show in that ad what you need is a bulky backhoe handled by a toughened operator and not a shoe worn by a player of a sport that is abruptly halted at the slightest hint of a desultory drizzle.
And then there is the ad for a popular make of air-conditioner in which a happy family is shown to be singing, dancing and basically being happy because it had the foresight to install the said air-conditioner, which saves electricity, makes no noise and keeps the air clean. Going by these ads in general, as a technological product no gizmo has evolved as enormously as the air-conditioners have. ACs no longer stop with dispensing normal cool breeze. They can now purvey vitamins in air, keep out all dangerous virus and bacteria including TV news anchors and alter the DNA of the surroundings. Surely one day, as technology moves forward, ACs will reach the level of intelligence of solving the Kashmir issue and improving the dress sense of Vidya Balan.
What about this slice-of-life ad for fans and other electrical appliances? A new Minister is about to take charge and a lackey standing by turns the pedestal fan to focus on him (the Minister), who, however, gets up and, in a warm show of bonhomie, focuses the fan towards the chairs in front of him which would be presumably occupied by those visiting him. So what was behind the minister’s altruism? Yes, you are right, the room was anyway centrally air-conditioned.
Seriously, who imagines these things about Ministers sitting in rooms with just fans? Even Arvind Kejriwal would protest if he were sat in an AC-less room. No, wait. He will protest even in an AC room.
But I tell you what, these ads are bad, but not exactly the worst, which credit undoubtedly goes to the body deodorant commercials.
Let us talk about the one featuring the actor Arjun Rampal. Here I will use all my journalistic experience and literary skills to describe in elaborate detail the entire ad: Rampal walks a few steps while seductive women go all weak-kneed around him.
No, that’s it. We have to figure out that the females drooling over Rampal are smitten not by his looks or his water-board abs but by the choice of his perfume. You can almost imagine the ad guys furiously high-fiving themselves after creating this, and generally saying to themselves ‘if the jury is not biased against us Indians, the award at Cannes is surely ours’.
Finally, we come to the cola ad involving Salman Khan. Salman Khan ads are popular, primarily among ad-makers, because as the muscular hero gives them the convenience and flexibility of not having to think up anything remotely new.
In all his ads, Salman is either shown to dangle from a rope or jump off from high-rises — which is possible thanks to his gymnastic skills perfectly honed through hours and hours of hard practice on computer graphics —- while the product to be advertised is splashed across the screen.
In this cola ad, the door of an airborne aircraft opens. And what do we see mid-flight? Salman Khan driving out of the plane’s underbelly a Humvee kind of vehicle, which is fitted to a balloon kind of contraption. Even as a startled shopkeeper at what seems to be desolate desert looks askance at the descending parachuted-Humvee carrying a nonchalant Salman and a long-legged lass, Salman asks the man to give him his brand of cola so that he can get back to the flight.
It really takes a really brave man to do this ad, especially since it can be used as a clinching evidence against him in the court.
Advocate General: Milord, the case against Salman is that he was behind the wheels when the accident…
Judge: (Interjecting) Is he the same Salman who comes in that cola commercial?
Judge: Case closed. Anybody who features in such a stupid ad has to be terminally rash and innately irresponsible.
AG: Aaj kuch toofani karte hain!