Friday, August 22, 2008

Mad ads and fads in India in 1960s and70s-part II

After sartorial fashions, we were subjected to a different kind of fashion. It was not associated with clothes, but with physical appearance. People were subjected to the magazines ads of bullworker where skinny 95 pound kids were shown getting transformed into a clone of Arnold Schwarzenegger in 14 days, else your money back. And at Rs 273/- for one bullworker set ( including VPP charges), it was lots of money those days.

But I do not think bullworker ever refunded any money. In case someone asked for their money back, they would point out fine print which the user did not follow which prevented them from bulking up, hence no refunding the amount.

Then there were ads to increase one's height. Lesser the price of the product, higher the result promised. For instance, for Rs 85/-, you could increase your height by 15 cm, where as Rs 300/- for another product increased your height only by 5 cms. Ads showed the heights of the leading film actors- Amitabbh Bachchan 188 cms, Vinod Khanna 185 cms and Dharmendra as 185 cms. Now I agree to the heights of Amitabh Bachchan and Vinod Khanna, but I cannot accept that Dharmendra was 185 cm. He looked much shorter than Vinod Khanna in the movies in which they acted together.

I wonder what has happened to those height increasing ads now a days? Instead of the average height of the leading heroes increasing, now a days, we have the leading heroes half a foot shorter than the heroes of 1970s.

Now a days those ad givers have a much easier job, if they decide to mention the height of the leading heroes of today- something like Aamir Khan 167 cm, SRK 168 cm, salman Khan 166.37 cm, etc. But considering that most leading ladies are taller than the leading heroes, there may not be too many takers for these ads now a days, what with even Rajpal Yadav becoming a celebrity that would make Mukri green with envy.

These days, we have teleshop marketing on TV, in which foreigners tell us, in dubbed Hindi, how they were losers in their lives and how buying the teleshop product made them winners.

I think I have digressed a great deal. It was like going from Bombay to Goa and landing at Kashmir. There was actually a bollywood movie in which it happens.

What I wanted to say was that all these improve your height or get bulky ads required you to sweat out a lot, in addition to parting with your hard earned money. And we Indians being the way we are, we want things for free without sweating it out in the process, and we want results instantly. And "martial arts" offered exactly that. It promised people that they need not improve their height or physique, but they could still thrash big built people by making use of martial arts.

Mainstream audience would not go for "English movies", unless it promised some eye candy. And in case of desi movies, they would keep away from "art" movie. So it was a big paradigm shift for people when they began to throng for movies that were in "English" and moreover they were called art movies- viz "Martial art" movies.

It was the first time in India when tickets of a non desi movie were actually sold on black even in smaller cities, like the one where I was growing up in those days. These movies, called "Enter the dragon", followed by "Return of the dragon" had a skinny hero called Bruce Lee, who was regarded as the best martial art expert in the world. Of course, he was already dead by that time, and that helped add to his legend. Indians could for the first time identify themselves with a hero who was of similar built as compared to most movie goers, and that must have enabled the audience to feel a rapport with him, which they never felt with big built Western actors. Chinky looks suddenly became fashionable.

And believe it or not, people who earlier used to adopt boxing pose while in a street brawl, began to adopt "martial arts" pose while fghting. And in absence of background "dishum dhishum" noise, they would make this noise themselves, accompanied by the yelling, which every self respecting martial artist was required to use as part of his arsenal. No, I am not making this up. I have actually seen people fight in a "martial art" or in more simple terms- "judo Karate" method.

Bollywood too tried to jump into the bandwagon. The resident chinky Danny was roped into a few movies. One new chinky looking actor, Ardhendu Bose, who also had the formidable credentials of being the nephew of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, was signed in a movie. But all these ventures failed.

There was a vacuum in Bollywood movies.Bollywood badly needed a desi Bruce Lee.

In came Mithun da. He proved a package deal. Front stallers could readily identify with him as he looked like one of their own. And he was supposedly trained in martial arts, and looked more convincing in fight scenes than say Rajesh Khanna, Sanjeev Kumar and Dev Saab. And that was enough of a credential for Mithun da to become public's desi Bruce Lee.

In addition, Mithun Da, in between his fights, would also dance ( pronounced as "dense" by him) gyrating around his pelvis. So he got the additional sobriquet of desi John Travolta as well.

Not content with that, his film makers would cast him as top secret agent too. His designation with the word "TOP SECRET AGENT" would be written in big bold letters on his car. In short, Mithun da was Bruce Lee, John Travolta and James Bond, all rolled into one. What more do you want ? His fans simply loved him. The less charitable fans and critics called him poor man's Amitabh Bachchan.

So that sums up my discussion for the day. I will be back for more, obviously.


Extreme said...

This article was indeed very touching, thanks to the writer!!

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