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Gabbar the first villain to be brand ambassador

Gabbar the first villain to be brand ambassador

Catch Kailash Surendranath the ad man who gave Amjad Khan his first ad

Kailash Surendranath started his career at the age of 17. He directed the path breaking Liril launch ad followed by many. He is one of the leading and most reputed ad film makers in India for the last 30 years. He had directed the first 'mile sur mera tumhara'.

Post the fame and success of Sholay he directed an ad for Glucose-D using Gabbar as the brand ambassador. Read on to know what the director has to say about Amjad Khan aka Gabbar and Sholay.

How and when did the idea of using Gabbar Singh for the Britannia’s Glucose-D come about?
The idea was actually very revolutionary. The film had obviously become a sensation and we just worked on it. The idea to use Gabbar Singh in the ad came from Late Mubi Ismail. She worked in the film department at Lintas India Ltd. She approached me with the idea to take the villain instead of the hero as the brand ambassador. We decided to do something that’s not so obvious after all Gabbar was the most memorable part of the movie. It was a revolutionary idea because no client had the guts to use a villain as a testimonial for an ad for obvious reasons. This was done during a time when not many movie stars were into endorsements. Advertisements at that time had not reached such frenzy as it is now. I remember one Mr. Sunil who sanctioned it from the client’s end. He was Rajan Pillay’s man for advertising. After a lot of brainstorming and couple of drinks it was a done deal.

What was Amjad Khan’s reaction when you had approached him for the ad?
It was a family connection, I knew Amjad sir’s brother. Amjad immediately agreed to do the ad although he was surprised that we approached him in spite of playing the bad man in Sholay. But he knew that with Sholay he had become a sensation and he was more than happy to do it. He helped me in the shoot. He helped coordinate with his production team for the costumes to make it look more authentic. I must add that we had done the ad for Rs. 50,000 which is nothing compared to what people are being for an ad now. I read in the papers that Amjad Khan had apparently given all his money to charity which was a rare thing people did then. He had done it for luck and I guess it worked for him.

Glucose-D was a biscuit for children, didn’t it feel weird using an antagonist to promote it when you could have had Amitabh or Dharmendra for the ad
Precisely why we didn’t, because everyone would expect you to do the obvious that’s what made the idea so revolutionary. It would have been only too easy to have Amitabh or Dharmendra considering they were not doing any ads at that time. But we used Gabbar simply because it was brilliant. We used Gabbar in such a light manner that if he was too scary in the film the ad lightened him up. The kids loved it and the ad was a huge success.

Did you think that it could be a huge risk especially for a children’s biscuit ad casting a villain?
Actually, we never expected it to be that big a hit. Its true that the ad could have failed but we were riding on Sholay’s fame. Sholay was breaking record after record, Amjad’s character itself did a lot. In fact, to make it authentic we had roped in Mac Mohan and Viju Khote also in to the ad. They were paid on a daily basis so no one thought of it as a big endorsement. Even Ramesh Sippy helped me out with the ad in regards to costumes, and other things. We did not go on the original set instead used a stone quarry just outside Mumbai.

Could you share some of the memories while shooting with Amjad Khan?
I remember picking up from his place and escorting him to the set. He was ready really fast and the shoot began. It took only two hours to shoot Amjad’s part since we had used storyboards and scripts. Amjad knocked off his dialogues with ease with a continuous intake of tea. I asked him if he wanted anything special for lunch but he refused lunch and asked to keep bringing in the tea. It really felt like we were part of the actual Sholay. Post Glucose-D Amjad did many ads, he had become a professional. Much later he had done a film with me, Amjad had put on a lot of weight by then. Amjad then met with an accident and his health started deteriorating. He kept putting on weight and situation was beyond help. But I remember the good times. He was always jovial, full of life, a dynamic personality if you ask me.

Do you know how much Amjad Khan was paid for the commercial?
The commercial must have cost around under a lakh, and he was paid around Rs.35-40000. Like I said earlier, it was in the papers about him donating the ad money for a charitable cause.

How was the commercial received? Did it have a lot of recall value in its time?
The ad was for 60 seconds and it was played for the big screens as television had just entered the market. Of course then there was only Doordarshan which was black and white so we aired the ad in the theatres. Since Britannia was a huge company it ran all over India with over 500 to 600 prints. Everyone was talking about it. In the first week itself the press covered the softer version of Gabbar. It became sensational and everybody enjoyed it like a lovely joke with no controversy.

What are your memories of watching Sholay?
I had seen Sholay when it released and couple more times later. As a filmmaker the first thing I could say about the film was that it was ‘Perfect’. Everything about the film was perfect not a second in the film was wasted. I used to watch a lot of western films. Sholay gave out the same feel. I admired everything in the film, the way it was written, scripted and treated.