Gabbar Singh v/s Gabbar Gaitonde

Do product placements in movies tend to overpower the narration?
Product placement in movies is a trend that seems to be on the rise. A heady combination of big studios, big productions, big bucks and big marketers. With production budgets going through the roof for many big budget movies, producers are not averse to tying up with brands and fitting (often force-fitting) them in the visual story. Sometimes multiple brands are seen featured in a movie. While film producers manage to add a substantial amount to their kitty through product placements, marketers get to increase brand awareness and recall through a captive audience. It’s a win-win situation for both.

While product placement as an advertising tool has become more organised over the last decade or so, it’s not an entirely new concept. As early as 1967, Sharmila Tagore was shown sipping Coke in the movie ‘An Evening in Paris’ struggling to give the logo some screen space. In 1973, Enfield Motors launched Rajdoot motorcycle in Raj Kapoor’s ‘Bobby’ with Rishi Kapoor romancing his way to glory on it.

There’re numerous examples of movie product placements in recent times. Some blend in subtly and naturally into the story while many stick out like clotted paint on a canvas.

Here are a few instances atrocious product placements that come to mind. In the Subhash Ghai movie ‘Taal’, there was an entire 10-second song sequence around a Coke bottle with Akshaye Khanna looking at the bottle lovingly before offering it to Ash. Hrithik Roshan guzzling down nothing but Bournvita in ‘Koi Mil Gaya’. ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’ seemed like a 3-hour ad showreel for Mountain Dew and Land Rover Discovery 4. More recently, the movie ‘Shamitabh’ was a veritable babel of many brands. If we dig deeper there won’t be dearth of more such examples.

The question is, do rampant product placements in a movie become intrusive and distracting? Do they disturb and dilute the characters and narration? For die-hard movie lovers, most probably they do. Imagine, just for a moment, if iconic ‘Sholay’ was filled with product placements. Hard to imagine? Let’s do it anyway. An imaginary product placement exercise that will make Salim-Javed and Ramesh Sippy cringe.

  • Take the famous intro scene of Gabbar Singh. Close-up of his boots pacing around on the rocky floor. Let’s zoom in a little. A little more. Did you notice Gabbar is wearing ‘Gaitonde’ boots? Now, who would you come out of the theatre in your mind? Gabbar Singh? Gabbar Gaitonde? Or Gabbar Gaitonde Singh?
  • Let Veeru’s denim jacket be ‘Killer’
  • The motorcycle with sidecar that immortalised Jai-Veeru’s dosti. Zoom in and dwell on the ‘Enfield’ logo. Zoom in further on the freewheeling logo on the tyre. Oh, it’s ‘MRF Nylogrip’.
  • A drunk Veeru threatening to commit sooocide on top of the water tank. Is that an ‘Old Monk’ bottle in his hand? Great. Think some more. Voila, the water tank can have big a ‘Kent’ water purifier logo painted on it. We bet you missed the subtle message – Always mix your ‘Old Monk’ with nothing but ‘Kent’ purified water. Hic! Hic!
  • Remember the popular dialogue from the movie that a shit scared Kalia sputters out? Is it “Sardar, main aapka namak khaya hoon!” Wrong. It is “Sardar, main aapka ‘TATA’ namak khaya hoon!”
  • Or for that matter, to the teasing question of Gabbar “Yeh Ramgarh wale aapne betiyon ko kaunsi chakki ki atta khilate hai?”, a confident Basanti could answer, “Sirf Aashirvaad!” See, a little tweaking in the script can work great for brands sometimes.
  • Coming back to Gabbar. Why can’t he chew branded khaini? ‘Raja’ khaini, for instance.
  • A widowed forlorn Radha (Jaya Bacchan) lighting up the lamps as dusk sets in. A mesmerised Jai watching her. This quaintly romantic moment is just right to zoom in on the big ‘Homelite’ matchbox in Radha’s hand.

Truly cringe-worthy.

Good or bad, product placement as an advertising tool is here to stay. But as long as it’s done subtly, doesn’t become an irritant and overpower the narration – it should be fine. But the way things stand today, going forward what the extent of product placement invasion would be, only the future can tell. Until then, why don’t you think of some more path-breaking product placement ideas in ‘Sholay’? Just for fun.

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