Love him or hate him, but there’s no way you can ignore Kanhaiya Kumar. With his intense rendition, the JNU student made his azadi slogan a rage among young people — it inspired a Chandigarh-based musician to come up with an ‘azadi’ song, we saw ‘Kanhaiya T-shirts’ being sold in Delhi, and a recent Delhi government ad too used ‘azadi’ as its catchphrase.
The latest from ‘brand Kanhaiya’ is a viral travel portal ad that shows Kanhaiya’s look-alike raising the ‘azadi’ slogan at an airport to get a window seat. Raghu Bhat, founder, Scarecrow Communications, the brain behind the ad says that the popularity of the word ‘azadi’ rests completely on Kanhaiya’s soul-stirring speech.
“Kanhaiya’s speeches illustrate two important principles of communication. Firstly, people respond to emotion rather than logic. Good communicators, from Churchill to Malcolm X, were never scared to display their naked emotions in front of the audience. Secondly, give the audience a communication takeaway or the ‘hook’. In this case, it is the word ‘azadi’. It distils a long speech into a simple, catchy word,” says Bhat.
Watch the ad here:
While Raghu knew that the ad would click, he didn’t expect such an overwhelming response. “This is the only ‘pure’ viral campaign I have ever seen as it wasn’t artificially boosted like many other ad campaigns. It started from a single Facebook post and didn’t even have a celebrity which guarantees a critical mass of viewership,” says Bhat who shot the ad in an eight hour adrenaline-high night shift in an airport set in the western suburbs of Mumbai. There was no audition for the ad. “Both Naren Multani (the director) and me were very clear that only actor Avinash Dwivedi could pull this off,” says Bhat.
The fact that Avinash is from Gorakhpur where the accent is not very different from Bihar only helped get the accent and detailing right. “Avinash never comes to the sets without doing his homework. We briefed him about the story and left him alone for three days to work it all out,” shares Bhat.
As for critics who have called the ad a political statement, Bhat says he respects their right to have an opinion. “Some have criticised it for having a socio-political agenda. But this diversity of opinions is inevitable. Even the Eiffel Tower and Michelangelo’s David were criticised...Surely an ad shouldn’t expect immunity from criticism, should it?,” he says.
And of course the compliments are pouring in even now. “The biggest honour the audience can bestow to any creative work is to understand the intentions behind it. A lot of people have taken the ad for what it is - a funny ad with a topical twist. One guy wrote to me saying ‘You have revived the sleeping giant of satire in just 75 seconds!’ Another said ‘Hans hans ke sofa se gir gaya!,” shares Bhat.
The only challenge that Bhat couldn’t overcome – too many retakes while shooting the ad, for other actors who had to shout ‘Aazadi’ along with Avinash in the ad just couldn’t stop giggling!
Avinash’s fiancée is in love with his Bihari avatar !
When Avinash Dwivedi got a WhatsApp message from Raghu Bhat asking him to do the ad, the actor had no idea that he was going to be a part of a viral video . “I’ve done so many TV ads but this has never happened to me before. I started getting friend request on Facebook as soon as the ad was uploaded. By the end of the day, I already had more than 600 requests,” says the 28-year-old actor.
Playing a Bihari has not only given a boost to his career but has made his fiancée actor Sambhavna Seth fall in love with him all over again. “She adores the Bihari character. She says this is my best work so far,” says Avinash. Avinash’s work has got him rave reviews, but the actor wasn’t sure of his act when he gave the first take. “I had practiced 2-3 styles of raising the azadi slogan. As I gave the first take, there was pin-drop silence for a few seconds. I thought my performance wasn’t impactful enough. But soon everyone was cheering and laughing hysterically,” shares the actor.