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Actors Irrfan Khan, Pushpa Joshi, Atmaram and Asha Bhende created magic on screen in these Ogilvy campaignsOgilvy
Piyush Pandey spoke about how these actors created magic in his ads

When Piyush Pandey paid tribute to Irrfan Khan, Pushpa Joshi, Atmaram and Asha Bhende, stalwarts we lost in the last few years

Piyush Pandey spoke about how these actors created magic in his ads
  • In our latest episode of BTS with Insiders, Piyush Pandey, Chief Creative Officer Worldwide, Ogilvy, talks about four actors, Irrfan Khan, Pushpa Joshi, Atmaram Bhende and Asha Bhende, would are no longer with us but who created magic in some campaigns created by the ad guru.
  • Pandey shares some stories from each of the three ads, while also making an appeal to younger creative professionals to be open to identifying new actors.
Last week we collectively grieved the loss of two stalwarts who made a huge impact on Indian cinema, Irrfan Khan and Rishi Kapoor. When I reached out to Piyush Pandey, Chief Creative Officer Worldwide, Ogilvy, for our weekly chat show, BTS with Insiders, we initially wanted to talk about three ads that he had worked on over the course of his career that he held close to his heart.

However, considering how the week had panned out, Pandey was mourning the loss of the two actors too, and it only seemed fitting that we speak about some of the gems he had created over the years, not just with Khan but also with a few other actors.

Episode 3 of BTS with Insiders saw us talking to Pandey about Irrfan Khan, who was the face of Hutch and acted in around 18 ads for the brand, Pushpa Joshi, who took the nation by storm just by a few seconds of her presence as a kabaadiwaali in Fevikwik’s recent ad, and actors Atmaram Bhende and his wife, Asha Bhende who were a part of SBI Life’s campaign, close to 10 years back.

Each of the four actors had something in them that took the stories Pandey wanted to tell, and turned them into unforgettable gems.

Irrfan Khan - Hutch

When Ogilvy wanted to create a series of ads talking about Hutch’s new recharge packs, and the agency wanted the ad to speak the language of the common man, simply to make it more relatable, and to drive its simple point across, that Hutch will give you the most value for your money.

Ever since the passing away of Khan, people across the country, in their numerous tributes to the actor have mentioned about his portrayals being relatable. He made us feel that he was one of us. It was perhaps this quality that made V Mahesh and Rajiv Rao, along with the Hutch team decided to cast Khan in the ads.

“Irrfan was not a masses man only through his cinema. He was a fantastic symbol of a common man, and an amazing actor. Rajiv and Mahesh, along with Shashanka Chaturvedi (aka Bob) of Good Morning Films who directed the films thought of Irrfan,” shared Pandey.

The brand and agency had initially thought of coming up with 3 films. “We ended up doing 18 eventually,” shared Pandey with a laugh. “Everybody loved him because he was so credible and amazing,” he added.

What made the ads memorable was the fact that they were written the way a common man speaks. “And while I was not present at the shoot, I am pretty certain that Irrfan would have added his bits to it. You cannot work with a big actor without using his abilities beyond acting because they come up with the little things that add magic. And magic is exactly what he created. Today, when he is a lot more popular, one could have done a lot more with him but in those days, he was not known to billions of people because that wasn’t exactly his kind of cinema. And yet, he walked in and stole the show, every single time,” said Pandey.

He also shared that he kept making plans with Irrfan to meet up in Jaipur, which is where both of them grew up, but it never really materialized. “We made a whole lot of plans to fly kites together in Jaipur but unfortunately the opportunity never came, and he flew away from our midst,” said Pandey.

Pushpa Joshi - Fevikwik

Pandey has been weaving magic for one of Ogilvy’s oldest clients Pidilite for years now. Who can forget some of the old gems created for brands like Fevicol and Fevikwik. Bharat Puri. Managing Director at Pidilite Industries often says that Ogilvy isn’t really a creative partner for them, rather they almost are the owners of the brand.

It is perhaps this confidence in Pandey and his team that made Pidilite agree to casting octogenarian Pushpa Joshi, who played the role of a kabaadiwaali, in Fevikwik’s recent adorable campaign and wooed the entire nation with her endearing charm.

It was Pandey’s brother Prasoon Pandey, who thought of casting Joshi in the ad. “Pushpaji was cast in the ad with a bit of difficulty, with due apologies to my young clients at Pidilite. They were apprehensive because how you can get somebody so old to act? And my brother Prasoon Pandey who directed the ad said, ‘There’s no retirement age for a kabadiwali’. When she came to the set though, Prasoon himself was a little worried because she arrived in a wheelchair. But soon she just picked up and gave us the performance of a lifetime. The ad took the nation by storm just because of what she did and what the director did with her,” shared Pandey.

While Pushpa Ji, as everybody lovingly called her, won everyone’s hearts just by coming on the screen for a few seconds, Pandey rued the fact that they had not discovered her earlier. “I don’t recall seeing Pushpa Ji in any other ad. Maybe we weren’t really good at sourcing her. We didn’t find her earlier enough but when we did, she left us with the impression of a lifetime. For our younger audience, there’s a lesson here. It’s never too late to start. If you have a talent, just go out and play. You never know, you might find that the years were never lost and that you can make up for them in one shot,” added Pandey.

Atmaram and Asha Bhende - SBI Life Insurance

Atmaram Bhende was a well-known face in Marathi movies and theatre. However, people in the rest of the country discovered this veteran actor in Lage Raho Munna Bhai as one of the many adorable people staying at the old age home that the entire movie revolved around.

Atmaram Ji along with his wife, Asha Bhende, had been a part of SBI Life Insurance’s campaign, ‘Heere Ko Kya Pata’ close to 10 years back. This simple, slice of life conversation between an elderly couple was brought to life by these two effortless actors.

What also makes this campaign doubly special is the fact that it is based on a conversation Pandey had with his mother. “The story of this ad is inspired by a conversation I had with my mother. She wanted to own a diamond but never asked us for it. She had a lot of self-respect. One day our sisters told us about her secret wish to us but we weren’t very affluent at that point of time. So we went and bought a pair of earrings for her. Prasoon paid for one and I paid for the other. When we gave it to her, she had said, ‘ Iss umr me kahan pehenungi main heera? (Where will I wear a diamond at this age?). That stayed with me and when I created the ad, I added the line, ‘Heere ko kya pata tumhari umr, (The diamond doesn’t really know your age), at the time of writing the film. When we were casting, my brother said that nobody can perform this better than Atmaram Ji and Asha Ji,” he reminisced.

Before ending the conversation, Pandey also made an appeal to the advertising industry, asking them to give new talent a chance. “Our younger audience and professionals in the industry should never forget that there are some fantastic actors around who have the capability to make your script ten times as good from where you wrote it. And as I pay my tribute to all these four fantastic artists for giving our industry a touch of their magic, I would ask the younger generation to identify such actors, use them well and give them the opportunity. So look for more of such people and make our industry look better by using these stalwarts,” he concluded.

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