We love this energetic new wave that Pakistani cinema is riding on these days. This is a wave that has boarded all sorts of diverse subjects, from boxers to bankers, rickshaw-walas to corrupt railway officials and cricketers to con-girls. It’s diverse, it’s promising and though it may still be miles away from its destination, it is getting there slow and steady. In a nutshell, we love films. What we don’t love, however, is the inclusion of unwanted ads in the midst of these films. You thought that ad-breaks were only going to haunt you amidst your favourite TV shows, right? Wrong! One thing regrettable in this new age of cinema is product placement, which is actually as strong as any cameo would be.
Here are 5 product placements that our films could have done without…
‘A fizzy drink’ in Dekh Magar Pyaar Say
Sikki the protagonist’s rickshaw is lit up in an annoying shade of florescent bottle green and a dream sequence between Sikki and Annie takes place as they share a bottle of the soda. The entire film has been shot in a shade of green, as one anonymous (albeit brilliant) review in our inbox stated: “The whole film is (over) cast in Sprite green. It would have been better to have saved the money on lighting and get the audience to see the film through a bottle of Sprite instead.” We’re finding Coke so much cooler after this … at least the musicians aren’t taking beverage breaks during Coke Studio.
‘A burger’ in Dekh Magar Pyaar Say
It was McAnnoying when Sikki and Annie, discussing lunch options, sing out the entire McDonald’s jingle, offering their UAN number to the audience. Then they discuss the menu, she wanting something spicy and crunchy and chicken (the Spicy McChicken, if you don’t get it) and he blatantly asking for a mini Mc Royale… the whole sequence was distasteful to say the least. And can we just add that we didn’t miss the L’Oreal lipstick that Annie repeatedly applies when she gets into the rickshaw. We get it but it really wasn’t worth it!
‘An Ice Cream Cone’ in Karachi Se Lahore
This has to be the most shameless plug-ins of all because not only is this cone the 6th character in this Karachi se Lahore ki journey but it is also the substitute of the ring over which a proposal is made. People complained that even the song “Tutti Fruity” lost its appeal after ice cream innuendos were established but we don’t completely agree there. There’s nothing tutti fruity about a Cornetto, that’s just Ayesha’s song. Back to the cone, we don’t think we’ll ever look at one the same again…shifting loyalties to Magnum!
‘Soap and Biscuits’ in 3 Bahadur
The number of times our brave little heroes were seen munching on Gluco biscuits in the film took product placement to another level, not entirely suited to the prestige of the animation. Not to forget, there was too much of safeguard as well. One wonders, would these scenes be remade if the film were ever to make it to the international festival circuit? Because sponsors are rarely encouraged or allowed to infringe on creative spaces.
‘Banks’ in Karachi Se Lahore and Shah
Were they suggesting people bank here, work here or simply visit here? Two prestigious banks – HBL and Bank Alfalah – went out on a limb and integrated themselves as part of the story in these two films. Such circumstances are usually fictional and we can only wonder why actual banks were put on the scripts or sets of these films. It would have been so much more honourable for them to have stayed on the posters as sponsors.
Post Script: Films cannot be made without investors and in Pakistan, major investment is coming through advertisements. We agree and acknowledge that films would not be possible without generous patrons. But in this sensitive scenario, responsibility falls in the laps of the sponsors to not exploit the situation by over-writing the creativity of the film.
Instead of products featuring in films, the films should have featured on the products. We whole heartedly approve of 3 Bahadur images that were marketed on Gluco Biscuits. The same route should have been taken by each of the sponsors: brand your products with the film, not vice versa and customize merchandize flaunting the film, as is done everywhere else in the film.
Offer special deals, distribute free products at premieres, even sell them outside screenings. But don’t make your products part of the film, no matter how much you’ve invested in it. It’s just not ‘productive,’ pardon the pun!