Thursday, May 14, 2015

How many is one too many? Piku and Product Placements

An intense scene in Piku where Irrfan Khan offers to drive Deepika and Amitabh down to Kolkata as all his drivers refused. They start their journey on the Noida Expressway. Camera pans out to the board; and a Jaypee Greens advertisement stares out at you. Cut to another scene, camera pans out on a shopping mall - that has a Snapdeal - dil ki deal hoarding and later one more scene where Piku places an order for a gift on Snapdeal. Another with Deepika sipping water from a Himalaya Water Bottle. 

The CEAT co-branded advert for Piku
Image: Twitter
Or the wonderful scenes of Amitabh going around Kolkata and rejigging his old memories on a cycle. The camera slowly pans into Amitabh; and then goes on to focus on the "Hero Cycles" logo on the cycle he was pedaling. 

That scene where Irffan and Deepika discuss about "90 saal ke bacche ko bhi adopt karna hoga" chomping down a Priya Gold Snacker. Deepika gets ready for the wedding, and the camera zooms into a SENCO Gold Jewellery box, as she picks up her earrings. Or the Amul Ice-cream during lunch, Amul Milk boxes in the fridge and dining table. The CEAT Tyre workshop where they stop during the journey for some repair. The Mitashi TV at their home that plays a Sony SET Max Xtra Innings advertisement. SYSKA bluetooth devices and Power Banks that come in use during the long journey to charge their devices. The Parachute Hair Oil Deepika uses when in the Kolkata. Or the Red Label Tea packet while they sip a cup of tea.

The Priya Gold Product Placement in Piku
Image: YouTube
Thankfully, they didn't have a car partner (or is it sadly?) where they could've zoomed into the logos (like the Volvo car in 3 idiots) or made sly comments about how spacious and comfortable the car is, for such a long trip. And Kayam Churn, who had the best fit with the theme of the movie (Or not, cos Mr Bachchan finally did pass away?) signed up for the movie post the release of the trailers. Actually, now that I think of it, they could have done a very effective brand plug at the end when Deepika finds out about her friend also having constipation, by suggesting him to have Kayam Churn, rather than suffer like her dad. 

Anyways,  how many is one too many? As a movie, it makes complete sense to plug in brands. The saved promotion costs for the movie, given most of the brands associated with Piku did co-branded commercials or painted the town Piku with hoardings (like SENCO in Bangalore); or did co-branded ads in newspapers - like CEAT today; make it a no-brainer decision for the producers.  

But as a viewer, you end up feeling 'cheated' as me and my bunch of friends did, during the movie - and by the time the second half of the movie started, we were groaning when the camera slow focused on a product placement for the heck of it. 

One of the Sony Vaio plugs in the Bhai starrer - Bodyguard
While in a masala movie, as a viewer, you go in resigned to the fact that it is a commercial fest; in a 'artsy' film like Piku or a Shamitabh (that had its own share of plugs - Amazon, Lifebuoy and what not) the placements come across as very jarring. 

And when the placements get one too many, and instead of one brand having a few memorable inserts, there are 15 brands all getting a fleeting mention here and there; which means that the purpose of the placement is more or less lost. Like the 8 brands that lined up for placement in the visuals of the viral Kolaveri di song (Aircel, Supermax, Emami, Parachute, Audi, Air Asia, Vasanth & Co, Lawman Jeans etc) Yes, the brands can still do co-branded commercials like Syska did, or release a Piku product line like Priya Gold did. But sadly what started off as a non-intrusive way to plug in your product into the theme of the movie, and hence better re-call with the audience, is now going the "Lets-kill-the-Golden-Goose-while-it-lasts" way. 

If you still have your doubts, just ask people who walk out of Piku, how many brands they remembered from the movie. One or at best two?